Media still taking its cues from Iran deal's 'spin' master

Media still taking its cues from Iran deal's 'spin' master
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Former Obama advisor Ben Rhodes placed himself front and center in pitching the failed Iran deal to a willing national media, which he knew was comprised of friends and cohorts more than willing to ingest his spin and spit it out to their audiences.

Rhodes’s media pals felt empowered. They were part of the White House inner circle. As Rhodes himself told the New York Times magazine, “They were saying things that validated what we had given them to say.”

He called them, “the echo chamber,” and scarcely disguised his contempt for the media and their think tank cronies in his revealing May 2016 interview.

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“The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing,” he said. 

So it was amusing to watch Ben Rhodes attempt to tar the left-wing Politico webzine of living inside a “perpetual right wing echo chamber” because they exposed the Obama administration efforts to quash a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigation into Hezbollah cocaine smuggling into the United States known as Project Cassandra.

The Politico story, written by Josh Meyer and staff reporters, is a real blockbuster of the kind that scarcely appears any longer in left-wing media.

I don’t mean to suggest that journalism has died on the left; just to say the obvious: That it has become so politicized that the Washington Post, for example, will expend enormous effort to unearth a potential sex scandal against conservative Republican Roy MooreRoy Stewart MooreRoby wins Alabama GOP runoff, overcoming blowback from Trump criticism Once a Trump critic, Ala. rep faces runoff with his support Doug Jones walks tightrope on Supreme Court nominee MORE, but barely breathes a word about the Politico story that could involve actual obstruction of justice by the Obama White House and Department of Justice.

Neither would any of the major television networks, except of course for Fox News. Following the Politico story, NBC, ABC, and CBS devoted not a single second of air time to the story.

It’s a big deal because Politico’s allegations, sourced to the U.S. government officials in charge of investigating and prosecuting Hezbollah drug-trafficking networks, are so devastating.

“Over the eight years of the Obama administration, you had potentially dozens of criminal cases that languished,” Meyer told Fox News anchor Shannon Bream. “People were transferred, efforts to create a RICO prosecution were not supported, extraditions and so forth.”

And all of it, in an effort to “not anger” the Iranian regime so they would back away from the nuclear negotiations.

One of the fascinating angles to this story is that many of the sources quoted by Meyer previously had testified before Congress that top Obama administration officials were shutting down operations run by the DEA’s Operation Cassandra that targeted the Hezbollah drug-trafficking and money-laundering operations.

David Asher, a former top advisor to the Project Cassandra task force, testified at a June 2017 hearing before House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed RoyceEdward (Ed) Randall RoyceLawmakers target link between wildlife poaching, terror groups GOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki More than 50 Dem House challengers outraise GOP incumbents MORE (R-Calif) that the Obama administration had shut down their efforts to bring top Hezbollah officials to justice in the United States.

“Defending against, attacking, and defeating Hezbollah’s growing military capacity requires defending against, attacking, and defeating its global financial and facilitation network,” Asher testified.

“We built the means to do this but for reasons that remain mysterious, elusive, and hard to comprehend, much of what we built was willfully scrapped toward the end of the previous administration.”

Katherine Bauer, another senior Obama-era official who served as assistant director of Treasury's Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes, provided similar testimony before HFAC in February 2017.

“Under the Obama administration, however, these investigations were tamped down for fear of rocking the boat with Iran and jeopardizing the nuclear deal,” she said. The Trump administration “should aggressively target Hezbollah’s financial, logistical, and procurement networks, including resurrecting the DEA’s now-defunct Project Cassandra,” she added.

In the days when America still had a real media, several Congressional correspondents would have picked up on that type of testimony and started asking questions. Not today. Many media organizations cannot afford a full-time Congressional correspondent, and those that do keep them focused on bashing President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he doesn't want to use 'adversary' to describe Russia Comey urges Americans to vote for Democrats in midterms Roby wins Alabama GOP runoff, overcoming blowback from Trump criticism MORE and Republicans.

The irony here, of course, is that Politico, founded by former Washington Post reporters, has been reliably left-leaning for much of the past decade. So Josh Meyer deserves credit for doing his job as a journalist, taking a story and following the facts to wherever they might lead, as do his editors for publishing the results.

In the old days, that’s how most of us saw our job. No longer so, today.

As for Ben Rhodes, it may be time for him to lawyer up. As a deputy national security advisor who helped drive the Iran nuclear deal, what role did he play in shutting down Project Cassandra?

If I were a federal prosecutor, I’d want to know.

Kenneth R. Timmerman is a Donald Trump supporter. He was the 2012 Republican Congressional nominee for MD-8 and is the author of Deception: The Making of the YouTube Video Hillary & Obama Blamed for Benghazi, published by Post Hill Press.