The easiest way to tell if you’re being effective in Washington is whether the resident swamp critters are attacking you and trying to get you fired. By that and other measures, Fred Fleitz, the recently announced chief of staff to National Security Advisor John Bolton, is the right man for the job.
The Fleitz appointment has led to hyperventilation among the usual mix of leftwing and Islamist groups that despise President Trump and his foreign policy. They claim that Fleitz’s concerns with Islamist political activity and past associations make him anti-Muslim.
For example, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called for Fleitz’s firing and asserted his boss, John Bolton, is “a notorious Islamophobe who has a history of ties to anti-Muslim extremists and organizations.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center said that Bolton’s appointment of Fleitz “is the latest in a disturbing trend of staffers leaving hate groups and joining the administration.”
But a look at what Fleitz has really said and done shows mainstream concern about radical Islam. Specifically, Fleitz in the past raised concerns that some Muslim communities in Europe and the United States aren’t assimilating and could be incubating radicalism. The 2015-2016 spike of Islamist attacks in Europe and the U.S. clearly vindicated this concern.
Fleitz also has warned not only of violent jihadist activity that has manifested itself in insurgency on the battlefield and terrorist attacks, but of the nonviolent political activities of Islamist groups. This means concern not just for groups like al Qaeda and ISIS, but also the Muslim Brotherhood, which seeks to replace effectively secular U.S. allies with theocratic tyrannies that are hostile to America. It is for that reason that devout Muslims who support the separation of mosque and state like Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, approve of Fleitz’s appointment. They share Fleitz’s concerns, as do all of our Middle Eastern allies.
Furthermore, in an additional display of a nuanced understanding of Islam (a religion) and Islamism (a political ideology), Fleitz in a 2016 article condemned “draw Mohammed” contests. He does not support activities intended to insult members of a particular religion — Muslim or Christian. Instead, he wishes to undermine those who advance a violent and tyrannical political agenda in the name of a religion.
It’s also worth taking a look at the groups that are attacking Fleitz, Bolton, and Trump.
Notably, CAIR, which wants Fleitz fired, was an unindicted co-conspirator in a terrorist-financing trial that found in 2008 that an Islamic charity had aided militants. A federal judge found that the government provided “ample evidence to establish the association” of CAIR to Hamas, the Iranian-backed Palestinian terrorist organization.
The Southern Poverty Law Center meanwhile has raised money in recent years by lumping conservative Americans together with neo-Nazis and white supremacists. They have a particular ax to grind with Fleitz, who exposed the leftwing advocacy group’s huge off-shore bank accounts.
I first met Fleitz when he was chief of staff to Bolton in George W. Bush’s first term. Bolton was then serving as the top State Department official for international security and arms control. The two men were launching the Proliferation Security Initiative—the most successful arms-control mechanism you’ve never heard of, which has stopped several proliferation attempts of chemical and nuclear-related materials, including numerous North Korean attempts at proliferation. It was successful enough to survive the Obama administration and thrives today with more than 100 nations as members.
Fleitz had come to Bolton staff from the CIA, bringing the office key knowledge on proliferation. He demonstrated management acumen with policy, media, and navigating bureaucratic mazes. Therein lies the real, unwritten rub about Fleitz. The opposition doesn’t hate him because he is unfair or ineffective. Quite the opposite: he and Bolton work well together and are well suited to orient Trump’s National Security Council staff to handle threats from North Korea, China, and Islamists. Those who are attacking Fleitz simply want to weaken Bolton and Trump. We should consider their actions to be credentials that speak well of Fleitz and forecast his success.
Christian Whiton was a State Department senior advisor in the Donald Trump and George W. Bush administrations.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.