Ben Rhodes (White House staffer)

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Ben Rhodes
Ben Rhodes, Obama staffer, Feb 2013.jpg
Deputy National Security Advisor
In office
January 20, 2009 – January 20, 2017
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byMichael Anton
Personal details
Born (1977-11-14) November 14, 1977 (age 41)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Ann Norris
Children2
EducationRice University (BA)
New York University (MFA)

Benjamin J. Rhodes (born November 14, 1977) is a writer and political commentator. With Jake Sullivan, he is the co-chair of National Security Action, a political NGO.[1] He contributes to NBC News and MSNBC regularly as a political commentator.[2] He is also a Crooked Media contributor, and co-host of the foreign policy podcast Pod Save the World.[3]

In 2018, Random House published Rhodes's memoir, The World as It Is, a New York Times bestseller and revelatory behind-the-scenes account of Barack Obama's presidency. George Packer in the New Yorker called the book "the closest view of Obama we’re likely to get until he publishes his own memoir."[4] In the New York Times, Joe Klein wrote, "His achievement is rare for a political memoir: He has written a humane and honorable book."[5] Rhodes has written opinion articles for newspapers and magazines including the New York Times and The Atlantic.[6][7]

During the Obama administration, Rhodes led the secret negotiations with Cuba that resulted in the December 17, 2014 announcement by President Obama and Raúl Castro that the two countries would normalize relations. Rhodes traveled to Canada and the Vatican for talks with Cuba about a prisoner exchange that led to the release of Alan Gross and a U.S. intelligence asset, along with the decision to re-establish diplomatic relations between Cuba and the U.S.[8] In his book, Rhodes revealed that his negotiating counterpart was Alejandro Castro, the son of Raúl. Rhodes was the U.S. government representative at the funeral for Fidel Castro in 2016.[9] Rhodes has been critical of the Trump administration's approach to Cuba.[10]

Rhodes was featured in the HBO documentary The Final Year, along with John Kerry, Samantha Power and Susan Rice. The documentary portrays the events of Obama’s final year in office, with a focus on his foreign policy team.[11]

Early life and education[edit]

Rhodes was born in the Upper East Side neighborhood of Manhattan He is the son of an Episcopalian father from Texas and a Jewish mother from New York.[12][13] He attended the Collegiate School, graduating in 1996.[14][15] Rhodes then attended Rice University, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 2000 with majors in English and political science.[13] He then moved back to New York, attending New York University and graduating in 2002 with an MFA in creative writing.[16] His brother, David Rhodes, is a former President of CBS News.[17][18]

Career[edit]

President Barack Obama and Rhodes on board Air Force One, editing the speech for the Mandela memorial service
Hillary Clinton talks with Obama and Rhodes on board Air Force One

In the summer of 1997, Rhodes volunteered with the Rudy Giuliani mayoral campaign.[13] In the summer of 2001, he worked on the New York City Council campaign of Diana Reyna.[19] In 2002, James Gibney, editor of Foreign Policy, introduced Rhodes to Lee Hamilton, former member of the House of Representatives and director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, who was looking for a speechwriter.[15] Rhodes then spent five years as an assistant to Hamilton, helping to draft the Iraq Study Group Report and the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.[20][21]

In 2007, Rhodes began working as a speechwriter for the 2008 Obama presidential campaign.[22]

Rhodes wrote Obama's 2009 Cairo speech "A New Beginning".[23] Rhodes was the adviser who counseled Obama to withdraw support from Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak,[13] becoming a key adviser during the 2011 Arab Spring.[12][18]

Rhodes was instrumental in the conversations that led to Obama reestablishing the United States' diplomatic relations with Cuba,[24] which had been cut off since 1961. The New York Times reported that Rhodes spent "more than a year sneaking off to secret negotiations in Canada and finally at the Vatican" in advance of the official announcement in December 2014.[25]

After leaving the Obama administration, Rhodes began working as a commentator.[26] He wrote The World as It Is and began contributing to Crooked Media, NBC News and MSNBC. In 2018, he co-founded National Security Action.[27]

Rhodes has criticized U.S. involvement in the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen.[28][29] He wrote of the war in Yemen, "Looking back, I wonder what we might have done differently, particularly if we’d somehow known that Obama was going to be succeeded by a President Trump."[28]

Controversies[edit]

In a controversial profile in The New York Times Magazine, Rhodes was quoted "deriding the D.C. press corps and boasting of how he created an 'echo chamber' to market the administration's foreign policy", including the international nuclear agreement with Iran.[16][17][18] The piece was criticized by numerous journalism outlets for its lack of journalistic integrity and biases against the Iran deal.[30][31][32]

In 2017, it was alleged that Israeli private intelligence firm Black Cube attempted to manufacture incriminating or embarrassing information about Rhodes and his wife, as well as fellow former National Security Council staffer Colin Kahl, in an apparent effort to undermine supporters of the Iran nuclear deal. Rhodes said of the incident, "This just eviscerates any norm of how governments should operate or treat their predecessors and their families. It crosses a dangerous line."[21]

Awards and honors[edit]

In 2011, Rhodes was on Time magazine's "40 Under 40" list of powerful and prominent young professionals.[33] Rhodes was number 13 on Fortune magazine's "40 Under 40" list of the most influential young people in business in 2014.[34]

In 2015, Rhodes was named one of Foreign Policy magazine's top 100 global thinkers.[35]

Books[edit]

  • Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission. (co-authored by Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton) Vintage Books, 2007, ISBN 978-0-30727-663-6.
  • The World as It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House. Random House, 2018, ISBN 978-0525509356.

