Across the country, wherever people gather to talk national security, the hot topic for days now has been the New York Times Magazine’s big interview with Ben Rhodes, President Obama’s foreign policy guru-cum-salesman. Especially inside the Beltway, Mr. Rhodes’ pointed comments about his work—particularly his admissions about manipulation of the media to sell Mr. Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran—have caused a stir that’s unlikely to die down soon.
Young Mr. Rhodes, who is not yet 40, stated things that many who follow this White House had long believed, or at least suspected, yet never expected a member of the president’s inner circle to say within earshot of the press. In particular, he made clear that spinning the Iran deal the way Mr. Obama wanted—sometimes in contradiction to the facts—was hardly difficult given the feeble limitations of the 21st century media. This went well beyond mere candor and its tone would normally be something that a White House insider would save for a memoir published years after leaving office.
Yet almost nothing about Mr. Rhodes is exactly normal. In the first place, as highlighted by the piece’s author, David Samuels, the president’s Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications has zero background in anything to do with national security. Instead, Mr. Rhodes is a novelist manqué, born into a well-connected family on Manhattan’s Upper East Side (his brother David is president of CBS News), who picked up an MFA in creative writing from NYU with plans to become famous for his novels. However, 9/11 caused him to ponder current affairs and he wound up a speechwriter to Barack Obama during his successful 2008 run for the presidency. Per the cliché, the rest is history.