Blumenthal, Sidney 1948–
Blumenthal, Sidney 1948–
Born November 6, 1948, in Chicago, IL; son of Hymen (in business) and Claire Blumenthal; married Jacqueline Jordan (a media specialist and video producer), April 11, 1976; children: Max, Paul. Education: Brandeis University, A.B., 1969.
Writer, journalist. Boston Phoenix, Boston, MA, writer, 1971-76; Real Paper, Cambridge, MA, writer, 1976-80; New Republic, Washington, DC, national political correspondent, 1983-85, senior editor, 1990-92; Washington Post, Washington, DC, staff writer, 1985-89; New Yorker, Washington, DC, Washington editor, 1992-97; personal assistant to President Bill Clinton, 1997-2000; Guardian, London, England, writer, 2003-04; Salon.com, staff writer, 2004—. Commentator for Today, National Broadcasting Company, Inc. (NBC), 1984. Associate producer, Max; producer, Taxi to the Dark Side, Jigsaw Productions, 2007; producer, Anna Politkovskaya movie, H2O Productions.
(Under name Sid Blumenthal; editor, with Harvey Yazijian) Government by Gunplay: Assassination Conspiracy Theories from Dallas to Today, introduction by Philip Agee, New American Library (New York, NY), 1976.
The Permanent Campaign: Inside the World of Elite Political Operatives, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 1980, revised edition, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1982.
The Rise of the Counter-establishment: From Conservative Ideology to Political Power, Times Books (New York, NY), 1986, revised edition, Harper (New York, NY), 1988.
(Editor, with Thomas Byrd Edsall) The Reagan Legacy, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1988.
Our Long National Daydream: A Political Pageant of the Reagan Era (articles and essays), Harper (New York, NY), 1988.
Pledging Allegiance: The Last Campaign of the Cold War, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1990.
The Clinton Wars: An Insider's Account of the White House Years, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2003.
How Bush Rules: Chronicles of a Radical Regime, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 2006.
Contributor to periodicals, including the New Republic, Washington Post, and New York Times.
Sidney Blumenthal is a political observer and journalist who has gained recognition for his analysis of various political issues and developments. During the administration of U.S. president Bill Clinton, Blumenthal acted as a personal advisor to the president, later penning a memoir about those years, The Clinton Wars: An Insider's Account of the White House Years. A Washington Post Book World writer described Blumenthal as "a commandingly expert and eloquent observer of the higher American politics," and a New York Times Book Review commentator lauded him as "one of the most respected and accomplished political writers of his generation."
One of Blumenthal's early books was The Permanent Campaign: Inside the World of Elite Political Operatives, in which he described and analyzed the influence of political consultants and advisors in American politics. James Fallows, writing in the New York Times Book Review, declared that "anyone even mildly interested in politics will enjoy reading this book," which "opens up the subject in a competent, enjoyable way." Blumenthal followed The Permanent Campaign with The Rise of the Counter-establishment: From Conservative Ideology to Political Power, a volume charting America's growing right-wing movement. Blumenthal contends that the increasing political influence of conservatives is directed toward the undoing of liberalism rather than the actual advocacy of conservative-style governing. A reviewer for the New York Times Book Review deemed the book an "excellent history of modern American conservatism" and added that it is "a thoughtful and fair-minded book."
In 1988, Blumenthal coedited The Reagan Legacy, a collection of essays and articles about the presidency of Ronald Reagan. A Washington Post Book World reviewer suggested that the volume would have benefited from deeper psychological and sociological analysis, but nonetheless found it "informative" and concluded that "The Reagan Legacy will be there to serve as a fact-sheet—when American politics one day has something to do with the facts." Blumenthal next produced Our Long National Daydream: A Political Pageant of the Reagan Era, a collection of his writings originally published in the Washington Post, New Republic, and other periodicals. Cory Dean, assessing Our Long National Daydream in the New York Times Book Review, affirmed that Blumenthal's "observations are always insightful."