Personal life[edit]

Rhodes is married to Ann Norris, who was chief foreign policy adviser to former U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA). They have two daughters.[36][37]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gearan, Anne (February 27, 2018). "Democrats marshal strike force to counter Trump on national security in 2018, 2020 elections". Washington Post. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  2. ^ "Former Obama Adviser Ben Rhodes Joins NBC News and MSNBC". adweek.it. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  3. ^ "Crooked Media Announces New Site, Pod, Store, and Network of Very Fine People on Both Sides". Crooked Media. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  4. ^ Packer, George (June 18, 2018). "Witnessing the Obama Presidency, from Start to Finish". New Yorker.
  5. ^ Klein, Joe (June 5, 2018). "Deep Inside the Obama White House". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  6. ^ Rhodes, Ben; Sullivan, Jake (November 25, 2018). "Opinion | How to Check Trump and Repair America's Image". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  7. ^ Rhodes, Ben (October 12, 2018). "A Fatal Abandonment of American Leadership". The Atlantic. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  8. ^ LeoGrande, William. "Fidel Castro has died. Here's an inside look at Cuba's crazy back-channel negotiations with Obama". Mother Jones. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  9. ^ Harris, Gardiner (November 29, 2016). "Obama to Send Aide to Fidel Castro's Funeral". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  10. ^ Rhodes, Ben (June 16, 2017). "Trump's Cuba Policy Will Fail". The Atlantic. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  11. ^ Glasser, Susan B. "How Does Obama's Foreign Policy Look a Year Into Trump?". POLITICO Magazine. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  12. ^ a b Landler, Mark (March 16, 2013). "Worldly at 35, and Shaping Obama's Voice". New York Times.
  13. ^ a b c d Fields, Sarah (October 22, 2018). Summary: Ben Rhodes' The World as It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House. HSP via PublishDrive.
  14. ^ "Election 2008: Ben Rhodes '96, Speechwriter and Advisor to Barack Obama". Collegiate School. October 27, 2008. Retrieved September 24, 2013.
  15. ^ a b Jason Horowitz (January 12, 2010). "Obama speechwriter pens a different script for the world stage". Washington Post. Retrieved September 24, 2013.
  16. ^ "Election 2008: Ben Rhodes '96, Speechwriter and Advisor to Barack Obama". Collegiate School. October 27, 2008. Retrieved September 24, 2013.
  17. ^ Brian Steinberg (November 20, 2014). "David Rhodes To Take Over CBS News As Jeff Fager Steps Down". Variety. Retrieved May 29, 2015.
  18. ^ a b Landler, Mark (March 15, 2013). "Worldly at 35, and Shaping Obama's Voice". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 15, 2019.
  19. ^ Jason Horowitz (January 12, 2010). "Obama speechwriter pens a different script for the world stage". Washington Post. Retrieved September 24, 2013.
  20. ^ "White House Profile: Ben Rhodes". Retrieved September 23, 2013.
  21. ^ Samuels, David (May 5, 2016). "The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama's Foreign-Policy Guru". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 15, 2019.
  22. ^ Samuels, David (May 5, 2016). "The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama's Foreign-Policy Guru". The New York Times Magazine. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved November 30, 2016.
  23. ^ "Who Wrote Obama's Cairo Speech?". June 5, 2009.
  24. ^ De Young, Karen (November 16, 2016). "How Obama's Trip to Havana finally ended the cold war". Washington Post. Retrieved January 15, 2019.
  25. ^ Davis, Julie Hirschfeld; Baker, Peter (August 13, 2015). "A Secretive Path to Raising U.S. Flag in Cuba". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved November 30, 2016.
  26. ^ Rhodes, Ben (October 12, 2018). "A Fatal Abandonment of American Leadership". The Atlantic. Retrieved January 15, 2019.
  27. ^ "National Security Action — WHO WE ARE". National Security Action. Retrieved January 15, 2019.
  28. ^ a b "A Fatal Abandonment of American Leadership". The Atlantic. October 12, 2018.
  29. ^ "When Will Obama Aides Come Clean About U.S.-Saudi War Crimes?". In These Times. October 22, 2018.
  30. ^ "How the NYT Magazine botched its story on Iran & Ben Rhodes". POLITICO Magazine. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  31. ^ Lozada, Carlos (May 6, 2016). "Why the Ben Rhodes profile in the New York Times Magazine is just gross". Washington Post. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  32. ^ Levitz, Eric (May 10, 2016). "10 Problems With That New York Times Magazine Profile of White House Aide Ben Rhodes". New York Inteligencer. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  33. ^ "Ben Rhodes: 40 Under 40". TIME. October 14, 2010. Retrieved April 9, 2012.
  34. ^ "Ben Rhodes". Fortune. October 9, 2014. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  35. ^ "The Leading Global Thinkers of 2015 - Foreign Policy". 2015globalthinkers.foreignpolicy.com. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  36. ^ Jack Shafer (March 18, 2013). "Beat sweetener: The Benjamin J. Rhodes edition". reuters.com. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  37. ^ Julian Borger (January 13, 2017). "Ben Rhodes: 'Obama has a serenity that I don't. I get more exercised'". The Guardian. Retrieved February 17, 2018.

External links[edit]