Born in Massachusetts on August 31, 1980, Tommy Vietor earned a BA in philosophy from Kenyon College in 2002. In the summer of 2004, he turned down a job offer from the John Kerry presidential campaign, and chose instead — on the recommendation of Chicago political figures David Axelrod and Pete Giangreco — to work as a media professional for Barack Obama, an Illinois state senator who was making his first run for a seat in the U.S. Senate. Vietor subsequently served as: the Iowa Press Secretary with Obama For America (OFA) — the predecessor to Organizing For America and Organizing For Action — from January 2007 to January 2008; OFA's Rapid Response Spokesman in the Greater Chicago Area from January through November of 2008; Assistant Press Secretary for the Obama White House from January 2009 to January 2011; and National Security Spokesman and Special Assistant to the President from January 2011 through March 2013.
In March 2013, Vietor and former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau co-founded Fenway Strategies LLC, a San Francisco-based firm specializing in strategic communications, speechwriting, and media strategy. In 2016, Vietor became a regular co-host of the political podcast Keepin' It 1600, along with fellow Obama administration alumni Jon Favreau, Dan Pfeiffer, and Jon Lovett. Shortly after the November 2016 presidential election, Vietor, Lovett, and Favreau co-founded the podcast company Crooked Media and became co-hosts of a program titled Pod Save America. Vietor also hosts a separate podcast covering global issues and policy-making decisions, titled Pod Save the World.
Regarding the U.S. Withdrawal From Iraq in 2011
In November 2011, the Obama administration was preparing to remove the remaining 15,000 U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of the year, without negotiating a Status Of Forces Agreement stipulating that a certain number of troops should be left behind to secure the peace and preserve America's military victory. Vietor affirmed for reporters that: “there is no change in administration policy”; “all troops will be out at the end of the year”; and there would be “no resumption of negotiations” with the Iraqis about the possibility of the U.S. leaving behind a residual force.
Regarding Syria and President Obama's “Red Line”
In August 2012, President Barack Obama announced that if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad were to use chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war, he would be crossing a “red line” that would likely trigger a military response by the United States. But exactly a year later — on August 21, 2013 — Assad did in fact breach that “red line” when he launched a massive chemical-weapons attack that killed more than 1,300 people and injured several thousand others. Obama, however, took no military action against Assad.
A few years later, in April 2017, President Donald Trump responded to a subsequent Syrian chemical weapons attack by ordering a limited military strike against the Assad regime. Moreover, Trump characterized Assad's transgression as a “consequence of the past [Obama] administration’s weakness and irresolution.” In response to Trump's comments, Vietor sent out a copy of a tweet that Trump had posted in 2013, in which he (Trump) had stated that “Obama needs Congressional approval” in order to bomb Syria.
Regarding the Overthrow of Libyan President Muammar Qaddafi
During her tenure as Secretary of State from 2009-13, Hillary Clinton pushed hard for the United States to use military force to drive President Muammar Qaddafi from power in Libya. According to President Obama's onetime Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Mrs. Clinton played a major role in convincing Obama to lead a protracted NATO bombing campaign against Qaddafi in 2011 — a campaign that lent support to opposition rebels consisting of ISIS, Ansar al-Sharia, and other local militant groups. Notably, Qaddafi at that time no longer posed any threat to American national security. Indeed, just prior to the anti-Qaddafi uprising that Clinton and Obama supported, Libya was providing the U.S. with important intelligence data. Moreover, it was a prospering, secular Islamic nation that had a national budget surplus of 8.7% and was producing 1.8 million barrels of oil per day.
By the time the Obama-Clinton bombing campaign was finished and Qaddafi had been driven from power, Libya's economy had shrunk by 42% and was operating at an annual deficit of 17.1%. Oil production, meanwhile, was down by at least 80%. According to Foreign Policy In Focus, the Obama-Clinton strategy “plunged” Libya “into chaotic unrest” and “turned [it] into a cauldron of anarchy” where jihadism was running amuck and ISIS was gaining an increasingly secure foothold.
As rebel forces battled pro-Qaddafi forces in Libya in April 2011, forcing some of President Qaddafi's high-level officials – including Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa – to defect, Vietor said that “Moussa Koussa’s decision shows which way the wind is blowing in Tripoli.” Later that same month, Vietor stated that the key to ultimate success in Libya was “continued messaging to Qaddafi’s inner circle that the writing is on the wall.” He added that “tightening the squeeze on Qaddafi as a part of an international coalition is in our interest, and that’s what we’re going to do.” In May 2011, as the U.S. continued to use armed Predator drones to fire missiles at Libyan government forces, Vietor said, “We will not halt our current operations.”