Pledging Allegiance: The Last Campaign of the Cold War is Blumenthal's analysis of the 1988 presidential election, which pitted Republican George H.W. Bush, vice president under Reagan, against Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis, who was then governor of Massachusetts. The book also delves into the political stories of Gary Hart and Jesse Jackson, who had contended with Dukakis for the Democratic nomination. Pledging Allegiance is a "perceptive, absorbing history of the 1988 election," wrote Alan Brinkley in the New York Times Book Review. Brinkley felt that Blumenthal presents a "bleak and censorious picture of a corrupted system and empty-headed candidates." Other critics suggested that Pledging Allegiance serves as a caustic and perceptive depiction of the flaws in the American political system. David Caute, discussing the book in Washington Post Book World, praised it for being "meticulously researched." Still another critic, Los Angeles Times Book Review contributor Christopher Matthews, recommended Pledging Allegiance as "the most thought-provoking, forward-looking work on the 1988 campaign."
In 1997, Blumenthal was selected by President Bill Clinton to be his assistant and a member of the senior White House staff. In this position, Blumenthal had an insider's view of Clinton's impeachment trial in 1998, following revelations that the president had engaged in an extramarital affair in the White House. Blumenthal also witnessed what he believed was a concerted effort by conservative politicians to do everything in their power to discredit Clinton and unseat him from power. Assessments of Blumenthal's version of these events, recorded in The Clinton Wars, were naturally colored by reviewers' opinions of Clinton, and many commentators remarked that Blumenthal's loyalty to the former president is evident in his book. Tom Wicker commented in the Nation: "Blumenthal is hardly a dispassionate observer of the Clintons. It may even be to his credit that he is frank about his devotion to and belief in them." Pointing out that the book goes on for more than 800 pages, Wicker noted that "on some matters [it] is immensely detailed and fascinating. It is not, however, and is not intended to be, the dispassionate, balanced account of Bill Clinton's day-by-day presidency, his successes and failures, strengths and weaknesses." Ike Seamans, reviewing The Clinton Wars for the Miami Herald, termed it "the most one-sided and biased" of all the "growing stack of opinionated books about the besieged Clinton presidency." Dallas Morning News contributor Jerome Weeks pointed out that, "to a degree, all Washington memoirs from Rosalyn Carter's to Henry Kissinger's are exercises in score-settling, self-promotion or special pleading. That is, they are political documents. In this regard, The Clinton Wars … is no different. It's his account of the attacks that Republicans aimed at President Clinton and his staff in a ploy to stop the president's programs that they could not stop through other means, a way to undermine an administration that, the author argues, conservatives never accepted as legitimate."
Writing in Time, Lev Grossman found that the best chapters in The Clinton Wars were those covering the author's first days on the job, adding that the book takes its readers through the various scandals of Whitewater, Vince Foster, Paula Jones, and Monica Lewinsky. Despite these politically damaging episodes, Grossman felt that Blumenthal makes a surprisingly strong case for Clinton's overall innocence. "Blumenthal's abiding theme is that Clinton's presidency was the victim of a right-wing political cabal that manipulated the media and the legal system to make mountains out of dunghills, and he makes a surprisingly convincing case by doggedly following countless news stories and allegations to their origins in tainted, planted, unfounded, retracted, distorted, misleading and plain nonexistent evidence." Blumenthal, Grossman found, paints Clinton as "a smart, extroverted, cardplayer, charismatic, 24/7 conversation junkie." The book exposes Clinton's weaknesses but also shows his charisma and cleverness in trying to accomplish his ends. John W. Sloan, a writer for the Houston Chronicle, found that "Blumenthal is an excellent writer, and his book is never boring and often provocative. As a loyal staff aide to President Clinton, he underestimates how Clinton's personal defects provided windows of opportunity for his enemies to exploit. But the author does challenge the media to re-examine their procedures in order to shield themselves from being used for partisan purposes."
