Person

Ben Rhodes

Cropped version of . (link)
Nationality:

American

Occupation:

International Relations Commentator

Co-Founder, National Security Action

Former Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications (Obama Administration)

Political Party:

Democratic Party

Ben Rhodes is a left-of-center political commentator, author, and podcast host who worked for the Obama 2008 presidential campaign and as the Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting in the Obama administration for the entire duration of Barack Obama’s presidency.

Rhodes was involved with most of the Obama administration’s actions around international relations and authored all of Obama’s speeches on national security and foreign policy. He was involved in the creation of the Iran Nuclear Deal as well as the Obama administration’s reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba. He has been a vocal proponent of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and criticized many foreign policy decisions of the Trump administration and the Israeli government, drawing criticism from supporters of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. [1] [2] [3] [4]

Since the end of the Obama administration, Rhodes has appeared in various national print and television media as a foreign affairs commentator, authored a memoir of the Obama White House and its foreign policy, and co-hosted the Crooked Media podcast Pod Save the World. He is also the co-chair of left-of-center foreign policy advocacy group National Security Action. [5]

Early Life and Education

Ben Rhodes grew up on the on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and attended the Collegiate School before attending Rice University for his undergraduate studies. While in college he worked for Rudy Giuliani’s 1997 reelection campaign for New York City Mayor as a tracker and opposition researcher for the campaign. Following college, he attended a creative writing master’s program at New York University. In 2001 he worked for a Democratic candidate for New York City Council and eventually became a speechwriter to former U.S. Representative Lee Hamilton (D-IN) where he drafted parts of the 9/11 Commission Report, which Hamilton vice-chaired, and the Iraq Study Group Report. [6]

2008 Election

Ben Rhodes initially worked for the brief 2008 presidential campaign of then former Virginia Governor and now-U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) as a speechwriter. Warner withdrew from the race to seek a Senate seat from Virginia and recommended that Rhodes work for the campaign of then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL). He wrote Obama’s first foreign policy campaign speech in 2007, working with speechwriter Jon Favreau and eventually became responsible for foreign policy speeches Obama delivered during the campaign. [7]

Obama Administration

Following Obama’s election to the Presidency, Ben Rhodes joined the White House as the Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting, a role he held for the duration of the Administration. Early speeches written by Rhodes included announcements of increased troops in Afghanistan and Obama’s acceptance speech for the Noble Peace Prize, about which the Washington Post noted that President Obama and his speechwriters “saw the awkwardness in the president receiving the peace prize as he waged two wars.” [8] Rhodes also participated in negotiations of foreign agreements and messaging agreements to an international audience including high-profile foreign policy situations around Iran, Cuba, Israel and Saudi Arabia. [9]

Iran Nuclear Deal

Ben Rhodes was involved in the negotiations surrounding the Obama Administration’s Iran Nuclear Deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran. Rhodes led a campaign to win support for the deal amongst the media and public both in the United States and abroad. A 2016 profile of Rhodes in the New York Times Magazine contended that Rhodes led the Obama administration in selling a “largely manufactured” a narrative about Iranian domestic politics to help the deal win favor among the public. [10]

The left-of-center think tank the Brookings Institution derided the claims made in the New York Times Magazine profile while also stating that Rhodes did indeed engage a “no-holds-barred campaign to win support for the deal” by assembling a messaging operation within the White House and arming an array of Administration allies with talking points to create “an echo chamber” within the media. The reporting led to many Republicans in Congress to call for Rhodes’ resignation from the White House. [11]

Cuba

Ben Rhodes is also credited with personally leading secret negotiations with leaders of the Cuban government to reestablish diplomatic relations, which have been suspended since 1961 due to the country’s communist dictatorship. The New York Times reported that Rhodes spent “more than a year sneaking off to secret negotiations in Canada and finally at the Vatican” before a deal was officially announced in December 2014. [12]

Israel

Ben Rhodes also critical of the government of then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel and supported a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He stated that he felt that then-prime minister Netanyahu was never interested in a two-state solution: “We pretended to my shame at times in the Obama administration that he was interested in that. When I don’t think he was, ever.” He also expressed concern that the Biden administration was taking a similar approach. [13]

Rhodes further stated that the Netanyahu government “made our lives hell” during the Obama administration and that the Biden administration was taking a “defensive crouch.” He has also expressed further support for a Palestinian state and the establishment of a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem. He has also stated that the while there is broad support for the two-state solution among the Democratic establishment, the two-state solution has “expired” and the progressive wing of the Democratic Party “is actually going to be providing the new policy answers on the matter.” [14]

In 2018, it was reported that Rhodes was investigated by an Israeli private-intelligence firm called Black Cube that attempted collect data on key supporters of the Iran Nuclear Deal in an attempt to discredit them. [15]

Post-Obama Administration

Following the end of the Obama administration, Rhodes published a book titled The World As It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House and another titled After the Fall: the Rise of Authoritarianism in the World We’ve Made. Rhodes has also written many op-eds and appears as a TV contributor on variety of foreign policy matters. He has criticized many foreign policy positions of the Trump administration. He also hosts the podcast Pod Save the World for Crooked Media. [16] [17]

He is the co-chair of left-of-center foreign policy advocacy group National Security Action. [18]

