Sunday, September 30, 2007

The most well-connected 'outsiders' in the country

Steve Benen, The headline on the AP report on Freedom's Watch reads, "Outsiders aim to frame political debate." If there's a less accurate description of the powerful conservative activists behind this new group, I can't think of it.

Freedom's Watch and could be the left and right bookends not only on the war, but on a number of issues that will decide the 2008 elections and shape congressional debate beyond. Freedom's Watch organizers said they are considering whether to create a political subgroup, like MoveOn has, that could directly play a role in elections.
"Bookends"? Eli Pariser, the executive director of Political Action, noted, "The main difference is that MoveOn is a group of 3.3 million. Freedom's Watch is a few mega millionaires."
What's more, they're incredibly well-connected mega millionaires. The AP's headline notwithstanding, Freedom's Watch includes some key establishment heavy-hitters. Bradley A. Blakeman, president and chief executive officer of Freedom's Watch, was a member the White House senior staff in Bush's first term. Mary Matalin, Dick Cheney's counselor until 2003, is helping set the group's agenda. Freedom's Watch's chief spokesperson is Ari Fleischer, Bush's first White House press secretary. The board and principal financiers include Bush administration ambassadors and party insiders.
Freedom's Watch can call this a "grassroots" effort, and the AP can call the group "outsiders," but that doesn't make it so. As Digby put it, "Only in the Village could someone characterize that group as being 'outsiders.' You just have to laugh."
Freedom Watch’s next target: Iran. The New York Times reports that next month, the White House-front group Freedom’s Watch “will sponsor a private forum of 20 experts on radical Islam that is expected to make the case that Iran poses a direct threat to the security of the United States”:

Although the group declined to identify the experts, several were invited from the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington research group with close ties to the White House. Some institute scholars have advocated a more confrontational policy to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, including keeping military action as an option. […]

“If Hitler’s warnings were heeded when he wrote ‘Mein Kampf,’ he could have been stopped,” said Bradley Blakeman, 49, the president of Freedom’s Watch and a former deputy assistant to Mr. Bush. “Ahmadinejad is giving all the same kind of warning signs to us, and the region — he wants the destruction of the United States and the destruction of Israel.”

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