Friday, May 06, 2016

What? Thomas Ricks Said What???

The headline is a little on the abrupt side: "A stunning profile of Ben Rhodes, the asshole who is the president's foreign policy guru."

Byline: Thomas Ricks.

Now, if you're not familiar with Tom, he's a Pulitzer-prize winning defence correspondent formerly of the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. Not the sort of guy who usually pens words like "asshole." Not his style. So, what's the beef with this guy, Ben Rhodes?

Ricks' vitriol was inspired by an item in the New York Times magazine, "The aspiring novelist who became Obama's foreign policy guru." To Ricks, Mr. Rhodes is way out of his league.

Perhaps the key sentence is this: “His lack of conventional real-world experience of the kind that normally precedes responsibility for the fate of nations — like military or diplomatic service, or even a master’s degree in international relations, rather than creative writing — is still startling.”

Rhodes comes off like a real asshole. This is not a matter of politics — I have voted for Obama twice. Nor do I mind Rhodes’s contempt for many political reporters: “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.”

But, as that quote indicates, he comes off like an overweening little schmuck. This quotation seems to capture his worldview: “He referred to the American foreign policy establishment as the Blob. According to Rhodes, the Blob includes Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates, and other Iraq-war promoters from both parties who now whine incessantly about the collapse of the American security order in Europe and the Middle East.” Blowing off Robert Gates takes nerve.

I expect cynicism in Washington. But it usually is combined with a lot of knowledge — as with, say, Henry Kissinger. To be cynical and ignorant and to spin those two things into a virtue? That’s industrial-strength hubris. Kind of like what got us into Iraq, in fact.
Fact check: Obama’s hasn’t been an original foreign policy as much as it has been a politicized foreign policy. And this Rhodes guy reminds me of the Kennedy smart guys who helped get us into the Vietnam War. Does he know how awful he sounds? Kind of like McGeorge Bundy meets Lee Atwater.

Oh dear, at least the clock is running down and that narrows the risk that Obama can get us in deeper than we already are. I hope. And, hell, I thought I was a curmudgeon.

BTW - Foreign Policy's Friday Afternoon Follies are now up. Read'em if you dare. Bring your crying towel while you're at it.

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