The title of this book, The World As It Is, feels odd. Whatever state the world was in eighteen months ago, at the end of the presidency of Barack Obama, it is in the process of being completely altered by his successor. Donald Trump is intent on removing from the face of the earth, at home and overseas, all evidence that his predecessor ever existed. The most obvious manifestation of this is that old friends are now enemies, and vice versa.
Ben Rhodes was at Obama’s right hand for all eight years of his presidency and even a little before, first as a speechwriter on the team headed by the talented wordsmith Jon Favreau and later as communications director of the National Security Council. The two jobs were clearly fungible, as he continued to draft speeches in the second post. He maintained two offices, one on the ground floor of the West Wing in the White House, where all the action was, and the other in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where nobody could find him and where he could write and think. The demands of both jobs were constant, his BlackBerry working overtime in the workplace, at home and whenever he stole a brief holiday. But he did find time to marry and have two daughters. His wife, Anne Norris, became a senior adviser on women’s issues at the State Department, and so they became the quintessential Washington power couple, accepting as inevitable the increasing media scrutiny and criticism that come with being so close to the president.
Rhodes’s relationship with Obama was undeniably special, part father and son, part older and younger brother. Although the wider administration and the White House staff had their share of grizzled veterans, the president made a point of including the younger generation in his deliberations over policy, none more