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The AP Misses the Boat

9:11 AM, Mar 6, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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I hardly expected her to be moved to tears by this story, but the the AP's Pamela Hess really phoned this one in:

Republicans on Thursday also asked for a review of Freeman's relationship with China and Iran. Freeman has served on an international advisory board of the government-owned Chinese National Offshore Oil Company, according to a biography posted on Businessweek.com. The company signed a $16 billion agreement with Iran to develop one of its oil fields in 2007.

The State Department has not determined whether that deal violates economic penalties placed on Iran in an attempt to curb its nuclear program, spokesman Noel Clay said.

Questions about Freeman were referred to Blair's spokeswoman, Wendy Morigi, who noted that Freeman has 30 days to identify and resolve potential financial conflicts of interest. Freeman was appointed last week.

Freeman has stirred controversy on conservative blogs because of his sharp criticism of the Israeli government, the Iraq war and the Bush administration's approach to fighting terrorism.

The only person Hess gets on the record is Blair, through his spokesman Wendy Morigi. Hess's characterization of conservative criticism is so off base that it's hard to imagine she even bothered to read it. Freeman's views on the Iraq war and the Bush administration's approach to fighting terrorism are, in the context of this administration, utterly conventional and wholly unremarkable. They are not views shared by conservatives, but neither are they the kind of views that would endanger his appointment. It's his views on China and Saudi Arabia, and his financial ties to those two countries, that have stirred such controversy -- in addition to his views on Israel. It's the appearance of multiple conflicts of interest, his apparentl inability to distinguish between right and wrong, and his clear indifference to the distinction between democratic and authoritarian regimes that has driven conservative criticism of Freeman (Rich Lowry captures all this quite well in his column today).

And of course, not all Freeman's critics are conservatives.

Update: How sloppy was the Hess story? The AP just issued a clarification:

In a March 5 story, The Associated Press reported that congressional Republicans requested an investigation of Charles Freeman, new chairman of the National Intelligence Council, for his relationships with China and Iran. The story should have specified that one Democrat, Rep. Steve Israel of New York, also joined that request.

Well, that's not quite right either. Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV) also signed a letter requesting an investigation into Freeman's financial ties to the Saudis. We await the AP's second clarification.