Why hasn’t he yet responded to the Ben Rhodes Iran Deal scandal?
Every presidential campaign has milestones that tell candidates they have to turn their skills to different tasks. Donald Trump has reached one of them but he isn’t making the course corrections he needs.
Trump had political skills and instincts good enough to defeat sixteen competitors for the Republican presidential nomination. Neither quickly nor easily, but he did defeat them. Trump is now faced with another game altogether, with different rules and requiring different skills and instincts.
Trump has to defeat not just Hillary Clinton, but the entire Clinton machine to which is added Obama’s machine, most of the media, and the rest of the liberal menagerie. To do so he needs to start right now to differentiate between the minor political opportunities that arise from moment to moment, and those that are likely to pay off in the post-convention campaign.
Mitt Romney never had the political acumen to do that. Just about four years ago, this column wrote despairingly about Romney’s political talents at a moment disturbingly like this one.
In 2012 there was a new Department of Labor regulation which prohibited teenagers and children from being employed on their parents’ farms. It was a massive government intrusion into the American family and the ability of parents to teach their children about farming.
Romney’s reaction was stunning: there was none. He spoke not a word about it.
It’s Politics 101 to understand that when your opponent leads with his chin, you take a roundhouse swing and try to knock him down. Romney didn’t. He didn’t lose the election because he didn’t bash Obama with the Labor Department’s insanity. He lost because he lacked the talent and political instinct to take on the Obama machine and its media cohort. Now Trump has to take on both Obama for his failed record and Clinton for her role in it. So far, he’s not doing it.
The primary races were mostly about personalities and the overwhelming disgust most Republicans feel toward the Republican Establishment and those failed leaders who most primary voters believe betrayed them by failing to even try to stop Obama’s agenda.
Personalities are in play in the general election but success in it requires something very different. The general election is much more about what people can expect from a President Trump or a President Hillary. Yes, it will always be about the economy. But otherwise, the candidates have to select other issues that they wish to make important and do so personally and directly.
Unless you’ve been hiding in a cave (without wi-fi) for the past week you know about the mess Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes has made over the Iran nuclear weapons deal.
Rhodes’s only qualifications for the job is an education in writing fiction and a staff role on the Iraq Study Group, which made him more knowledgeable than anyone — including the candidate — on Obama’s campaign staff.
The New York Times Magazine piece on Rhodes claimed he had “mind-melded” with Obama and become second only to Obama in influence on foreign policy. More importantly, Rhodes proved himself a proud liar and raging egotist in what he told the Times.
Rhodes is proud of the disinformation campaign he ran on Obama’s behalf about the Iran deal. For those just joining us, there’s a great difference between propaganda and disinformation. Propaganda consists of the lies you tell. Disinformation is the lie you convince someone else to publish and propagate for you.
Rhodes skillfully employed disinformation to convince some of the public, most of the media, and 98 senators of a number of lies including: that “moderates” were taking over Iran, seeking to convert it from a terrorist theocracy to a nation that could be trusted; that the agreement would prevent Iran from following any path to a nuclear weapon; that America would know almost immediately if Iran chose to actually build a nuclear weapon; that the international sanctions would be immediately re-imposed if Iran violated the agreement; and that the weak-kneed Republican Senate — which was easily bamboozled out of its constitutional duty to either ratify the deal as a treaty or turn it down — would be fully knowledgeable about the deal when it voted on it.
Not one of those things was true, yet the media and Rhodes’s “echo chamber” repeated them endlessly and do so to this day.
Iran remains under the total control of the ayatollahs. To them any hint of moderation is literally blasphemy.
Under the agreement, Iran is guaranteed the ability to develop deployable nuclear weapons secretly. It is ensured this ability by side agreements — which the Senate remains ignorant of to this day — that give Iran the ability to self-inspect key nuclear sites and report on its findings to the UN’s purblind nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. And, oh by the way, no Americans are permitted among the inspectors that visit any of the Iranian sites the UN is allowed to inspect.
The international sanctions cannot be immediately re-imposed, as Obama frequently insists, because the UN would have to agree to do so.
All of this adds up to what Trump would call a “yuge” political opportunity that will last until Election Day. But, in the most Romneyesque manner, he hasn’t said a word about it.
Trump needs to understand that he’s running not only against Hillary but against Obama as well. He hasn’t yet demonstrated any understanding of that fact.
Trump can, and should, call out Obama on Rhodes’s disclosures. He can do so in two ways.
First, Trump should call out Obama on the Iran deal. Trump has condemned the deal as “lousy” but hasn’t said what he’d do about it. He should promise, like Ted Cruz did earlier, to revoke it on his first day in office.
Second, because it’s based on lies to the public, the Senate, and the media, Trump can say it’s a perfect demonstration of what’s wrong in Washington. He can, and should, bash the Republican establishment for getting suckered into a bad deal and giving up its constitutional duty of treaty ratification (or rejection) by Rhodes’s disinformation campaign and Obama’s refusal to submit the deal for ratification.
Third, he can bash the heck out of Hillary for supporting the deal and — by her characteristic dishonesty — participating in the Obama/Rhodes disinformation campaign.
These actions won’t win the election for Trump. But they are essential because they can put him on the right path to do three things.
First, he’d be putting two and two together, recognizing that he’s running against Obama as much as he’s running against Hillary. He could — and should — start to make a habit of draping Obama’s many failures around Hillary’s neck.
Second, he’d be making the presidential race more than a contest of personalities. If he doesn’t, Bubba and Obama will grin him to death.
Third, he’d be demonstrating a gravitas that has been sorely lacking in his campaign so far. Voters want a president who sounds presidential, i.e., serious, well-informed, and demonstrating sound judgment.
Mitt Romney missed several opportunities as big as this — not just the Labor Department idiocy — and he lost. Whether Trump has the political skill and intelligence to do this is not obvious. We’ll see.
Photo: Michael Vadon/Creative Commons