References

  1. “Ben Rhodes.” USC Dornsife Center for Political Future. Accessed September 19, 2022. https://dornsife-center-for-political-future.usc.edu/former-fellow-profiles/ben-rhodes/ ^
  2. Farrow, Ronan. “Israeli Operatives Who Aided Harvey Weinstein Collected Information on Former Obama Administration Officials.” The New Yorker. May 6, 2018. Accessed September 19, 2022. https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/israeli-operatives-who-aided-harvey-weinstein-collected-information-on-former-obama-administration-officials ^
  3. Weiss, Philip. “Biden team forgets ‘history:’ Israel and its lobby dissed Obama in ‘borderline offensive’ racial terms–Ben Rhodes.” Mondoweiss. February 23, 2021. Accessed September 19, 2022.  https://mondoweiss.net/2021/02/biden-team-forgets-history-israel-and-its-lobby-dissed-obama-in-borderline-offensive-racial-terms-ben-rhodes/ ^
  4. Rhodes, Ben. “A Fatal Abandonment of American Leadership.” The Atlantic. October 2018. Accessed September 19, 2022.  https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/10/jamal-khashoggi-and-us-saudi-relationship/572905/ ^
  5. Ben Rhodes.” USC Dornsife Center for Political Future. Accessed September 19, 2022. https://dornsife-center-for-political-future.usc.edu/former-fellow-profiles/ben-rhodes/ ^
  6. Horowitz, Jason. “Obama speechwriter pens a different script for the world stage.” Washington Post. January 12, 2010. Accessed Via Wayback Machine September 19, 2022. https://web.archive.org/web/20130930020538/http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2010-01-12/news/36821288_1_obama-team-obama-campaign-robert-gibbs/2 ^
  7. Horowitz, Jason. “Obama speechwriter pens a different script for the world stage.” Washington Post. January 12, 2010. Accessed Via Wayback Machine September 19, 2022. https://web.archive.org/web/20130930020538/http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2010-01-12/news/36821288_1_obama-team-obama-campaign-robert-gibbs/2 ^
  8. Horowitz, Jason. “Obama speechwriter pens a different script for the world stage.” Washington Post. January 12, 2010. Accessed Via Wayback Machine September 19, 2022. https://web.archive.org/web/20130930020538/http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2010-01-12/news/36821288_1_obama-team-obama-campaign-robert-gibbs/2 ^
  9. “Ben Rhodes.” USC Dornsife Center for Political Future. Accessed September 19, 2022. https://dornsife-center-for-political-future.usc.edu/former-fellow-profiles/ben-rhodes/ ^
  10. Samuels, David. “The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama’s Foreign Policy Guru.” New York Times Magazine. May 8, 2016. Accessed September 19, 2022. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/08/magazine/the-aspiring-novelist-who-became-obamas-foreign-policy-guru.html ^
  11. Maloney, Suzanne. “Deception and the Iran deal: Did the Obama administration mislead America, or did the Rhodes profile?” Brookings Institution. May 11, 2016. Accessed September 19, 2022. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/markaz/2016/05/11/deception-and-the-iran-deal-did-the-obama-administration-mislead-america-or-did-the-rhodes-profile/ ^
  12. Davis, Julie Hirschfeld; Baker, Peter. “A Secretive Path to Raising U.S. Flag in Cuba”. The New York Times. August 13, 2015. Accessed September 19, 2022. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/14/world/americas/a-secretive-path-to-raising-us-flag-in-cuba.html ^
  13.  “Time to call for a ceasefire in Gaza.” Pod Save the World. May 19, 2021. https://crooked.com/podcast/time-to-call-for-a-ceasefire-in-gaza/ ^
  14.  “Time to call for a ceasefire in Gaza.” Pod Save the World. May 19, 2021. https://crooked.com/podcast/time-to-call-for-a-ceasefire-in-gaza/ ^
  15. Farrow, Ronan. “Israeli Operatives Who Aided Harvey Weinstein Collected Information on Former Obama Administration Officials.” The New Yorker. May 6, 2018. Accessed September 19, 2022. https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/israeli-operatives-who-aided-harvey-weinstein-collected-information-on-former-obama-administration-officials ^
  16. “Ben Rhodes.” USC Dornsife Center for Political Future. Accessed September 19, 2022. https://dornsife-center-for-political-future.usc.edu/former-fellow-profiles/ben-rhodes/ ^
  17. “Ben Rhodes Talks “After the Fall: Being an American in the World We’ve Made”’ Citizen Connect. November 16, 2021. Accessed September 19, 2022. https://citizenconnect.us/event/ben-rhodes-talks-after-the-fall-being-an-american-in-the-world-weve-made/?gclid=CjwKCAjwsfuYBhAZEiwA5a6CDCVsbNm-AibNZ1GZcwZZbq5LZKeP2xk7XPjo00WXEljGlbfq9OvhghoCRW0QAvD_BwE ^
  18. “Ben Rhodes.” USC Dornsife Center for Political Future. Accessed September 19, 2022. https://dornsife-center-for-political-future.usc.edu/former-fellow-profiles/ben-rhodes/ ^

Connected Organizations

  1. National Security Action (Non-profit)
    Co-Founder, Co-Chair
  2. Obama 2008 Presidential Campaign (Political Party/527)
    Senior Speechwriter
  3. Obama Administration (Government Agency)
    Deputy National Security Advisor (2009-2017)
  4. Ploughshares Fund (Non-profit)
    Board Member
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