Taking government scalps … shouldn’t incompetence be a non-ideological issue?

The Dish is calling for Janet Napolitano’s resignation today because of her initial emphasis on Homeland Security’s procedures after the Nigerian student was apprehended, as opposed to the debacle that allowed him into the United States and on a plane.

Competence is a clear issue for him, despite what neoconservatives will make out of the call for resignation. But when it comes to Hannah Rosenthal or Charles Freeman, Sullivan sidelines the discussion of competence. In another post, called “The Neocons next scalp: Rosenthal,” Sullivan writes

The Pro-Israel Lobby, having purged Chaz [Charles — are Sullivan and him buddies?] Freeman, and helped neuter Obama’s attempt to stop more West Bank settlements, are now out for fresh violators of the party line in the Obama administration.

To begin with, Sullivan is using the phrase the “Pro-Israel Lobby” as a much larger, more abstract thing, as opposed to actual lobbies, like AIPAC, or the right-wing ZOA. This is more like Walt-Mersheimer’s usual vocabulary than The Dish’s. What if Sullivan had just written “pro-Israel figures”?

In fact, if you search on AIPAC’s website, there is nothing about Hannah Rosenthal’s controversial interview of Ha’aretz. Instead, there is an article there about Iran’s violent repression of political demonstrations, which The Dish was complaining has not been the news interests of conservatives at all.

No statements from AIPAC on Google’s news search either. (Rosenthal is actually a member of AIPAC.) And the ZOA’s website has no statement on Rosenthal’s interview with Ha’aretz either. So although some Jewish interest groups have offered their criticism of Rosenthal’s remarks as representative of the mainstream Jewish-American opinion, both the most powerful and the most conservative pro-Israel lobbies have said nothing.

( When Sullivan says the amorphous “pro-Israel lobby […] helped neuter Obama’s attempt to stop more West Bank settlements,” I guess I can agree since “helped” can mean a lot. But Sullivan ignores the report The Dish linked to which said that Hillary Clinton had made her first remarks way too expansive and accidentally set the bar on the first round of settlement restriction more high than Obama was intending. Obama couldn’t back down — and neither could Abbas, without seeming to want settlements gone less than Obama. It appears that Obama’s policy was “neutered” down from ballsiness he hadn’t intended. )

But back to Rosenthal, Freeman and competence. During the debate around Charles Freeman’s appointment, Sullivan made absolutely no remark about questions about the man’s past judgments. Having linked to Reason’s Matt Welch during the Freeman debate, Sullivan referred only to Welch’s objections of Freeman’s views on China. He didn’t touch Welch’s focus on Freeman’s generally questionable judgment. For example, this goes more to the thrust of Welch’s posts than what Sullivan alluded to in them:

I just don’t fancy the kind of mind that, when asked in 2003 to name factors in the deterioriation of U.S.-Saudi relations, pinpoints as reason numero uno “changes in U.S. visa policy and entry procedures. Who, in the same interview, says this:

I should also say I’ve been very impressed by the extent to which Saudi Arabia, in the wake of 9/11, has engaged in introspection and taken on some tough problems that it had avoided addressing for many decades.

Sullivan did not quote or allude to any of Welch’s list of opinions that represented bad judgment on behalf of Freeman. He did not link to Martin Kramer’s list of spectacularly bad predictions by Freeman, which Welch had linked to, nor did Sullivan allude to any of Freeman’s bad predictions by mentioning them directly or by linking to them somewhere besides Kramer’s blog.

Not once, did Sullivan ever address, by way of direct mention or links to other posts, the issue of whether Charles Freeman had demonstrated incompetence in thinking about a number of regional theaters … not hostility toward Israel, but simple incompetence.

Freeman seemed to many to be fickle and not a useful contrarian intellectual spirit, but only a pseudocontrarian when it helped inflate his own ego. What responsible American would want anyone like this (a Charles Freeman, or a Scott Ritter) at a high-level intelligence position, regardless of whether the official was neoconservative or paleoconservative or internationalist or isolationist? But Sullivan didn’t seem to mind an appointment of a pseudocontrarian as long as he/she were anti-William-Kristol no matter which way he changed their mind.

As Jeffrey Goldberg retorts to Sullivan today (Goldberg’s post I will get to soon),

I wish that Andrew wouldn’t try to preclude debate over her qualifications for what could be an important job by bringing up a charge [antisemitism] no credible person has made.

Just like with Freeman, The Dish evaded the discussion of competence/qualification and instead doubled down, following up with more posts repeating the same position in different rhetorical variations. It wasn’t the model discussion to show your friends The Dish can be a great example of nonpartisan critical thinking; it was a model of callous animus.


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