Obama's PR man: Iran deception business as usual

Asked if he 'regrets' comments that he misled the public on Iran deal, Ben Rhodes says, 'that's part of what happens in Washington.'

Ari Yashar,

Ben Rhodes
Ben Rhodes
Reuters

US President Barack Obama's senior White House aide Ben Rhodes on Tuesday refused to say he regrets his comments to the New York Times earlier this month, in which he revealed he and other officials misled the public on the controversial Iran nuclear deal sealed last July.

Rhodes was asked on Tuesday if he has any "regrets" about the article while attending a Center for a New American Security event focused on American policy in Southeast Asia, reports Washington Free Beacon.

"I will not Monday morning quarterback every article that I have been a party to," Rhodes answered dismissively.

"I will say that, you know, when things like this happen, that’s a part of what happens in Washington. The people who know me know what I care about and know how I approach issues, and know what motivates me in this job.”

Rhodes's attempt to brush off his misleading of the public comes after he revealed his methods of using reporters and creating an "echo chamber" of groups supportive of Obama to sell the nuclear deal.

The aide admitted that while the American public was led to believe that negotiations between the West and the Islamic Republic took off after the election of President Hassan Rouhani in 2013, who was touted as a “moderate," in reality negotiations with hard-liners began much earlier in 2012.

The "innovative campaign" was "politically useful" to Obama because it made it appear that the US was reaching out to "moderate-minded Iranians" who wanted peace, in a narrative that was "largely manufactured" according to the New York Times profile.

Under serious backlash, several days later Rhodes denied the public was deceived in the Iran deal in a post on Medium.

Senior author and commentator Lt. Col. Ralph Peters responded to the scandal by saying of Rhodes that "as a propagandist, he’s been very, very good. I mean, Joseph Stalin could have used this guy."

Senators demand Obama fire Rhodes

Also on Tuesday the White House blocked Rhodes from testifying at the House Oversight Committee about his comments, in a hearing that took place just before the event in which he indicated the Iran deception was business as usual.

"The appearance of a senior presidential adviser before Congress threatens the independence and the autonomy of the President, as well as his ability to receive candid advice and counsel in the discharge of his constitutional duties," claimed White House counsel W. Neil Eggleston in a letter on Monday to Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), head of the committee.

While Chaffetz had hinted that Rhodes could be subpoenaed to testify at Congress, he toned down that statement on Tuesday according to Politico.

The Iran scandal led a group of senators including Mark Kirk (R-IL), John Cornyn  (R-TX) and John Barrasso (R-WY) to send a letter to Obama on Monday, demanding that he fire Rhodes.

“We call on you to dismiss Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes before he further tarnishes the Office of President,” the senators wrote in the letter revealed by Washington Free Beacon.

"While members of the Executive and Legislative branches may sometimes deeply disagree on issues of vital importance to our nation’s security and prosperity, we should all agree, for the greater good of our Republic and the citizens whom we represent, to engage in our debates in a respectful, honest, and constructive manner."

“Mr. Rhodes’s disrespectful, deceptive, and destructive conduct has fallen appallingly short of this standard, however. Indeed, if he had conducted himself this way in a typical place of business outside Washington, where American taxpayers work, he surely would have been already fired or asked to resign," they emphasized.


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