Toronto: Ex-Obama Advisor Ben Rhodes Slams Trump-Era Foreign Policy

The Final Year Still - Publicity - H 2017
Reuters; Courtesy of Passion Pictures

"I don't think we're showing up anymore," he told a TIFF audience following the world premiere of 'The Final Year.'

Ben Rhodes, the longtime aide to former President Barack Obama, ripped President Donald Trump for under-cutting American diplomacy and foreign aid overseas on Saturday at the Toronto International Film Festival.

"I don't think we're showing up anymore ... if we're not showing up, no one else is," he said during a Q&A after a screening of The Final Year, Greg Barker's fly-on-the-wall documentary on Obama's foreign policy team during their last year in office.

"It does make me upset that I don't think the government representing my country is doing that anymore," continued Rhodes, as Barker and former ambassador Samantha Power also fielded questions from the Scotiabank audience. The former deputy national security advisor and speechwriter for Obama added The Final Year may inspire young Americans to remain active in the political process during the Trump era.

"My hope is people see this [film] and they want to get involved, and don't just want to turn off the world that looks so depressing, as right now, and that they want to work and have a government that represents them," added Rhodes.

The Final Year follows former Secretary of State John Kerry, Rhodes, Power and others as part of Obama's foreign policy team as they travel to more than 20 countries worldwide, chronicling events like the Syrian peace negotiations, the implementation of the Iran nuclear agreement, Obama’s historic speech at Hiroshima and his visit to Laos, the first by an American president.


Following the world premiere of The Final Year at Bell Lightbox on Friday, Rhodes and Power were asked if the documentary was "Donald Trump's worst nightmare" by showing the American diplomatic corps in top gear.

"It’s a sad fact that in the current administration, so many career diplomats have to make the decision, ‘Can I live with myself if I work here, even if I know I’m still trying to achieve good?" Power responded. Rhodes reiterated his criticism of recent State Department cuts and delays in filling key posts.

"I think Trump seems too oblivious to care at all. There are so many diplomatic jobs — people who reach out to disaster victims, to war widows and more — that Trump has left completely vacant, not even nominating people for them," Rhodes said.

The Toronto International Film Festival runs through Sept. 17.