Blumenthal's 2006 book, How Bush Rules: Chronicles of a Radical Regime, affords a look inside a very different White House, that of George W. Bush. Here the author gathers columns published in the Guardian or on the Salon.com Web site between 2003 and 2006. Blumenthal's choice of a subtitle was purposively provocative, employing the word "radical," which most people identify with far left radicalism. Instead, Blumenthal uses it to define the policies of the right wing. As Blumenthal explained to Mark Karlin of the BuzzFlash Web site, "I call [Bush] a radical because he is undertaking a fundamental transformation of our Constitutional system of government and of our longstanding policies that have been accepted for literally generations." Blumenthal further noted: "[Bush] thinks to concentrate unaccountable power in the Executive. He thinks you alter the laws so that, as Commander in Chief, he can determine, under what he says are wartime conditions, what the laws are, which laws should be enforced, and declare by fiat what our policy should be, even abrogating longstanding international treaties." According to Blumenthal, such a long-range plan was concocted by Vice President Dick Cheney, and as additional evidence for Bush's radicalism, he points out the president's undermining and rejection of six decades of foreign policy in his unilateral action in Iraq and his use of preemptive war. Blumenthal also notes Bush's disregard for science and how he has "deliberately polarized and divided the country for political purposes, politicizing the most basic questions of war and peace for partisan advantage," he told Karlin. Other noteworthy transgressions, according to Blumenthal, include the domestic spying program of the Bush administration, the use of torture at prisons such as Abu Graib and Guantanamo Bay, the deception regarding weapons of mass destruction that led the United States to war with Iraq, the outing of the CIA wife of a critic of the administration, and even the nonresponse of the administration to the disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina.
Blumenthal's book on Bush's presidency, like that about Clinton's, drew praise or condemnation, often depending on the political affiliation of the reviewing periodical. A contributor for the politically neutral Publishers Weekly regretted that Blumenthal's "keen observations of microscopic political detail" were often lacking when it came to seeing a coherent bigger picture. Karlin, however, noted that How Bush Rules "analyzes both the Bush policies and the politics we've been enduring in recent times." The same critic further observed: "[Blumenthal] argues, very convincingly, that this administration's extremist actions are a deliberate effort to radically change the presidency and America's government." Similarly, David Gordon, reviewing the work for the Lew Rockwell.com Web site, wrote: "The book is a cogently argued analysis of Bush's radical and dangerous policies," and Michelle Simon, writing for the Word 'N' Bass.com Web site, felt that "Blumenthal's analysis of the Bush regime and the Republicans is thoughtful and concise."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Advertiser (Adelaide, Australia), June 14, 2003, Tony Baker, review of The Clinton Wars: An Insider's Account of the White House Years, p. W13.
American Prospect, July-August, 2003, Cass R. Sunstein, review of The Clinton Wars, p. 66.
American Spectator, February, 1991, review of Pledging Allegiance: The Last Campaign of the Cold War, p. 37.
America's Intelligence Wire, September 15, 2006, "Interview with Pete Hoekstra, Sidney Blumenthal."
Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, GA), June 8, 2003, Jack Bass, review of The Clinton Wars, p. E8.
Atlantic Monthly, July-August, 2003, Christopher Hitchens, review of The Clinton Wars, p. 129.
Austin American-Statesman (Austin, TX), May 25, 2003, review of The Clinton Wars, p. K6.
Australian (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), May 29, 2003, Peter Botsman, review of The Clinton Wars, p. 13.
Birmingham Post (Birmingham, England), June 14, 2003, Simon Evans, review of The Clinton Wars, p. 53.
Buffalo News (Buffalo, NY), June 29, 2003, Stephen W. Bell, review of The Clinton Wars, p. F4.
Building Design, December 3, 2004, "Dubya on Patrol," p. 11.
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July-August, 1991, Ronnie Dugger, review of Pledging Allegiance, p. 40.
Commentary, December, 1990, Michael Novak, review of Pledging Allegiance, p. 62.
Commonweal, February 22, 1991, Wilson Carey McWilliams, review of Pledging Allegiance, p. 139.
