NYTimes’ Rhodes to Nowhere: A Cipher in the Oval Office
2013 03 22
By Russ Baker | WhoWhatWhy
RIC Editors Note:
(Cipher: person or thing of no value or importance; nonentity. )
In this fascinating article, Russ Baker examines the troubling lack of information on a young man that has gained much influence within the halls of power in Washington D.C. How has 35 year old Benjamin J. Rhodes (namesake of Cecil Rhodes - imperialist founder of the Rhodes Scholarship and the Round Table governance movement) come from of a ’run of the mill’ background to become a close administration insider? Not only does Rhodes write speeches and advise on foreign policy for President Obama, he was part of that notorious whitewash - the 9/11 Commission report! Why has the press effectively given this man a pass? Has Rhodes got his hands on the many pieces of the ’grand chessboard’?
For some possible context to President Obama’s current trip to Israel, I thought back to yet another of the New York Times’s oddly unsatisfying “profiles of power.” This one, which was published last week, introduces us to a highly influential Obama foreign policy adviser:
Obama’s Mysterious “Rhodes” Scholar
As President Obama prepares to visit Israel next week, he is turning, as he often does, to Benjamin J. Rhodes, a 35-year-old deputy national security adviser with a soft voice, strong opinions and a reputation around the White House as the man who channels Mr. Obama on foreign policy.
Mr. Rhodes is drafting the address to the Israeli people the president plans to give in Jerusalem, but his influence extends beyond what either his title or speechwriting duties suggest. Drawing on personal ties and a philosophical kinship with Mr. Obama that go back to the 2008 campaign, Mr. Rhodes helped prod his boss to take a more activist policy toward Egypt and Libya when those countries erupted in 2011.
Unfortunately, the article never really explains what that “philosophical kinship” is. It would be of particular interest to those who have always wondered, and still do not know, what Barack Obama’s overarching philosophy is.
We don’t really learn much about Rhodes’s either, beyond the fact that he is quietly pushing for more US intervention in Syria, on the heels of a successful push to convince a supposedly reticent Obama to bomb the heck out of Libya, purportedly for human rights reasons. Some now know better—that removing Qaddafi had precious little to do with helping innocent people and a lot to do with oil companies, banks and intelligence agencies.
What’s especially strange about the article is that, for those of us who continue to wonder how a virtual cipher rose so quickly from the Illinois legislature to become the most powerful person in the world, we end up wondering the same thing about an aspiring novelist from New York City who fairly catapults to enormous influence in shaping policy regarding some of the most complex and sensitive matters facing this country.
Somehow, beyond noting that “In many ways, Mr. Rhodes is an improbable choice for a job at the heart of the national security apparatus,” the Times is not sufficiently curious about any of this to probe further. Instead, it provides a clutch of clichés. We learn that the Rhodes family is fiercely divided between Yankees fans and Mets fans. We learn the father is a conservative-leaning Episcopalian from Texas, the mother a liberal Jew from New York.
Though the Times never underlines this, the careful reader comes to realize that Rhodes’s guiding philosophy is as hard to discern as the precise reasons that he has the president’s ear. In 1997, he briefly worked on the re-election campaign of New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Republican. Shortly after 9/11, the aspiring novelist suddenly decided to do his part for society, moving in 2002 from Queens to Washington, and quickly found himself “helping draft the 9/11 Commission report as well as the Iraq Study Group report.”
The Times, of course, does not think it is worth pointing out how strange this is. It is almost as if all 24-year-olds with no apparent credentials of any kind go directly to explaining the most massively controversial and complex set of circumstances to the American people.
Read the full article at: whowhatwhy.com
Obama Foreign Policy Whiz is Full of Personal Anguish and Has an Unfinished Novel
Benjamin J. Rhodes was just a run-of-the-mill New York prep school kid working on a novel, when the events of 9/11 changed him forever. Now an intervention-favoring deputy national security adviser for the President, Rhodes, 35, is filled with anguish at the suffering of people the world over, trying to be free:
"It’s hard for Ben in the same way it’s hard for the president," said Denis R. McDonough, the White House chief of staff, who worked closely with Mr. Rhodes in his previous job as the principal deputy national security adviser. "He cares about people. You can’t see what’s happening in Syria and not be torn by it. At the same time, he’s very realistic."
Rhodes, who moved to Washington in 2001, apparently has the President’s ear when it comes to policy, and has favored such can’t-miss policies like arming the opposition to Qaddaffi in Libya (which has totally worked out for Mali), and now is pushing the President towards arming the Syrian opposition. Nowhere in the glowing New York Times profile does it mention his support of drone strikes, the collateral of which probably appeals more to his realistic side, than the "caring about people" one. Source
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