Tommy Vietor, left, former National Security Council spokesman, and Ben Rhodes, deputy National Security Adviser. ASSOCIATED PRESS
The prime-time news conference by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has thrown the cozy little Iran nuclear deal echo chamber. On Monday, Netanyahu revealed that Mossad had penetrated a highly secured warehouse and walked away with about a half-ton — that’s literally 1,000 pounds — of documents and storage media that spelled out Iran’s nuclear weapons program. This is a program that the IAEA suspected existed but could never document. It is a program that the Iranians claimed before, during, and after the nuclear deal negotiations did not exist.
Once this was out the “echo chamber” attacked to try to preserve the obscene surrender to Iran that Barack Obama engineered.
The “echo chamber” was the brainchild of Ben Rhodes, a guy with an MFA degree in fiction writing, a failed young adult author, a guy who had trouble getting a security clearance because of his links to Tehran, and eventually Obama’s deputy national security adviser. This is how he described it:
In the spring of last year, legions of arms-control experts began popping up at think tanks and on social media, and then became key sources for hundreds of often-clueless reporters. “We created an echo chamber,” he admitted, when I asked him to explain the onslaught of freshly minted experts cheerleading for the deal. “They were saying things that validated what we had given them to say.”
When I suggested that all this dark metafictional play seemed a bit removed from rational debate over America’s future role in the world, Rhodes nodded. “In the absence of rational discourse, we are going to discourse the [expletive] out of this,” he said. “We had test drives to know who was going to be able to carry our message effectively, and how to use outside groups like Ploughshares, the Iran Project and whomever else. So we knew the tactics that worked.” He is proud of the way he sold the Iran deal. “We drove them crazy,” he said of the deal’s opponents.
And this is how he worked them:
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. Ned Price, Rhodes’s assistant, gave me a primer on how it’s done. The easiest way for the White House to shape the news, he explained, is from the briefing podiums, each of which has its own dedicated press corps. “But then there are sort of these force multipliers,” he said, adding, “We have our compadres, I will reach out to a couple people, and you know I wouldn’t want to name them — ”
“I can name them,” I said, ticking off a few names of prominent Washington reporters and columnists who often tweet in sync with White House messaging.
Somewhere along the path, wires got crossed. Ben Rhodes is pushing the “nothing new” line.
This is the echo chamber encapsulated. Jeffrey Lewis is a highly partisan schlub who has wormed his way to prominence in the arms control/non-proliferation arena. He was one of the loudest voices shilling for Obama and Rhodes. Rhodes is repeating the key talking point and he’s waiting for his winged monkeys in the media to pick it up.
The other attack comes from Tommy Vietor. He was spokesman for the national security council and before that he drove a bus for Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign. Savor that for a moment.
Vietor is basically claiming that this is all bullsh** and the real scandal is the administration knowing that Netanyahu was going to reveal the documents. If you go to the whole thread by Barak Ravid, you’ll see that it is not very helpful to either Rhodes or Vietor, for instance:
16 An Israeli official told me: "The documents tell us new things about the military dimensions of the Iranian nuclear program. Things we didn’t know before. The documents give us new details about Iranian R&D sites, sites for possible nuclear tests & individuals involved"
— Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) May 1, 2018
They can’t have it both ways. It can’t be old news if it is fake.
I think it is a safe bet that the Iran nuclear deal ends no later than President Trump’s required certification of Iranian compliance on May 15. It should end. It was a horrible deal negotiated with a criminal regime.