I knew that Hillary was going to have a Blumenthal problem for her 2016 campaign.
But I expected that the problem would be Max Blumenthal, son of close Clinton advisor Sidney Blumenthal.
Max, the virulently anti-Israel activist, has been the subject of much controversy because of his penchant for vituperative and outlandish attacks on Israel, not the least of which was his call for Israeli Jews to be indigenized after the end of the Jewish state. See our Max Blumenthal Tag for some background.
The issue with Max was whether Hillary could have Sidney as an advisor given Sidney’s seeming support for Max’s antics, if not his anti-Israel agenda. Buzzfeed reported on the problem back in November 2013, Clinton Adviser Sid Blumenthal’s New Cause: His Son’s Anti-Israel Book:
A veteran confidant of Hillary Clinton has waded into a bitter argument over the explosive topic of Israel, defending his son’s intensely anti-Israel book from a liberal critic.
Sidney Blumenthal, a former New Yorker writer turned Clinton adviser from the White House to the 2008 campaign, has been waging an online campaign against Nation columnist Eric Alterman for negatively reviewing his son Max Blumenthal’s book, Goliath. The book was described by Alterman, himself a frequent critic of Israel, as “awful” and something that “could have been published by the Hamas Book-of-the-Month Club (if it existed).”
Clinton Foundation officials refused to respond to questions of whether the elder Blumenthal is currently on a Clinton payroll.
His son’s book has received little attention in the mainstream press but has proved extremely controversial in the corners of the Internet devoted to debate over Israel; its repeated comparisons of Israeli Jews to Nazis have particularly inflamed several commentators. The author is a prominent figure on the hard left of the Israel debate who has argued in the past that the “non-indigenous” majority of Israelis should not remain in the country now known as Israel. The book was released under the Nation Books imprint and an excerpt of it ran in The Nation.
In a follow-up blog post after the initial review, Alterman wrote that he had become the target of emails sent around by Blumenthal to friends and associates as a result of his review of the book….
“I actually feel for Sid,” Alterman said. “Leaving aside the quality of Max’s journalism, it has to be painful for any Jew to see your own kid going around calling Jews ‘Nazis’ and ‘fascists,’ and insisting that not only should Israel be destroyed, but its Jewish population should be kicked out.”
The Buzzfeed story resulted in an extended Twitter fight accusing Buzzfeed of a “smear.”
As to 2016, I believe Max would have become an issue for Hillary so long as Sidney was her advisor. Whether that’s fair or not, family associations frequently become issues in campaigns.
But we may not have to wait that long, because Hillary has another major Blumenthal problem: Sidney himself.
The NY Times reports, Clinton Friend’s Memos on Libya Draw Scrutiny to Politics and Business:
… Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, a Republican who is leading the congressional committee investigating the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, plans to subpoena Mr. Blumenthal, 66, for a private transcribed interview.
Mr. Gowdy’s chief interest, according to people briefed on the inquiry, is a series of memos that Mr. Blumenthal — who was not an employee of the State Department — wrote to Mrs. Clinton about events unfolding in Libya before and after the death of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. According to emails obtained by The New York Times, 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.
The NY Times review of the emails revealed some potential misconduct tying in the core of the Clinton 2016 campaign attack machine, Media Matters and American Bridge:
But an examination by The Times suggests that Mr. Blumenthal’s involvement was more wide-ranging and more complicated than previously known, embodying the blurry lines between business, politics and philanthropy that have enriched and vexed the Clintons and their inner circle for years.
While advising Mrs. Clinton on Libya, Mr. Blumenthal, who had been barred from a State Department job by aides to President Obama, was also employed by her family’s philanthropy, the Clinton Foundation, to help with research, “message guidance” and the planning of commemorative events, according to foundation officials. During the same period, he also worked on and off as a paid consultant to Media Matters and American Bridge, organizations that helped lay the groundwork for Mrs. Clinton’s 2016 campaign.
The Times has posted excerpts from some of the emails.
Sydney is a problem for Hillary because his dealings smack of the insider cronyism, blurring of ethical boundries, and abuse of the Clinton Foundation that are causing Hillary’s negatives to rise. Add Benghazi and Libya on top of that, and it is a made for TV melodrama.
The close association reflects poorly on Hillary as well, as Roger Simon succinctly tweeted:
Hillary’s supporters will invest $2 billion or more in her campaign.
Expect Sidney to be shown the door. Maybe.
[Featured Image: Bill Clinton and Sidney Blumenthal in the Oval Office, 1998]
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