Regarding the Benghazi Terrorist Attacks and Political Scandal
On the night of September 11, 2012, a U.S. diplomatic mission and a nearby CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya were infamously attacked by a large group of heavily armed Islamic terrorists with ties to such jihadist organizations as al Qaeda and Ansar al-Sharia. By the time the violence was over, four Americans were dead: Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith, and two former Navy SEALS, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.
In the aftermath of the attacks in Benghazi, the Obama administration immediately and persistently characterized them not as acts of terrorism, but rather, as spontaneous, unplanned uprisings that had evolved from what began as a low-level protest against an obscure YouTube video that disparaged Muslims and the Prophet Mohammed. In reality, however, within a few hours following the attacks, U.S. intelligence agencies had already gained more than enough evidence to conclude unequivocally that they were planned terrorist incidents, rather than spontaneous eruptions of violence carried out in reaction to any video.
In a May 2014 interview on Fox News, host Bret Baier repeatedly asked Vietor – who claimed that he himself had been present in the White House Situation Room on the night of the Benghazi attacks nearly two years earlier, whether President Obama had been in that room as well. Vietor replied that Obama had been somewhere else in the White House. When Baier pushed Vietor to disclose precisely where Obama was on that night, Vietor responded with annoyance: “I don't know. I don't have a tracking device on him in the residence.”
In the same May 2014 interview with Bret Baier, Vietor said that he was also “among the people who [had] prepped Susan Rice” — America's then-ambassador to the United Nations — for her slate of five major television interviews about Benghazi on September 16, 2012. In those interviews, Rice claimed, falsely, that according to the “best information at present,” the deadly attack in Benghazi was not a premeditated assault but rather a “spontaneous reaction” to “a hateful and offensive video that was widely disseminated throughout the Arab and Muslim world.” Addressing Vietor, Baier cited newly uncovered White House emails that revealed a coordinated attempt to “reinforce” President Obama and to portray the Benghazi terrorist attack as having been “rooted in an Internet video, and not a failure of policy” by the Obama administration. Moreover, Baier repeatedly pressed Vietor to disclose what role he himself may have played in altering the talking points for Rice by changing the word “attacks,” to “demonstrations.” Vietor replied that he “maybe” had changed the word but did not “really remember.” This prompted Baier to ask incredulously, “You don't remember?” To which Vietor replied: “Dude, this was two years ago. We're still talking about the most mundane thing.... We're talking about the process of editing talking points. That's what bureaucrats do all day long. Your producers edit scripts multiple times.”
Also in the May 2014 Fox News interview, Vietor told Bret Baier that in the immediate aftermath of the Benghazi attacks, the Obama administration had good reason to believe that the violence had been triggered by the anti-Islam video on YouTube: “We had witnessed a series of protests throughout the world where millions of people literally were taking to the streets, were overrunning our embassy in Cairo, because of this video. And there were individuals quoted who were on the scene that night, stating they were there because of the video.” “There is no way anyone knew definitively the motives of the attacker that evening,” Vietor added. “I don't think we know definitively today. What I have seen is, in a number of outlets, reporters talk to people on the scene that night … who said they were there because they were upset about this video.”
Regarding the Muslim Brotherhood
In early April 2012, the Obama administration confirmed that members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which had emerged as a powerful political force in Egypt following the overthrow of longtime president Hosni Mubarak, had recently met with U.S. officials including White House staffers. “Following Egypt's revolution, we have broadened our engagement to include new and emerging political parties and actors,” Vietor told the media. “The meeting … with working-level [national security staff] officials,” he added, “is just one in a series of meetings between U.S. officials, members of Congress, and representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood.” “It is in the interest of the United States to engage with parties that are committed to democratic principles, especially nonviolence,” Vietor stated as well.
Regarding the Iran Nuclear Deal
In 2015, the Obama administration and the leaders of five other nations negotiated with Iran an agreement that, according to President Obama and his spokespeople, represented a highly significant step towards thwarting Iran's nuclear ambitions. On April 7, 2012 — some three years before the accord was finalized — Vietor stated emphatically that no uranium enrichment whatsoever would be permitted under any agreement with Iran: “Our position is clear: Iran must live up to its international obligations, including full suspension of uranium enrichment as required by multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions.” But on March 19, 2015, the Associated Press quoted Vietor saying that “agreement on Iran's uranium enrichment program could signal a breakthrough for a larger deal aimed at containing the Islamic Republic's nuclear activities,” and that a tentative deal that was now being discussed would impose “limits on the number of centrifuges Iran can operate to enrich uranium.” In other words, Iran could continue uranium enrichment, though within certain limits.