The House Oversight Committee held hearings on Tuesday to examine “White House Narratives on the Iran Nuclear Deal,” at which they wanted to hear from Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes–the frustrated novelist who fabricated those White House narratives out of whole cloth and convinced lazy reporters to spread them as volunteer auxiliary members of the White House spin shop.
“We’re planning as if he is attending, and he’ll have a comfortable seat awaiting his arrival,” said House Oversight Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) on Monday, as quoted by Fox News.
This would have been a great opportunity for the White House to crib a “comfy chair” joke from Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition routine, but suddenly, the sarcastic juveniles who crafted Obama’s Iran policy are thin on the ground, and grown-up powerhouse lawyers are doing the talking.
White House counsel W. Neil Eggleston sent Chaffetz a letter citing what Fox News nebulously describes as an “executive privilege-related claim,” which is a fancy way of saying that the White House does not want Chaffetz to have a shot at its top media puppeteer.
For the record, Eggleston claimed an appearance by Rhodes before House Oversight would threaten “the independence and autonomy of the President, as well as his ability to receive candid advice and counsel.”
White House spokesman Josh Earnest did not bother working up any polite fictions about dubious executive privilege-related claims last Thursday, when he accused congressional Republicans of making “wildly false accusations” and “demonstrably wrong” claims about the Iran deal, and suggested they did not deserve the honor of having Rhodes address their crummy little oversight committee.
It’s not easy to browbeat people into forgetting a gigantic New York Times essay that quoted Rhodes bragging about creating false narratives and using the media as White House “force multipliers,” so give Earnest a little credit for trying.
It didn’t work, of course. Chaffetz responded by goading Rhodes to prove he’s “man enough to show” and “discuss the truth.”
Since Rhodes singled out Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) as one of the Republicans who supposedly made false accusations about the Iran deal, Chaffetz said he would ask Cotton to appear before the House Oversight to defend himself, right alongside Rhodes.
Cotton was eager to oblige. Rhodes, not so much.
When Rhodes didn’t show up at the hearing, Chaffetz marveled at how the White House adviser’s priorities have shifted so dramatically in the days since that New York Times piece was published.
“What is mystifying to me is how readily available he made himself to the media,” said Chaffetz, clearly not mystified. “We wanted to get the person who is right in the thick of things from the White House to come here and testify.”
“The White House on Thursday claimed that this wasn’t about executive privilege, and then less than 24 hours before this hearing, they reversed course and said, ‘oh it is about executive privilege,’” Chaffetz continued. “You have plenty of time, Mr. Rhodes, to go out and talk to all the media friends and talk to the echo chamber that you brag about in the New York Times, but when it comes time to actually answer hard questions under oath, you decide not to do it.”
Hilariously, The Washington Times reports that committee Democrats complained that “the witness list was stacked with Iran deal opponents.” Shouldn’t they address that complaint to Ben Rhodes, and the White House lawyers he’s hiding behind?
From the Senate, Tom Cotton took a few shots at Rhodes on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show.
“Some of the coverage of Ben Rhodes is what happens when you put van drivers and campaign flaks and failed novelists in charge of foreign policy and national security,” said Senator Cotton, adding:
And that chump may think that subsidizing Iran’s nuclear program with millions of dollars is a laughing matter. I don’t think it’s that funny. And if he or anyone else over there had ever been man enough to put on the uniform and pick up the rifle, and have to lead men in dodging Iranian-made bombs, they might not be laughing, either.
“You know, most of who’s left in the administration now are all these yes men and fan boys who were van drivers or press flaks for Barack Obama in Iowa and New Hampshire in 2008,” Cotton observed. “As if any of them have ever seen anything more dangerous than a shoving match when they were playing beer pong in the back of a bar in Georgetown!”
Cotton also suggested Rhodes should take advantage of every opportunity to discuss his White House work, because he’ll be “eclipsed by history in about one minute after he loses his 1600 Pennsylvania pass,” and “no one’s going to talk to him.”
A number of Cotton’s Senate colleagues, including Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX), National Security and International Trade subcommittee chair Mark Kirk (R-IL), and Republican Policy Committee chair John Barrasso (R-WY), wrote a letter to President Obama on Monday, demanding Rhodes be fired or forced to resign.
“Mr. Rhodes’s disrespectful, deceptive, and destructive conduct has fallen appallingly short of this standard,” the lawmakers charged. “Indeed, if he had conducted himself this way in a typical place of business outside Washington, where American taxpayers work, he surely would have been already fired or asked to resign.”