Daily Telegraph (London, England), June 7, 2003, Dick Morris, review of The Clinton Wars, p. 6.
Daily Variety, May 8, 2007, "Taxi to the Dark Side," p. 4.
Dallas Morning News, June 4, 2003, Jerome Weeks, review of The Clinton Wars.
Economist, June 28, 2003, review of The Clinton Wars, p. 81.
Europe Intelligence Wire, November 1, 2006, "Sidney Blumenthal."
Evening Standard (London, England), July 25, 2003, "Guardian Eyes America," p. 10.
Financial Times, June 21, 2003, Michael Portillo, review of The Clinton Wars, p. 30.
Guardian (London, England), June 14, 2003, "Ghosts and Spectres," p. 3.
Houston Chronicle, July 13, 2003, John W. Sloan, review of The Clinton Wars, p. 17.
Independent Sunday (London, England), July 13, 2003, Cal McCrystal, review of The Clinton Wars, p. 17.
International Wire, June 12, 2004, "Critique of Worldwide Media Coverage."
Library Journal, September 1, 1990, Jeffrey R. Herold, review of Pledging Allegiance, p. 237.
Los Angeles Times, May 18, 2003, Ronald Brownstein, review of The Clinton Wars, p. R8.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, September 14, 1986, review of The Rise of the Counter-establishment: From Conservative Ideology to Political Power, pp. 1, 13; October 14, 1990, Christopher Matthews, review of Pledging Allegiance, pp. 1, 15.
Miami Herald, June 4, 2003, Ike Seamans, review of The Clinton Wars.
Nation, June 23, 2003, Tom Wicker, review of The Clinton Wars, p. 25.
National Journal, May 12, 2001, William Powers, "Clown Time Is Over," p. 1432.
National Review, November 25, 1988, Peter Brimelow, review of Our Long National Daydream: A Political Pageant of the Reagan Era, p. 45; November 19, 1990, Richard Brookhiser, review of Pledging Allegiance, p. 47; June 30, 2003, Byron York, review of The Clinton Wars.
New Leader, December 1, 1986, David M. Oshinsky, review of The Rise of the Counter-establishment, p. 19; June 4, 1990, "Blumenthal Redux," p. 9.
New Statesman, July 7, 2003, Stryker McGuire, review of The Clinton Wars, p. 47.
Newsweek, November 5, 1990, Bill Turque, review of Pledging Allegiance, p. 78.
New Yorker, July 14, 2003, review of The Clinton Wars, p. 94.
New York Observer, May 19, 2003, Andrew Sullivan, review of The Clinton Wars, p. 1.
New York Post, May 25, 2003, "War over Clinton Aide Book," p. 10.
New York Times, May 12, 2003, David Carr, review of The Clinton Wars, p. E1; May 15, 2003, Janet Maslin, review of The Clinton Wars, p. E11; May 18, 2003, Robert Dallek, review of The Clinton Wars, p. 9.
New York Times Book Review, May 11, 1980, James Fallows, review of The Permanent Campaign: Inside the World of Elite Political Operatives, pp. 7, 34; October 5, 1986, review of The Rise of the Counter-establishment, p. 7; November 13, 1988, Cory Dean, review of Our Long National Daydream, p. 35; October 14, 1990, Alan Brinkley, review of Pledging Allegiance, pp. 1, 28-29.
Observer (London, England), May 25, 2003, Sean O'Hagan, review of The Clinton Wars, p. 15.
Political Science Quarterly, summer, 1991, Walter LaFeber, review of Pledging Allegiance, p. 320.
Presidential Studies Quarterly, spring, 1992, Mary E. Stuckey, review of Pledging Allegiance, p. 382.
PR Newswire, May 12, 2007, "H2O Motion Pictures Acquires Feature Film Rights to Books by Murdered Russian Journalist Anna Politkovskaya."
Publishers Weekly, September 7, 1990, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Pledging Allegiance, p. 73; May 19, 2003, review of The Clinton Wars, p. 66; July 10, 2006, review of How Bush Rules: Chronicles of a Radical Regime, p. 64; October 15, 2007, "Blumenthal to Nation," p. 9.
