David Rothkopf may not be Ron Klain’s favorite DC pundit. That title goes to Jennifer Rubin, the “conservative” Washington Post columnist, whose every word is reportedly read closely by the White House chief of staff and his West Wing minions. But Rothkopf is high on the list of media figures whose slavishly pro-Biden line lands him with more than his fair share of Klain retweets.
Earlier this year, Politico characterized Klain and Rothkopf’s relationship as a “Twitter bromance”, with the former retweeting the latter thirty-six times in the first ninety-six days of the Biden presidency.
In one recent missive to receive the Klain RT of approval, the Daily Beast columnist and former Foreign Policy editor complained how “the narrative that Biden has had an unproductive year (or for that matter anything less than a spectacular, historically successful year) simply does not stand up to even cursory analysis. The fact are [sic] crystal clear… as are his accomplishments…”
The narrative that Biden has had an unproductive year (or for that matter anything less than a spectacular, historically successful year) simply does not stand up to even cursory analysis. The fact are crystal clear…as are his accomplishments.. https://t.co/dT5U0QV6s9
— David Rothkopf (@djrothkopf) December 15, 2021
This morning, Rothkopf is making the similarly far-fetched argument that Kamala Harris has an “excellent and substantive” record on foreign policy and has “had as good a first year as any VP in recent memory.” This, too, had Klain lurching for the retweet button.
— Ronald Klain (@WHCOS) December 17, 2021
Cockburn wasn’t sure which achievements Rothkopf was referring to: the return of inflation? The botched Afghanistan withdrawal? The failure to pass his landmark piece of legislation? Or the hundreds of thousands of deaths in a pandemic the president assured us would be over by now?
But about one thing, Cockburn is confident: Rothkopf is not an honest broker — and his opinions are not worth listening to. You see, when Rothkopf isn’t busy fulminating about the imminent collapse of American democracy, lapping up the latest #Resistance conspiracy theory or shamelessly boosting Biden, he’s a paid propagandist for a foreign power.
A quick rummage through the filings under the Foreign Agents Registration Act reveals that Rothkopf is being paid a healthy sum to help launder the reputation of the United Arab Emirates, a theocratic dictatorship.
Rothkopf’s firm, TRG Advisory Services, discloses in a November 1 filing that on behalf of the UAE Embassy, it “produces a podcast series entitled Podbridge, which covers emerging issues and ideas of shared interest in the US, the Middle East and around the world.”
According to a September 9 filing, TRG has signed a deal to continue acting for the UAE in the US for another three years. The “services provided will be the production, distribution and promotion of podcasts with a particular focus on programs associated with science, technology, cultural diplomacy, education, tolerance, values, women’s empowerment and related areas.” A letter from Rothkopf to the UAE’s ambassador in the US included in the filing states that “TRG and our principles including myself will be available on an as-needed basis to provide support to the embassy and other entities you may designate.”
For this work, Rothkopf’s consultancy will earn a nifty $540,000 a year for the next three years, a total of $1.62 million. Half a million dollars a year is a lot for a podcast. But, as Rothkopf’s letter to the ambassador, as well as other filings, suggest, that isn’t all he is paid for by the UAE.
The sum is enough to question why Rothkopf is still listened to as an impartial commentator on Washington politics and foreign affairs. Someone who makes himself available to the UAE ambassador on an “as-needed basis” has a good reason to stay loyal to the Biden administration. The closer he is to the Biden White House, the happier his Emirati paymasters. And his absurdly pro-Biden output should be judged accordingly.
Rothkopf can sell his soul to the UAE if he likes, but the rest of us should act accordingly. He is a frequent guest on MSNBC, a cable news network that claims to be worried about foreign intervention in US politics, and yet his ties to the Gulf aren’t pointed out to viewers. Don’t people deserve to know that Rothkopf has an agenda?
And why does the Daily Beast publish critiques of American democracy written by a man who spends his time laundering the reputation of a nation that could not be further from the democratic ideal?
Freedom House scores the UAE at 17 out of 100 and classifies the federation as “not free.” Political parties are banned, while civil liberties are “subject to significant restrictions.” Not that you’d know from TRG’s output. Recent UAE-funded podcasts deal with topics such as “How Expo Dubai 2020 advances the role of women” and how “the UAE is leading the way on climate change.”
Cockburn wonders: why is Biden’s chief of staff boosting the profile and welcoming the congratulations of a man who has debased himself so thoroughly? Is that the best he can do? Cockburn contacted the White House to ask for an explanation — and will report back if he hears anything.
After a lengthy tenure in Washington, it’s hard to be surprised by the brazen greed of most of its denizens, but Rothkopf’s shamelessness is enough to alarm even Cockburn.