It’s a little hard to believe that people are still writing and talking about the ouster of fmr national security advisor Mike Flynn at the end of the week. But since people are, let’s take a look at a story that seemed to excite the right and the Trump-friendly.
That story is a piece Adam Kredo wrote for the Washington Free Beacon entitled “Former Obama Officials, Loyalists Waged Secret Campaign to Oust Flynn.” I tend to think Kredo is a solid reporter, so I also tend to think that most people who read it actually misread it or were misled by the headline. What Kredo actually reported was that allies of Flynn have a conspiracy theory to explain his professional demise.
Yes, really. Allow me to walk you through it.
Kredo’s lede is that Flynn’s fate was the “culmination of a secret, months-long campaign by former Obama administration confidantes to handicap President Donald Trump’s national security apparatus and preserve the nuclear deal with Iran.”
It seems fairly clear that there was a wide-ranging effort against Flynn. It wasn’t really all that secret, given that most of it was conducted in the media. Anonymous? Yes. Sometimes illegal? Yes. Secret? Not so much. More like “brazen.”
It is also pretty clear that former Obama administration personnel were involved in this effort. The anti-Flynn stories in Big Media often relied on sources characterized as “former officials.” No sane person thinks these were officials from some administration other than the Obama administration.
Was the point to preserve Obama’s Iran deal? Stick a pin in that; we’ll come back to it.
Graf two asserts that the campaign is “said to include former Obama administration adviser Ben Rhodes” and a “small task force of Obama loyalists,” according to “multiple sources.”
Who are these sources? Fortunately, Kredo’s sourcing is far more specific than the sourcing in many of the anti-Flynn stories, so we know a fair amount about them.
These “[s]ources who spoke to the Free Beacon requested anonymity in order to speak freely about the situation and avoid interfering with the White House’s official narrative about Flynn.” Given that fmr Obama officials likely don’t give a tinker’s damn about Trump’s narrative, the reader already may infer that perhaps the sources here are going to be pro-Flynn.
Indeed, Kredo specifically describes his sources as: (1) a “veteran national security adviser with close ties to the White House team”; (2) a “veteran foreign policy insider who is close to Flynn and the White House”; (3) a “senior White House official,” “who is a member of the White House’s National Security Council”; and (4) a “source who serves as a congressional adviser and was involved in the 2015 fight over the Iran deal.”
Given these helpful (better-than-Big-Media) characterizations, it is fair to infer that none of these sources has a direct connection to Ben Rhodes or any members of the purported task force charged with Flynn’s political assassination. It is also fair to infer that they provided no evidence of said Rhodes/Iran-centric plot, because if they did, Kredo — again, a solid reporter — would have included that bombshell info in his article.
But evidence is never cited by these sources. One says, “This pattern reminds me of the lead up to the Iran deal, and probably features the same cast of characters.” (Emphasis added.) Another says, “It’s actually Ben Rhodes, NIAC, and the Iranian mullahs who are celebrating today. They know that the number one target is Iran … So they got rid of Flynn before any of the [secret] agreements even surfaced.” A third says the leaks were “not the result of a series of random events.” The fourth claimed that “in December the Obama NSC started going to work with their favorite reporters, selectively leaking damaging and incomplete information about Flynn. After Trump was inaugurated some of those people stayed in and some began working from the outside, and they cooperated to keep undermining Trump.”
All of the above may or may not be true. None of it is evidence that Ben Rhodes led a small task force devoted to deposing Flynn. And I really don’t like having to point out that Rhodes is being accused without evidence.
Lacking substantiation from his well-placed sources, Kredo reminds us that “Obama loyalists plotted in the months before Trump’s inauguration to establish a set of roadblocks before Trump’s national security team, which includes several prominent opponents of diplomacy with Iran.” By this he means that Senate Dems worked to delay confirmation of Trump’s nominees, including Mike Pompeo as CIA Director.
There is no indication that Ben Rhodes or a shadowy cabal had anything to do with this, any more than with the delay Dems sought regarding most all of Trump’s nominees.
Kredo also reminds us that “until its final days in office, the Obama administration hosted several pro-Iran voices who were critical in helping to mislead the American public about the terms of the nuclear agreement.” There is no indication that these meetings — the most recent of which was in April 2016 — discussed waging a campaign against Mike Flynn.
Kredo further reminds us that “top members of the Obama administration’s national security team have launched a communications infrastructure after they left the White House, and have told reporters they are using that infrastructure to undermine Trump’s foreign policy.” By this, Kredo means that various Obama alumni are criticizing Trump on Twitter and have started a podcast. Really, read the linked stories; that’s what they report.
Again, Kredo is a thorough journalist. If he had better evidence of a Rhodes/Iran-centric plot, we wouldn’t be reading about tweets and a podcast. In fairness, I haven’t been following the tweets or the podcast, so if they randomly included phrases like “John has a long mustache” or “The chair is against the wall,” I’d be willing to consider that…nah, I’d think they were trolling people.
Moreover, if the conspiracy theory propounded by the Friends of Flynn were correct, the bigger story would be that Trump, his chief counselor Stephen Bannon, SecDef Jim Mattis, SecState Rex Tillerson, CIA Dir. Pompeo, DNI-designate Dan Coats, UN Amb. Nikki Haley and the rest of the administration are thisclose to reversing their positions and caving in to Iran’s nuclear ambitions. That’s the unstated premise of the theory that Flynn had to be removed to preserve the Iran deal.
There is no evidence that Mike Flynn was the indispensible man to the fate of the Iran deal. The theory is, however, of a piece with other bizarre theories that never seem to be more than one or two degrees of separation from Flynn.
Occam’s Razor supplies a more plausible theory. Mike Flynn was known by anyone paying attention to politics and government, inside and outside the intelligence community, as a loose cannon. So much so that Trump could not risk hiring him for a job requiring Senate confirmation. He was the easiest target, someone who would either self-destruct or hang himself if given a length of rope.
It did not take a left-wing conspiracy for the wolves to attack the weak member of the herd. It took simple observation and pack behavior.
Of course, I don’t dismiss the possibility that the attacks on Flynn were more organized. Paranoids have enemies too. But if Kredo didn’t find the evidence, the conspiracy currently remains as unproven as the theory that people associated with the Trump campaign colluded with Russian agents.
That is what makes the response to Kredo’s story I observed on social media interesting. By and large, people who had spent weeks coming to the conclusion that dark theories fueled by anonymous partisans are to be distrusted or dismissed mostly embraced a story sourced to anonymous partisans spinning a conspiracy theory for which they had no supporting evidence.
Confirmation bias: It’s a helluva drug.
Update: Here’s my speculation filled follow-up to this posting.
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