Gowdy, Defending Sen. Cotton, Questions Ben Rhodes’ Qualifications

By Patrick Goodenough | May 18, 2016 | 4:21 AM EDT

South Carolina Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy. (Photo: House Oversight and Government Reform Committee)

(CNSNews.com) – Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) ripped into the administration Tuesday for criticizing Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) over his stance on Iran.

Gowdy contrasted Cotton, a U.S. Army veteran, to Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, who is under fire over the way the White House sold the Iran nuclear deal to the American people.

Speaking during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing at which the White House did not allow Rhodes to testify, Gowdy noted that Rhodes has a Master’s degree in creative writing.

While Cotton was serving combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, he said, “Ben Rhodes was navigating the mean streets of a creative writing curriculum.”

“And if you’re interested in writing haikus and sonnets and novellas, he’s probably the right guy,” Gowdy continued. “On the other hand, if you’re advising the leader of the free world on foreign policy matters, I don’t know how a haiku helps.”

Gowdy said he would like to have been able to ask Rhodes “how his background prepared him to sell the Iranian deal, yet Tommy Cotton’s background did not prepare him to criticize the Iranian deal.”

“That would have been an interesting dichotomy for me.”

Rhodes, in a New York Times Magazine profile, boasted about having “created an echo chamber” of experts and compliant journalists to sell the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Committee chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) invited him to testify before the hearing, entitled “White House narratives on the Iran nuclear deal” but the White House refused to make him available.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest used the opportunity to mock Republican critics of the JCPOA, naming Cotton and others. He suggested that Chaffetz invite those critics instead to explain why they, either “misinformed” or “lying,” had said things about the deal that turned out to be untrue.

Chaffetz then said Cotton was willing to testify before the committee and would do so should Rhodes make an appearance.

Obamacare, Benghazi talking points

During Tuesday’s hearing, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) compared Rhodes’ selling of the Iran nuclear deal to the administration’s narrative on Obamacare.

He recalled the case of Jonathan Gruber, the MIT economist who helped the administration to write and sell the Affordable Care Act, and who infamously said its passage was the result of “the stupidity of the American voter.”

Jordan further quoted Gruber, who was called before the committee in December 2014, as having said that “lack of transparency is a political advantage.”

“That’s a nice way of saying, if you deceive people, you might get your way, right? It might help your case,” said Jordan, adding that many of the administration claims about Obamacare turned out to be false.

Now Rhodes – described in the NYT Magazine piece as “the single most important influential voice shaping American foreign policy” – comes along and “creates a false narrative as well,” he added.

“So this isn’t the first time this administration on some big policy decision has deceived the American people," Jordan said. “Mr. Gruber deceives the American people on Obamacare. Along comes Mr. Rhodes on the Iranian deal, uses deception to create this false choice, help get this agreement passed.”

He added that it wasn’t the first time Rhodes had done so, recalling the administration’s talking points on the U.S. Consulate attack in Benghazi. Libya on Sept. 11, 2012 which killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

At the time, Rhodes sent an email outlining his advice to then-U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice about how to portray the attack when she appeared on Sunday talk shows five days later.

In the email, Rhodes said Rice should “underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.”

When she appeared on the shows, Rice said the attack, according to what she said was the best information available at the time, was a “spontaneous reaction” to an online video mocking Mohammed.

Only later did the administration publicly concede it was a terrorist attack with a likely al-Qaeda link. The incident prompted suspicions that the administration deliberately tried to mislead American voters – during President Obama’s re-election campaign – about the nature of the attack.

(Rhodes’ email was not among Benghazi-related documents released by the administration in response to a congressional subpoena, but it emerged later, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the watchdog group Judicial Watch.)

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow

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