A New York Times Magazine profile of a top Obama White House aide is turning heads, and for good reason. In a lengthy read that is more gushing romance than even-handed journalism, David Samuels praises – no, worships – Ben Rhodes, who is President Barack Obama’s deputy national security advisor for strategic communications. Rhodes, according to the Samuels, is the amazing architect of the messaging surrounding the controversial Iran deal and is the hidden hand behind other Obama foreign policy triumphs, including the pursuit of normalized relations with communist Cuba.
Rhodes, who comes off a spoiled, self-indulgent brat who has matured into a self-absorbed advisor, is Obama’s “foreign policy guru” who has mystically achieved “mind meld” with the President (Samuels assures us this has been verified by many White House aides that he spoke with for the story). “I don’t know anymore where I begin and Obama ends,” Rhodes tells Samuels in a humble brag during one of their conversations in the obscure White House office the former inhabits.
Remarkably, Rhodes prepared to become a “guru” to the leader of the free world by pursuing a career in fiction. Outside of a couple of jobs that he held working communications for foreign policy movers and shakers, Rhodes has avoided any sort of academic or professional civilian or military experience that might prepare him to offer insight about the complexities of the world. (This observation is made by Samuels with an odd fawning wonder.)
As a writer, Rhodes – whose older brother is the head of CBS – takes great pleasure in knowing that he can shape the media narrative not on the basis of facts but on the basis of storytelling. Although he complains about the twenty-something-year-old reporters who cover the foreign policy beat for major publications and outlets, Rhodes boasts that he and his team of White House lackeys can drive pro-Obama talking points simply by working with a regular network of media figures who can be counted on to push the White House narrative.
“We have our compadres, I will reach out to a couple people, and you know I wouldn’t want to name them — ” Ned Price, Rhodes’ wingman, tells Samuels. “I can name them,” Samuels replies claiming he then listed “off a few names of prominent Washington reporters and columnists who often tweet in sync with White House messaging.”
Readers are told that Price merely smiles back, presumably in a knowing fashion as the secret is let out of the bag: some mainstream media reporters are completely and entirely invested in doing everything they can to support the White House.
This lack of media skepticism has allowed Rhodes and his little team to blatantly mislead the American people about the details of the Iran deal. In a dramatic display of hubris, Rhodes admits that he intentionally had President Obama distort certain aspects of the Iran deal and the negotiations that led to it.
But never fear, it was all for a good cause.
“Rhodes’s innovative campaign to sell the Iran deal is likely to be a model for how future administrations explain foreign policy to Congress and the public,” marvels Samuels before explaining – without any horror – that the campaign led by Rhodes involved blatant deception.
“The way in which most Americans have heard the story of the Iran deal presented — that the Obama administration began seriously engaging with Iranian officials in 2013 in order to take advantage of a new political reality in Iran, which came about because of elections that brought moderates to power in that country — was largely manufactured for the purpose for selling the deal.”
In other words, it didn’t really happen the way the White House said it happened.
“Even where the particulars of that story are true, the implications that readers and viewers are encouraged to take away from those particulars are often misleading or false.”
But Ben Rhodes is a genius, a real guru, a wonderful person to have advising the president and deceiving the nation, according to The New York Times Magazine.
While spinning his deceit and simultaneously mocking the ignorant reporters he and his team must explain everything to, and praising the handful of sycophants in the press that he can trust to unquestioningly regurgitate his tall tales, Rhodes manages to mock a bipartisan collection of experts and leaders who have spent their careers serving the country. The people he mocks have made bad decisions – some of them very, very bad decisions – but at least somewhere along the line they took their job somewhat seriously. According to the tone of the profile, Rhodes doesn’t take his job seriously enough even though a former Secretary of Defense quoted in the article blames Rhodes and his team for shutting down non-White House senior leaders who have tried to offer candid advice to President Obama.
While long, the entire profile is a must-read to understand the arrogance and cronyism that have plagued President Obama’s foreign policy.