FDD, “Neoconservative,” and the New York Times

by Jim Lobe

Anyone who has followed the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) knows it’s a neoconservative organization whose central purpose since its founding in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 has less to do with democracy than with promoting the views of Israel as defined, in particular, by Bibi Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud Party. It is no wonder that Sheldon Adelson, who casually called this week for the nuking of Tehran if Iran doesn’t abandon its nuclear program, provided the group with more than $1.5 million in donations between 2008 and 2011, as we reported yesterday.

Now, it just so happened that was in the news this week on another front: Jofi Joseph, the White House staffer who worked on the proliferation file on the National Security Council and who was outed as the tweeter known as @NatSecWonk, served as a fellow at FDD in 2011. Here’s how the New York Times first reported his association and characterized FDD:

According to  Mr. Joseph’s biography on the Web site of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a neoconservative group where he was a fellow for 2011, “between his stints on Capitol Hill, Jofi was a senior consultant with a professional services firm, facilitating strategic planning and policy analysis for the Department of Homeland Security’s efforts on critical infrastructure protection.” (Emphasis added.)

The succeeding paragraph named FDD associates, including John Hannah, former national security adviser to Dick Cheney, House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (whose SuperPac, incidentally, received at least $5 million from Adelson in the last election cycle), Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, and Gary Bauer, the Christian Zionist leader who serves on the boards of the Christians United for Israel and the Emergency Committee for Israel — all neoconservatives.

One day later, the Times published a follow-up article on Joseph, but this time, the characterization of FDD changed rather remarkably. Here’s the new paragraph:

In 2011, Mr. Joseph also held a national security fellowship with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, which has a generally conservative bent. “Clearly, he had risen up through the Democratic ranks,” said Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of the foundation, where fellowships are designed for “young and upcoming national security people in D.C.” of all views, Mr. Dubowitz said.

Well, all one can say is that the Times nailed it on the first go-round, but really blew it the second time. What does “a generally conservative bent” mean when attached to an organization whose principal purpose is the advocacy of the Likud Party’s foreign-policy views in the U.S.? I understand “generally conservative” as meaning someone like Brent Scowcroft or Robert Gates. Moreover, “neoconservative” as a description of FDD is not only accurate, it’s also very concise in contrast to “has a generally conservative bent,” which is quite vague and verbose in a way that newspapers try to avoid.

We can, of course, speculate as to why the change occurred. It could have been the decision of a copy editor who may have felt uncomfortable with “neoconservative” and thought that “generally conservative” sounded better. Or it could’ve been that Dubowitz strongly objected to the word “neoconservative” attached to his organization because it has taken on a rather pejorative meaning in popular parlance due to the critical role the neoconservatives played in promoting the Iraq war (which FDD actively promoted from the “get-go” after 9/11, running a TV ad produced by a former Israeli Embassy press official, for example, that suggested that Yasser Arafat, Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein were all part of the same threat.)

Indeed, I suspect that’s one very good reason why some readily identifiable neoconservatives who featured so prominently in promoting the Iraq war — people like Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, James Woolsey, and Doug Feith — have been keeping such a low profile on Iran over the past year. They’re the ones who gave neocons a bad name, while Dubowitz wasn’t even on the scene back then.

Jim Lobe

Jim Lobe served for some 30 years as the Washington DC bureau chief for Inter Press Service and is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the influence of the neoconservative movement.


One Comment

  1. This is not the first time The New York Times has been caught doing something like this. I can think of at least two other recent instances of the newspaper managing its news on Israel-related issues. Back in September of this year the Times reported that AIPAC “the eight hundred pound gorilla in the room” was lobbying heavily in support of the Syrian resolution. In a later update on their web site AIPAC’s role suddenly disappeared. On another occasion, Glenn Greenwald had reported in the Guardian on the close collaboration of the NSA with the Israelis. Amazingly, the Times never ran a story on this. (As I recall Bill Keller was cornered about this oversight and lamely explained they didn’t think it was newsworthy enough.) I dispute his explanation and doubt it was an oversight.

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