The Goldberg variations

Obama national security adviser Ben Rhodes proudly put his contempt for Obama’s media enablers on display in David Samuels’s New York Times Magazine profile “The aspiring novelist who became Obama’s foreign policy guru.” Rhodes repaid the servility of Obama’s media enablers with rank ingratitude. Rhodes confides to Samuels: “They literally know nothing.” It’s a remarkable performance.

Lee Smith takes a look at the response to Samuel’s profile “The Ben Rhodes blow-up.” Smith notes that “the [media] echo chamber is mad—but not at Ben Rhodes for what he said. They’re mad at Samuels for getting the story they didn’t—or didn’t even see was there, and they’re mad at him for what he reported.”

The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg may be the most prominent victim of Rhodes’s comments. Did Rhodes really name Goldberg as one of his tools? Here Smith parses Goldberg’s response to the profile:

Jeffrey Goldberg is hopping mad, too. The Atlantic just posted his long and seething rejoinder to Samuels, who wrote in his Rhodes piece that, “handpicked Beltway insiders like Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic and Laura Rozen of Al-Monitor helped retail the administration’s narrative.”

Goldberg writes that he called Rhodes for a clarification. “I asked Rhodes if he told Samuels that he, or other administration officials, had ever handpicked me to retail their case for the Iran deal.” That is, “Ben, did you tell Samuels I’m a White House shill?” Surprisingly, as Goldberg relates the conversation, Rhodes did not admit to him that he sees the frequent visitor to the Oval Office, who recently published a long profile of Obama running down allies and boasting of his achievements, as a Beltway insider who was handpicked to retail the administration’s narrative. Not in those exact words anyway. In his actual response, Rhodes showed a talent for euphemism: “I told him that our goal was to try to convince you,” he told Goldberg, “and a handful of other columnists that the Iran deal wasn’t a total catastrophe.”

I think Smith’s is one of the most informed and interesting responses to Samuels’s profile. Smith reads Goldberg’s exchange with Rhodes as I do. Goldberg’s response provides an entertaining on the maniacal Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver: “You talkin’ to me?”

Goldberg has demanded a correction from the Times Magazine. As of this morning, the article stands as written. “I’m standin’ here. You make the move. It’s your move….You talkin’ to me?”


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