Ben Rhodes has responded to widespread criticism from a recent profile detailing his role in a disingenuous campaign to “sell” last summer’s nuclear deal with Iran to the public.
The original piece in question by David Samuels was published in The New York Times Magazine Thursday gave an intimate look into Rhodes, who serves as President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications and speech writing. The profile gives intricate detail into Rhodes’s carefully crafted plan to spin the facts, manipulate the media and craft a false narrative in order to get the deal passed through Congress.
“The way in which most Americans have heard the story of the Iran deal presented … was largely manufactured for the purpose of selling the deal,” said Samuels.
Rhodes responded in a Sunday piece in Medium.
Rhodes hits on three main points in his response. First, he noted the White House “never made any secret of our interest in pursuing a nuclear deal with Iran.” He claimed the administration was open with the fact it was negotiating with Iran before President Hassan Rouhani and his so-called “moderates” were elected.
“Whatever your analysis of the relative weight of moderates or hard-liners in the Iranian system, there is no question that we were able to achieve a deal only after a change in the Iranian Administration,” wrote Rhodes in his defense.
Critics’ concern is not the “analysis” of Iranian politics, it was the fact that Rhodes and his colleagues knew Rouhani and his cohort were not moderates, yet intentionally portrayed them that way in order to push the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
“There was not much question that the Quds Force and the supreme leader ran that country with a strong arm, and there was not much question that this kind of opposing view could somehow gain any traction,” said Leon Panetta, Obama’s former secretary of defense and CIA director, in an interview with Samuels.
In his second point, Rhodes defended the false narrative he pushed during the deal’s congressional review period. He claimed “it was imperative that the facts of the deal be understood for it to be implemented.” Though he argues there was plenty of criticism of the deal in the media, Samuels’s piece clearly outlined an intentional campaign on the part of Rhodes and company to counter any and all criticism through social media and friendly journalists and organizations.
“No potential negative comment passed without a tweet,” noted Samuels.
Rhodes’s last point addressed the main source of criticism drawn from the piece: the allegations he and his team manipulated journalists to push the White House narrative. Journalists and foreign policy wonks of all political leanings have expressed their disdain for the condescending manner in which Rhodes explained his manipulation of the media, think tanks and other figures friendly to the Iran deal cause. Rhodes remained unapologetic in his response, excusing his methods by saying he and his staff “believed deeply in the case that we were making.”
“It wasn’t “spin,” it’s what we believed and continue to believe, and the hallmark of the entire campaign was to push out facts,” wrote Rhodes, contradicting his own prior admissions to Samuels and Panetta’s interview.
Just three paragraphs after countering claims that he engaged in “spin,” Rhodes does just that, with a fallacious attempt to distract from the story at hand by appealing for sympathy for the “heroic work” done by Secretary of State John Kerry and the other officials who participated in the Iran deal negotiations.
Rhodes ends his piece once again distracting from the point in case: his own deceptive methodology and dishonesty with the public. Failing to address his critics, he ends his piece with a defense of the deal: “today, Iran verifiably cannot obtain a nuclear weapon. That, more than anything I or anyone else can say, makes the case for the Iran deal.”
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