I'd like to offer a quick update of the preceding post, in which I suggested that Jeffrey Goldberg's source for the Netanyahu-as-chickenshit remark was John Kerry. You may recall that the Israelis were caught spying on Kerry, whose peace proposal was mercilessly beaten down. It's easy to understand why Kerry might feel bitter.
Since no-one else seems to think that Kerry was the source, let's look at other possibilities.
, in an interview, says:
Noah Pollak says he'll put a $1000 on Jeffrey Goldberg's chickenshit source being the very chickenshit Ben Rhodes. We don't know, but that makes sense. That's whole Goldberg talks to, he talks to deputy National Security Advisors and the president.
Pollak (a big proponent of the right's Benghazi insanity) is one of our top pro-Israel propagandists. He has criticized Ben Rhodes in the past -- and this antipathy must be kept in mind as we weigh the merits of his identification of Rhodes as the source.
Hewitt said the words quoted above while interviewing Jake Tapper, who responded thus:
And I talk to Ben Rhodes all the time, and I’ve never heard him say anything like that. So I have no idea if that’s accurate when you hypothesize and speculate that it’s him.
Rhodes is an important White House staffer -- the deputy national security adviser for strategic communication. Rhodes has said (speaking on another topic): "My main job, which has always been my job, is to be the person who represents the president’s view on these issues."
If Rhodes sees his job as representing the President's views, then it's hard to picture him as Goldberg's source -- unless, of course, we make two presumptions: 1. The President really does view Netanyahu as "chickenshit" and 2. The President wants everyone in the world to know how he feels.
Presumption 1 seems likely. Presumption 2, however, is a lot more difficult to swallow. I simply cannot believe that Obama wanted anything like Chickenshitgate to erupt. Not now
, for God's sake. This brouhaha is not going to help the Democrats in the election.
On the other hand...
The time has come to ask: What's the deal with this Rhodes fellow?
He is surprisingly mysterious.
This fascinating 2013 piece on Rhodes
(written by Russ Baker in response to an NYT profile) includes all sorts of useful information:
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.
Rhodes is a very young guy, yet from the moment he hit the age of consent, all sorts of doors started to swing wide open for him -- the kinds of doors that never open for the scurvy likes of you and me.
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.”
A side note.
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.
We are never even told what kind of education Rhodes got, or where, or whether he has ever been anything beyond an aspiring novelist. There’s no indication of what he did on Giuliani’s campaign (he would only have been about 19 or 20 at the time) or whether his preference for the mayor who presided over the 9/11 response had anything to do with his going to Washington, or miraculously being hired by Democrat Lee Hamilton to explain 9/11 to the public.
During the Iran-contra hearings, Hamilton's performance was so lame that I started to wonder if the CIA had something on him. A source confirmed this suspicion, but did not tell me what that "something" was. Can my readers help me out here?
Getting back to the mysterious Mr. Rhodes...
From these improbable beginnings, Rhodes is suddenly a speechwriter on Obama’s presidential campaign. How did he come to Obama’s attention? The article doesn’t say. However, it does note that the Iraq Study group report on which Rhodes worked “was a template for the anti-Iraq war positions taken by Barack Obama” as a senator and candidate.
Yet, without explaining how that report made Obama an Iraq dove, or what Rhodes himself believed, we learn that Rhodes is now essentially the opposite—a hawk pushing Obama to intervene abroad.
Hm. If Rhodes is
Goldberg's source, then perhaps he's not the Obama loyalist he pretends to be. Perhaps he is imitating Janus. And perhaps Obama ought to imitate Saint Patrick and make sure that his lawn remains free of pests, particularly pests of the serpentine variety. If you catch my drift.
But here's where the matter becomes very mysterious. The White House, normally very hard-assed when it comes to leakers and such, will not conduct an investigation
to determine the identity of Goldberg's source. Why no investigation? Probably became Obama already knows the answer.
Meanwhile, John Kerry is now apologizing up a storm to the Israelis.
How can we put all of these facts together into a coherent narrative? At this writing, I can see only two competing scenarios:
1. The lack of an investigation indicates that the source is someone considered untouchable.
2. The lack of an investigation indicates that the source said what he said at Obama's behest.
Although the second possibility is quite popular, I don't consider it very likely. As noted above, the "chickenshit" remark can do the Democratic party no good at this juncture.
Although some pro-Israel pundits on the right make a big show of despising Rhodes, this public display of antipathy may be misleading or deceptive. Rhodes' stance on Syria -- not to mention his freakishly fast rise to power -- makes me want to find out more about the guy.