Sidney Stone "Sid" Blumenthal (//; born November 6, 1948) is an American journalist, activist, writer, and political aide.
He is a former aide to President Bill Clinton; a long-time confidant of Hillary Clinton, formerly employed by the Clinton Foundation; and a journalist, especially on American politics and foreign policy. Blumenthal is also the author of a multivolume biography of Abraham Lincoln, The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln. Two books of the planned four-volume series are available now: A Self-Made Man and Wrestling With His Angel. Subsequent volumes are planned for 2018 and 2019.
Blumenthal has written for several publications, including the Washington Post, Vanity Fair, and the New Yorker, and was 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. After 2000, he published several essays critical of the administration of President George W. Bush.
Blumenthal was born in Chicago, to Jewish parents, Claire (née Stone) and Hyman 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, Quad Monthly-issued publications.
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.
In 1983, Blumenthal became a national political correspondent for the New Republic, covering the 1984 Presidential campaign. Soon after, Blumenthal began working for the Washington Post before returning to the New Republic.
Blumenthal served as assistant and senior advisor 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. 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 his attacks on their adversaries, which is one reason Rahm Emanuel, the first chief of staff for President Obama, barred Blumenthal from holding a position in the State Department during Hillary Clinton's tenure as Secretary of State.
During the investigations by 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 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. The Senate acquitted Clinton of perjury, and the impeachment proceedings ended.
In 1997, Blumenthal filed a $30 million libel lawsuit against the Internet blogger Matt Drudge (and AOL, which 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.
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."
Reviewing the book in the New York Review of Books, Joseph Lelyveld, the former executive editor of the New York Times, wrote that Blumenthal came across as 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."
Andrew Sullivan has characterized Blumenthal as "the most pro-Clinton writer on the planet." In Salon.com, Dwight Garner wrote that Blumenthal's pieces as Washington correspondent of The New Yorker "were so unabashedly pro-Clinton that they quickly became the butt of countless jokes.”
In addition to The Clinton Wars (2003), Blumenthal's books include The Permanent Campaign (1980), The Rise of the Counter-Establishment (1986), Pledging Allegiance: The Last Campaign of the Cold War (1990), and How Bush Rules: Chronicles of a Radical Regime (2006).
The British-American journalist and author Christopher Hitchens, under subpoena, submitted an affidavit to the trial managers of the Republican Party during the 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 words 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. 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.
Blumenthal joined the 2008 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign as a "senior advisor" in November 2007. 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.
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. 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."
Blumenthal was a full-time employee of the Clinton Foundation from 2009 until 2013 and served as a consultant for the foundation from 2013 until 2015, earning about $10,000 per month. Critics charge that Blumenthal's work at the foundation was inappropriately politically motivated and that during his time at the foundation, he blurred the lines between the foundation and Secretary Clinton's role as Secretary of State.
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.
The United States House Select Committee on Benghazi, headed by Representative Trey Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina, subpoenaed Blumenthal in May 2015. Blumenthal gave testimony in a closed-door session the following month.
Blumenthal's name came up during the October 22, 2015 full committee public questioning of Hillary Clinton regarding the Benghazi incident, as one of the alleged sources of Clinton's intelligence. During this hearing Democratic members asked that Blumenthal's deposition transcript be made public so that comments regarding his involvement could be placed in context. The motion was defeated by a party-line vote.
Blumenthal currently serves as a consultant to the left-leaning watchdog group Media Matters for America, the pro-Democratic Super PAC American Bridge 21st Century and the pro-Clinton Super PAC Correct the Record.
Blumenthal currently lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife, Jacqueline (née Jordan).The couple were married in 1976. The Blumenthals have two sons, one of whom is author and journalist Max Blumenthal.
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.
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.
|Senior Advisor to the President
Served alongside: Rahm Emanuel, Doug Sosnik, Joel Johnson