Earlier, I posted the transcript of White House press secretary Robert Gibbs essentially avoiding a comment on Charles Freeman — both his appointment and Freeman’s blame of the Israel lobby for his withdrawal. In the Washington Post, Charles Lane writes that President Obama really should be commenting on the issue:
Freeman himself wrote that the affair "will be seen by many to raise serious questions about whether the Obama administration will be able to make its own decisions about the Middle East and related issues. I regret that my willingness to serve the new administration has ended by casting doubt on its ability to consider, let alone decide, what policies might best serve the interests of the United States rather than those of a Lobby intent on enforcing the will and interests of a foreign government."
So far, however, President Obama has had exactly nothing to say about this extraordinary claim — either in his own defense, or in defense of the American citizens whom Freeman has impugned. …
No doubt the president faces a dilemma. I imagine that he finds Freeman’s comments repugnant, but to say so publicly would raise questions about why the man was appointed in the first place. And Obama has other things on his plate. If I were him, I’d rather deal with Citibank than dive into the nasty Freeman fight.
But the administration’s silence is disappointing just the same. The president needs to knock Freeman’s insinuations down hard — for two reasons. The first is to stop them from gaining any more currency than they already have in the rest of the world, especially in Arab and Muslim regions.
The second has to do with the United States itself and the quality of our political culture. Barack Obama first electrified the country when he told the Democratic convention in 2004 that "we are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the Stars and Stripes, all of us defending the United States of America." That ennobling message helped propel him to the White House, and it is a major theme of his presidency.
Letting Freeman’s comments pass unchallenged would undercut it.
Lane concludes by reminding Obama of his speech in Denver last August:
Accepting his party’s nomination for president last summer, President Obama declared that "one of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other’s character and each other’s patriotism."
Now would be a good time to say it again.