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Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes at the White House, Washington, April 7, 2015 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

Rhodes Profile: Citizens, Spin and Truth in the Hybrid Information Era

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

One of the latest mini-dramas in Washington’s overheated political scene is centered on whether the Obama administration manipulated the truth about the Iran nuclear negotiations in order to sell the resulting deal to Congress and the American public. The larger story is about how the earnest citizen can navigate in a world where officials, experts and journalists are engaged in a complicated exchange of information, spin and advocacy. It’s not necessarily a new problem, nor a fixable one, but it only deepens the mistrust between government and the governed.

The controversy was kicked off by a recent New York Times Magazine profile of Ben Rhodes, a presidential speechwriter and deputy national security adviser for strategic communications who is considered one of President Barack Obama’s closest foreign policy advisers. In addition to profiling Rhodes, though, the piece raises serious questions about the interactions between senior government officials promoting a particular policy and the wider world of experts and advocates who take positions on the merits of that policy. The article portrays a White House that intentionally used the sympathetic nonproliferation community to promote the Iran nuclear agreement, by carefully feeding information that may not have reflected an accurate picture of the talks that culminated in the July 2015 agreement. ...

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