Scotland on Sunday (Edinburgh, Scotland), June 22, 2003, Chris Deerin, review of The Clinton Wars, p. 4.
Scotsman (Edinburgh, Scotland), June 14, 2003, Michael Pye, review of The Clinton Wars, p. 7.
Spectator, June 14, 2003, George Osborne, review of The Clinton Wars, p. 56.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, MO), May 25, 2003, Harry Levins, review of The Clinton Wars, p. F9.
Sunday Herald (Glasgow, Scotland), June 29, 2003, Ian Bell and Alan Taylor, review of The Clinton Wars, p. 10.
Sunday Telegraph (London, England), June 22, 2003, Anne Applebaum, review of The Clinton Wars.
Sunday Times (London, England), June 1, 2003, Anthony Howard, review of The Clinton Wars, p. 35.
Time, October 8, 1990, Michael Duffy, review of Pledging Allegiance, p. 80; May 26, 2003, Lev Grossman, review of The Clinton Wars, p. 65.
Times (London, England), May 28, 2003, Ben Macintyre, review of The Clinton Wars, p. 15.
Wall Street Journal, October 29, 1990, David Brock, review of Pledging Allegiance, p. A12; May 28, 2003, Robert L. Bartley, review of The Clinton Wars, p. A12.
Washington Monthly, June, 2003, David Rosenthal, "The Clinton Warrior: What Sidney Blumenthal Got Right"; July-August, 2003, Susan Threadgill, review of The Clinton Wars, p. 60.
Washington Post, June 24, 2003, Richard Cohen, review of The Clinton Wars, p. A21.
Washington Post Book World, September 11, 1984, review of The Permanent Campaign, pp. 4-5; September 21, 1986, review of The Rise of the Counter-establishment, p. 5; September 11, 1988, review of The Reagan Legacy, p. 4; October 14, 1990, David Caute, review of Pledging Allegiance, pp. 4, 12.
Washington Times, May 19, 2003, Greg Pierce, review of The Clinton Wars, p. A6; July 16, 2003, John McCaslin, "Trust Your Advisor?," p. A6; March 10, 2004, John McCaslin, "Sidney's Salons," p. A9.
Weekend Australian (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), May 24, 2003, review of The Clinton Wars, p. T10; July 12, 2003, Emma-Kate Symons, review of The Clinton Wars, p. B10.
Weekly Standard, January 3, 2005, "‘Breaking News’ So to Speak," p. 2; January 17, 2005, "Correction," p. 2.
BuzzFlash,http://www.buzzflash.com/ (May 23, 2003), interview with Sidney Blumenthal; (September 14, 2006), Mark Karlin, "Sidney Blumenthal Calls George W. Bush ‘The Most Uniquely Radical President We've Ever Had.’"
Democracy Now!,http://www.democracynow.org/ (July 15, 2005), "Sidney Blumenthal vs. Norman Solomon on Karl Rove, the Democrats and Iraq."
Fire Dog Lake,http://www.firedoglake.com/ (October 1, 2006), Jane Hamsher, review of How Bush Rules.
Guardian Unlimited,http://guardian.co.uk/ (November 7, 2007), "Comment Is Free: Sidney Blumenthal."
Internet Movie Database,http://www.imdb.com/ (November 7, 2007), "Sidney Blumenthal."
Lavin Agency Web site,http://www.thelavinagency.com/ (November 7, 2007), "Sidney Blumenthal."
Lew Rockwell.com,http://www.lewrockwell.com/ (October 20, 2006), David Gordon, review of How Bush Rules.
Liberal Oasis,http://www.liberaloasis.com/ (May 28, 2003), interview with Sidney Blumenthal.
TPM Cafe,http://www.tpmcafe.com/ (November 7, 2007), "Biography: Sidney Blumenthal."
Word 'N' Bass.com,http://www.wordnbass.com/ (November 7, 2007), Michelle Simon, review of How Bush Rules.