As my regular readers know, I was a U.S. embassy press spokesman during my 28-year Foreign Service career. But if I had behaved like the chief White House spokesman for the Iran nuclear deal, I would have been fired on the spot, even though it’s virtually impossible to fire anyone in the federal government.
I’m referring to 38-year-old Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, described by the New York Times magazine as “the Boy Wonder of the Obama White House.” He admitted to blatantly manipulating the media in order to sell the highly controversial Iran nuclear deal to Congress and the American people. But instead of firing him, the president and National Security Adviser Susan Rice allowed Rhodes to be interviewed for a self-serving profile in the Times magazine.
Times journalist David Samuels wrote Rhodes has a “mind meld” with the president on foreign policy and national security issues even though Rhodes has about as much experience on those issues as know-nothing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. According to the neoconservative Weekly Standard, “Rhodes boasted to Samuels that reporters were easy to manipulate, thanks to the elimination of veteran correspondents and foreign news bureaus.”
“The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only experience consists of being around political campaigns,” Rhodes told Samuels. “They literally know nothing.” Rhodes’ proceeded to name a few of his favorite Washington journalists “who often tweet in synch with White House messaging.” How convenient, especially since most of those journalists are liberal Democrats. And that’s how we receive our news about important foreign policy and national security issues. It’s all an inside job.
One of Rhodes’ favorite journalists would “re-tweet everything” he was saying, which tells us the Obama White House is feeding policy Pablum to inexperienced reporters and conducting foreign policy 140 characters at a time. Scary. I wish I could have done that in Grenada, where I had to counter a false New York Times report about a non-existent mass grave. Too bad Twitter wasn’t around in 1983. “Welcome to the post-modern techno-presidency where everything is text, easily manipulated by skilled writers . . .” wrote A.J. Caschetta of the Middle East Forum.
Samuels described Rhodes as “the master shaper and retailer of Obama’s foreign policy narratives” who “strategized and ran the successful Iran-deal messaging campaign,” and the journalist praised Rhodes as “a storyteller who uses a writer’s tools to advance an agenda packaged as politics.” In other words, the Iran deal was all about packaging a “narrative,” rather than the substance of the deal, which gave Iran virtually everything it wanted with little in return. But that seems to be the pattern for Obama administration negotiations.
This kind of media manipulation reminds us of the costly PR campaign designed to sell Obamacare to a skeptical Congress and the American people. We remember glib MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who invented the president’s favorite catch phrase: “If you like your health insurance, you can keep your insurance.” That was a lie. As we know, Obamacare passed on a straight party-line vote.
Well, what else do we need to know about how the Obama administration sells dubious programs and projects to Congress and the American people? I’d like to see someone we can trust in the White House next January. Unfortunately, however, it appears we’ll have to choose between “a thoroughly corrupt liar and an utterly irresponsible egomaniac,” as conservative columnist Thomas Sowell recently wrote. Which leads to a final question: Where is that respected, well-known Third Party candidate those of us who can’t stand Hillary or The Donald can vote for?
Guy W. Farmer is the Appeal’s senior political columnist.