May 8, 2016
Lot of buzz from David Samuels’ stunning profile of Ben Rhodes, the White House’s deputy national security adviser, in the New York Times Magazine. He admits the Obama administration lied to sell the Iran deal to the public, and is shockingly blunt describing how he played the media. These snippets jumped out at me:
Rhodes singled out a key example to me one day, laced with the brutal contempt that is a hallmark of his private utterances. “All these newspapers used to have foreign bureaus,” he said. “Now they don’t. They call us to explain to them what’s happening in Moscow and Cairo. Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”
In this environment, Rhodes has become adept at ventriloquizing many people at once . . .
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. 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. Obama’s closest advisers always understood him to be eager to do a deal with Iran as far back as 2012, and even since the beginning of his presidency.
Towards the end, Samuels talks to former secretary of defense Leon Panetta, who doesn’t think Obama is serious about stopping Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
See reactions to the Ben Rhodes profile by Eli Lake, James Taranto (click via Google News), Mediaite, Boaz Bismuth, Thomas Ricks (whose bluntness sparked its own buzz), and Michael Doran (the Iran deal was part of Obama’s agenda well before his first contact with Tehran). Which brings us to Jay Rosen‘s tweet of the day.