Sidney Blumenthal

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Sidney Blumenthal
SidneyBlumenthal.jpg
Blumenthal briefing President Bill Clinton in the Oval Office, 1998
Born November 6, 1948
Chicago, Illinois
Spouse(s) Jacqueline Beth Jordan

Sidney Blumenthal (/ˈblmənθɔːl/; born November 6, 1948) is a former aide to President of the United States Bill Clinton and a widely published American journalist, especially on American politics and foreign policy. Over a career of twenty years, he became editor of several departments and wrote for several publications including The Washington Post, Vanity Fair, and The New Yorker. After 2000, he published several essays critical of the administration of then-President George W. Bush.[1][2][3][4]

Personal life[edit]

Blumenthal was born in Chicago, the son of Claire (née Stone) and Hymen V. Blumenthal.[5] He earned a BA in sociology from Brandeis University in 1969, and started his career in Boston as a journalist who wrote for The New Republic.

Career[edit]

Sidney Blumenthal popularized the phrase permanent campaign, in a book of the same name, in 1980. The term describes officials campaigning for re-election throughout the electoral cycle, leaving no time when they can focus exclusively on governing.

The Clinton Administration years[edit]

Sidney Blumenthal served as assistant and senior adviser to Bill Clinton from August 1997 until January 2001. His roles included advising the President on communications and public policy as well as researching information in the general media about the White House. Because of Blumenthal's previous career in journalism he was able to pass on positive stories about the Clinton White House (from state and local sources) that were otherwise missed in general mass circulation. He became a major figure in the grand jury investigation that ended in the impeachment of President Clinton.

While working for Clinton, Blumenthal was known for this loyalty to the Clintons, and attacks on their adversaries. Writing in the Washington Post, reporter Michael Powell described his role this way: "When the White House is backpedaling – a familiar move as the president's libido made a hostage of his administration – Blumenthal is the first to urge aides to man the ramparts, a fire-breathing role taken by Patrick Buchanan in the Reagan administration."

During the investigations by White House independent counsel Kenneth Starr, Blumenthal was called to the Grand Jury to testify on matters related to what Clinton had told both Blumenthal and his senior staff in regard to Monica Lewinsky. It was on this occasion that Blumenthal was accused by the independent counsel of seeking to discredit the office of the counsel by passing stories to the media about Starr and his aides.

Nevertheless, the leadership of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives felt that enough evidence existed in regard to the Paula Jones case and Lewinsky for impeachment proceedings to begin in December 1998. After the House Judiciary Committee and the United States House of Representatives impeached Clinton on December 19, the matter then passed to the United States Senate. Blumenthal was one of only four witnesses called to testify before the Senate. (Although no live witnesses were called, the four were interviewed on videotape.) Blumenthal's testimony addressed the key "lie": that Clinton was allegedly pressuring Betty Currie and Blumenthal himself to state that it was Lewinsky who initially pursued Clinton, not vice versa. Lewinsky herself stated that she was the one who instigated the relationship. With the assistance of other evidence and arguments, the Senate acquitted Clinton of perjury and impeachment proceedings ended.

Blumenthal also served as key organiser and supporter of the Third Way conferences, aimed at creating a movement for progressive governance throughout the world. He was present at the two original conferences, both in the U.K. and America in which he became friends with the newly elected Labour leader Tony Blair.

Blumenthal v. Drudge[edit]

In 1997, Blumenthal instigated a $30 million libel lawsuit against Internet blogger Matt Drudge (and AOL, who had hired Mr. Drudge) stemming from a false claim Drudge had made of spousal abuse attributed to "top GOP sources." Drudge retracted the story later, saying he was given bad information. In Blumenthal v. Drudge, 992 F. Supp. 44 (D.D.C. 1998), the court refused to dismiss Blumenthal's case for lack of personal jurisdiction. Drudge later publicly apologized to the Blumenthals. Blumenthal dropped his lawsuit and eventually reached a settlement involving a small payment to Drudge over having missed a deposition. In his book, The Clinton Wars, Blumenthal wrote he was forced to settle because he could no longer financially afford the suit.[6][7]

Memoir of Clinton years[edit]

After the Clinton presidency, Blumenthal wrote The Clinton Wars, which was published in 2003.

Janet Maslin wrote in a review of the book in the New York Times: "Beyond his intention to set the record straight on controversies that plagued the Clinton presidency, Mr. Blumenthal has a more personal agenda. Barely mentioning others close to the Clintons, and illustrating this memoir with smiling, convivial photographs of himself in their company ... Mr. Blumenthal sends a clear message to his administration colleagues: Mom liked me best.[8]

In the New York Review of Books, Joseph Lelyveld, a former editor of the New York Times, opined that Blumenthal in his memoir wrote more like "courtier" than "the bright campaign reporter he once was": "When it comes to the Clintons, there is not a single line of comparable acuity or detachment in the whole of The Clinton Wars. What you get instead are passages that would have been regarded as above par but hardly fresh if they had appeared in a news magazine cover story ten years ago."[9]

Andrew Sullivan has characterized Blumenthal as "the most pro-Clinton writer on the planet."[10]

Post-Clinton Administration years[edit]

Sidney Blumenthal promoting How Bush Rules at the 2006 Texas Book Festival in Austin.

