Blumenthal briefing President Clinton in the Oval Office, 1998
|Born||November 6, 1948
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
|Occupation||Journalist, activist, political aide|
|Spouse(s)||Jacqueline Beth Jordan|
Sidney Blumenthal (//; born November 6, 1948) is a former aide to President of the United States Bill Clinton and a journalist, especially on American politics and foreign policy. He was 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.
Blumenthal was born in Chicago to Claire (née Stone) and Hymen V. Blumenthal. He earned a BA in sociology from Brandeis University in 1969, and started his career in Boston as a journalist who wrote for The Boston Phoenix and The Real Paper, two alternative weeklies of the day.
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
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (May 2015)|
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 for attacks on their adversaries. Writing for The Washington Post, reporter Michael Powell described Blumenthal's 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.
The leadership of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives felt 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.) His 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 v. Drudge
In 1997, Blumenthal instigated a $30 million libel lawsuit against Internet blogger Matt Drudge (and AOL, who had hired Drudge) stemming from a false claim Drudge had made of spousal abuse attributed to "top GOP sources". Drudge retracted the story later, saying he had been 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 payment to Drudge over having missed a deposition.
Memoir of Clinton years
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."
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."
Post-Clinton Administration years
In addition to The Clinton Wars, Blumenthal's books 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, D.C. bureau chief for Salon.com, for which he has written over 1800 pieces online. He is a regular contributor to openDemocracy.net, and was a regular columnist for The Guardian. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife; they have two sons, one of whom is journalist Max Blumenthal.
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. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor DWI charge.
Relations with Secretary of State Clinton
After her January 2009 appointment as Secretary of State, Hillary 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. 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."
Clinton maintained contact with Blumenthal, who was hired by the Clinton Foundation, and, during the rebellion in 2011 in Libya against Muammar Gaddafi hoped, with business associates, to offer services to the rebels and any new government. Blumenthal prepared, from public and other sources, about 25 memos which he sent as emails to Clinton during 2011 and 2012 which she shared through her aide, Jake Sullivan, with senior State Department personnel. In the form of intelligence briefings, the memos sometimes touted his business associates and, at times contained inaccurate information.
According to journalist John Tabin, Blumenthal's "intel was shoddy, with basic errors like mixing up Libyan politicians with similar names. In a particularly sleazy instance, Blumenthal asserted that a businessman named Najib Obeida was among 'the most influential' of the Libyan prime minister's new economic advisers — without mentioning that Blumenthal was advising a group contractors courting Obeida as a potential business partner."
British-American journalist and author Christopher Hitchens 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 then-friend Blumenthal had described Monica Lewinsky as a stalker. This allegation contradicted Blumenthal's own sworn deposition in the trial, which 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 facts.
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.
- Blumenthal, Sidney (March 22, 2007). "The Godfather White House". The Guardian (London, UK). Retrieved May 23, 2010.
- Blumenthal, Sidney (January 23, 2007). "The Republican revolt". The Guardian (London, UK). Retrieved May 23, 2010.
- What Bush is hiding, Salon.com; March 22, 2007; accessed May 21, 2015.
- Blumenthal, Sidney (December 21, 2006). "Delusions of victory". The Guardian (London, UK). Retrieved May 23, 2010.
- "Blumenthal, Hymen V.". Chicago Tribune. January 21, 2003.
- The Permanent Campaign, google.com]; 1st edition 1980. Beacon Press; ISBN 0807032085
2nd edition 1982. Touchstone Books; ISBN 0671453416
- "Should Libel Law Be Strengthened To Protect Plaintiffs?", FindLaw Legal News and Commentary, August 23, 2001.
- "Is AOL Responsible for its Hip Shooter's Bullets?" Columbia Journalism Review, November 1997; accessed May 21, 2015.
- "Clinton's Good Soldier Explains All Those Messes", nytimes.com, May 15, 2003.
- "In Clinton's Court", nybooks.com, May 29, 2003.
- Andrew Sullivan on Sidney Blumenthal, groups.yahoo.com; accessed May 21, 2015.
- Berezin, Jacob (November 19, 2007). "Sidney Blumenthal Joins Hillary Campaign". Huffington Post.
- Wolfe, Andrew (April 15, 2008). "Clinton aide, Blumenthal, accepts deal in DWI case". Nashua Telegraph. Retrieved May 21, 2015.
- Baker, Peter (August 15, 2009). "Emanuel Wields Power Freely, and Faces the Risks". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-08-28.
- Michael S. Schmidt (May 18, 2015). "What Sidney Blumenthal's Memos to Hillary Clinton Said, and How They Were Handled". The New York Times. Retrieved May 19, 2015.
In 2011 and 2012, Hillary Rodham Clinton received at least 25 memos about Libya from Sidney Blumenthal, a friend and confidant who at the time was employed by the Clinton Foundation.
- Nicholas Confessore and Michael S. Schmidt (May 18, 2015). "Clinton Friend’s Memos on Libya Draw Scrutiny to Politics and Business". The New York Times. Retrieved May 19, 2015.
Mrs. Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time, took Mr. Blumenthal's advice seriously, forwarding his memos to senior diplomatic officials in Libya and Washington and at times asking them to respond. Mrs. Clinton continued to pass around his memos even after other senior diplomats concluded that Mr. Blumenthal’s assessments were often unreliable.
- Tabin, John, "Hillary's Private Spy - And their shady foreign policy", New York Post, p. 27, May 21, 2015.
- "Trey Gowdy slaps Sidney Blumenthal with a subpoena", dailycaller.com, May 20, 2015.
- Marshall, Joshua MicahStalking Sidney Blumenthal, salon.com, February 9, 1999.
- Thinking Like an Apparatchik, theatlantic.com, July/August 2003; accessed May 21, 2015.
- New York Review of Books on Clinton Wars
- Brief biographical information
- Sidney Blumenthal at the Internet Movie Database