Sidney Blumenthal

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Sidney Blumenthal
Sidney blumenthal 2006.jpg
Sidney Blumenthal promotes How Bush Rules at the 2006 Texas Book Festival in Austin, Texas.
Born Sidney Stone Blumenthal
(1948-11-06) November 6, 1948 (age 66)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Occupation Journalist, activist, political aide
Spouse(s) Jacqueline Beth Jordan
Children 2

Sidney Stone Blumenthal (/ˈblmənθɔːl/; 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.[1][2][3][4]

Personal life[edit]

Blumenthal was born in Chicago to 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 Boston Phoenix and The Real Paper, two alternative weeklies of the day.[citation needed]

Career[edit]

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.[6]

The Clinton Administration years[edit]

Blumenthal (right) briefs President Bill Clinton in the Oval Office in 1998.

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. Blumenthal's career in journalism enabled him to add positive spins about the Clinton White House (from state and local sources). 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, which is one reason Rahm Emanuel, original chief of staff for President Obama, barred Blumenthal from holding a position in Hillary Clinton's State Department.[7]

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."[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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 four witnesses called to testify before the Senate. 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 attest that it was Lewinsky who initially pursued Clinton, not vice versa. Lewinsky stated 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.[citation needed]

Blumenthal v. Drudge[edit]

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. In his book, The Clinton Wars, Blumenthal claimed he was forced to settle because he could no longer financially afford the suit.[8][9]

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 ... Blumenthal sends a clear message to his administration colleagues: Mom liked me best."[10]

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."[11] Andrew Sullivan has characterized Blumenthal as "the most pro-Clinton writer on the planet."[12]

Post-Clinton Administration years[edit]

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.[citation needed] 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 D.C. with his wife. The couple has two sons, one of whom is journalist Max Blumenthal.[citation needed]

Blumenthal joined the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign as a "senior advisor" in November 2007.[13] While on a trip to advise 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.[14]

Relations with Secretary of State Clinton[edit]

After her January 2009 appointment as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton wanted to hire Blumenthal. However, Obama's 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.[7] 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."[7]

Blumenthal, a longtime confidant of Bill and Hillary Clinton, earned about $10,000 a month as a full-time employee of the Clinton Foundation. During the 2011 uprising in Libya against Muammar Gaddafi, Blumenthal prepared, from public and other sources, about 25 memos which he sent as emails to Clinton in 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.[15][16]

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 of contractors courting Obeida as a potential business partner."[17]

The House Select Committee on Benghazi, headed by Representative Trey Gowdy (R-SC) served a subpoena on Blumenthal on May 19, 2015 for a deposition to be held on June 3, according to Reuters.[18]

Blumenthal-Hitchens feud[edit]

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,[19] 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.[19][20]

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 an associate producer of the 2002 film Max.[21]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Blumenthal, Sidney (March 22, 2007). "The Godfather White House". The Guardian (London, UK). Retrieved May 23, 2010. 
  2. ^ Blumenthal, Sidney (January 23, 2007). "The Republican revolt". The Guardian (London, UK). Retrieved May 23, 2010. 
  3. ^ What Bush is hiding, Salon.com; March 22, 2007; accessed May 21, 2015.
  4. ^ Blumenthal, Sidney (December 21, 2006). "Delusions of victory". The Guardian (London, UK). Retrieved May 23, 2010. 
  5. ^ "Blumenthal, Hymen V.". Chicago Tribune. January 21, 2003. 
  6. ^ The Permanent Campaign, google.com; 1980 (1st edition), Beacon Press; ISBN 0807032085
    2nd edition 1982. Touchstone Books; ISBN 0671453416
  7. ^ a b c Baker, Peter (August 15, 2009). "Emanuel Wields Power Freely, and Faces the Risks". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-08-28. 
  8. ^ "Should Libel Law Be Strengthened To Protect Plaintiffs?", FindLaw Legal News and Commentary, August 23, 2001.
  9. ^ "Is AOL Responsible for its Hip Shooter's Bullets?", Columbia Journalism Review, November 1997; accessed May 21, 2015.
  10. ^ "Clinton's Good Soldier Explains All Those Messes", nytimes.com, May 15, 2003.
  11. ^ "In Clinton's Court", nybooks.com, May 29, 2003.
  12. ^ Andrew Sullivan on Sidney Blumenthal, groups.yahoo.com; accessed May 21, 2015.
  13. ^ Berezin, Jacob (November 19, 2007). "Sidney Blumenthal Joins Hillary Campaign". Huffington Post. 
  14. ^ Wolfe, Andrew (April 15, 2008). "Clinton aide, Blumenthal, accepts deal in DWI case". Nashua Telegraph. Retrieved May 21, 2015. 
  15. ^ 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. 
  16. ^ 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. 
  17. ^ Tabin, John, "Hillary's Private Spy - And their shady foreign policy", New York Post, p. 27, May 21, 2015.
  18. ^ "Trey Gowdy slaps Sidney Blumenthal with a subpoena", dailycaller.com, May 20, 2015.
  19. ^ a b "Stalking Sidney Blumenthal". Salon.com. February 9, 1999. Retrieved April 26, 2011. 
  20. ^ Thinking Like an Apparatchik, theatlantic.com, July/August 2003; accessed May 21, 2015.
  21. ^ Sidney Blumenthal at the Internet Movie Database

External links[edit]