After the Clinton presidency, Blumenthal wrote The Clinton Wars, which was published in 2003. Other books by Blumenthal include The Permanent Campaign, The Rise of the Counter-Establishment, Pledging Allegiance: The Last Campaign of the Cold War, and How Bush Rules: Chronicles of a Radical Regime.

Blumenthal was the Washington bureau chief for Salon.com, for which he has written over 1800 pieces online. He is also a regular contributor to openDemocracy.net, and was a regular columnist for the UK newspaper, The Guardian. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife; they have two sons, one of whom is journalist Max Blumenthal. He is a senior fellow for the New York University Center on Law and Security.

Blumenthal joined the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign as a "senior advisor" in November 2007.[11]

While on a trip to advise Hillary Rodham Clinton on her Presidential campaign, Blumenthal was arrested for driving while intoxicated in Nashua, New Hampshire, on January 7, 2008. Blumenthal pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor DWI charge.[12]

After her appointment as Secretary of State, Clinton wanted to hire Blumenthal. However, it was reported that White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel blocked his selection due to lingering anger among President Barack Obama's aides over Blumenthal's role in promoting negative stories about Obama during the Democratic primary.[13] According to a report in the New York Times, "Emanuel talked with Mrs. Clinton.. and explained that bringing Mr. Blumenthal on board was a no-go. The bad blood among his colleagues was too deep, and the last thing the administration needed, he concluded, was dissension and drama in the ranks. In short, Mr. Blumenthal was out." [14]

Blumenthal-Hitchens feud[edit]

Christopher Hitchens, the British-American journalist and author, chose to submit an affidavit to the trial managers of the Republican Party in the trials of impeachment of Bill Clinton. In the affidavit, Hitchens swore that his then-friend Blumenthal had described Monica Lewinsky as a stalker. This allegation contradicted Blumenthal's own sworn deposition in the trial,[15] and it resulted in a hostile exchange of opinion between the two. Following the publication of The Clinton Wars, Hitchens wrote several pieces in which he accused Blumenthal of manipulating the facts.[16][17]

Film work[edit]

Blumenthal was a political consultant for the Emmy-award winning HBO series Tanner 88, written by Garry Trudeau and directed by Robert Altman; he appears as himself in one episode. More notably, he was the executive producer of the documentary Taxi to the Dark Side, directed by Alex Gibney, which won an Academy Award for Best Documentary of 2007. He was also the associate producer of the 2002 film Max, directed by Menno Meyjes and starring John Cusack, about the early political rise of Adolf Hitler and the aesthetics of Nazism.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Blumenthal, Sidney (March 22, 2007). "The Godfather White House". The Guardian (London). Retrieved May 23, 2010. 
  2. ^ Blumenthal, Sidney (January 23, 2007). "The Republican revolt". The Guardian (London). Retrieved May 23, 2010. 
  3. ^ What Bush is hiding | Salon
  4. ^ Blumenthal, Sidney (December 21, 2006). "Delusions of victory". The Guardian (London). Retrieved May 23, 2010. 
  5. ^ "Blumenthal, Hymen V". Chicago Tribune. January 21, 2003. 
  6. ^ "Should Libel Law Be Strengthened To Protect Plaintiffs?" FindLaw Legal News and Commentary Aug. 23, 2001 [1]
  7. ^ "Is AOL Responsible for its Hip Shooter's Bullets?" Columbia Journalism Review, Nov. 1997. [2]
  8. ^ "Clinton's Good Soldier Explains All Those Messes"
  9. ^ "In Clinton's Court"
  10. ^ http://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/individualist/conversations/topics/2147
  11. ^ Berezin, Jacob (November 19, 2007). "Sidney Blumenthal Joins Hillary Campaign". Huffington Post. 
  12. ^ Wolfe, Andrew (April 15, 2008). "Clinton aide, Blumenthal, accepts deal in DWI case". Nashua Telegraph. Retrieved 2008-04-15. 
  13. ^ Baker, Peter (August 15, 2009). "Emanuel Wields Power Freely, and Faces the Risks". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-08-28. 
  14. ^ Baker, Peter (August 15, 2009). "Emanuel Wields Power Freely, and Faces the Risks". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-08-28. 
  15. ^ http://www.salon.com/news/1999/02/09newsa.html
  16. ^ http://www.salon.com/news/1999/02/09newsa.html
  17. ^ http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/2003/07/hitchens.htm

External links[edit]