Skip to comments.Clintons' 'Good Soldier' Explains All Those Messes
Posted on 05/15/2003 1:03:55 PM PDT by Utah Girl
When her book "It Takes a Village" was published in 1996, Hillary Rodham Clinton was assailed for not mentioning the ghostwriter who had been paid $120,000 to help. Her aide and confidant Sidney Blumenthal is now ready to set the record straight on this Clinton contretemps and hundreds of others. His most often repeated assertion, throughout an 800-plus-page memoir and political treatise, is this: "The charge was, of course, completely false."
Writing throughout "The Clinton Wars" with the patience of a schoolteacher aiding the benighted, Mr. Blumenthal explains that Mrs. Clinton has proof that she wrote the book herself. But why no mention of a hired collaborator? "Because, she decided, no matter how endless the list, some of the many, many people who had helped her were bound to feel that they had been left off."
Not for nothing does Mr. Blumenthal, a former White House senior adviser, identify himself as the Clinton administration's "good soldier" and "first knight." If this is not sufficient proof of Mr. Blumenthal's devotion, the book's chapters have titles like "Hillary Under Siege," "The Reign of Witches" and "The Stolen Succession."
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 (though much of the book is about others, like the less lovable Kenneth W. Starr), Mr. Blumenthal sends a clear message to his administration colleagues: Mom liked me best.
It's easy to see why. His loyalty extends to describing the administration's Republican enemies as "velociraptors in bow ties" and to explaining that President Bill Clinton "reflected upon the nature of sex and memory" when he gave vague answers to graphic grand jury questions about Monica S. Lewinsky. In discussing the first whiff of scandal to affect this presidency and, Mr. Blumenthal says, to pave the way for widespread, snowballing hysteria from the press he recounts a conversation with the first lady. "She spoke frankly," he writes, "explaining Whitewater's emptiness."
Such acrobatic feats of protectiveness and they are endless here take their toll. The most strained parts of this overlong but highly readable tome are the sections that strive for supercilious calm rather than honest anger.
But when he is not reflexively leaping to the defense or larding this book with speeches, memos, itineraries and bureaucratic tedium ("Then he held a forum on the subject of global warming"), Mr. Blumenthal has an insider's vantage point and a truckload of righteous indignation. He can recall, after all, being called "just a scummy guy" by the chief lobbyist for Enron.
A long career in journalism (including writing "Letter From Washington" columns for The New Yorker) preceded Mr. Blumenthal's entry to the White House inner circle. As a result, he observes like a reporter. (In describing how his "lubricated" former friend, Christopher Hitchens, betrayed him, Mr. Blumenthal describes a meeting in a restaurant. It is duly noted that Mr. Hitchens ran up a bar bill of $18.84 before Mr. Blumenthal arrived.) And he debates like a lawyer. The "proper comparison" to Mrs. Clinton's role in her husband's administration, he says, "is not to any previous first lady but to Robert F. Kennedy."
About the Whitewater investigation, he writes: "It would be wrong to say that conjecture in the media swamped the basic facts because those facts were not reported. The facts would have upset the way they were telling the story, so there were no facts." At another point, citing his responsibilities as a liaison to the press, he notes, "I had to bring to reporters' attention the facts that otherwise might elude them."
Certainly "The Clinton Wars" can point to baseless, breathless news coverage as a catalyst to the Kafkaesque. Among the most compelling of Mr. Blumenthal's memories are those of being demonized from the first day he arrived at the White House. What did he find on the Internet ("a groundbreaking technique in political character assassination") but a report that Mr. Blumenthal had beaten his wife, which was certainly news to both of them. His effort to avenge himself legally against America Online and the Drudge Report Web site is just the first part of the firsthand nightmare he describes.
His accounts of being subpoenaed and questioned about the president by Mr. Starr's staff are among his book's most persuasive and credible passages. "The grand-jury room was the setting not for a histrionic hearing but for a shabby police procedural," he writes, upon first being summoned. Later, while dissecting the independent prosecutor's activities, he notes that "Starr's list of designated high crimes included one deceiving the public that would arguably have required an impeachment trial for every politician seated before him."
"The Clinton Wars" means to solidify Mr. Blumenthal's place in history. He wrote memos and speeches (included here for the reader to enjoy). He gave valued advice. He came up with the slogan "One America," which, he helpfully points out, is "an updating of `E pluribus unum.' " He introduced President Clinton to a promising British politician named Tony Blair. And he was often in the presence of greatness. "I once sat with the president and Tony Blair as, in about 15 minutes, the two men easily thrashed out a prickly trade problem involving bananas and cashmere," he reveals.
But the legacy he is most intent on lauding is of course the Clintons'. This is a book in which "the Democrats roared" while "the Republicans silently glowered." It's one in which the first lady's running for the Senate from New York "could not but flatter New Yorkers' self-conception." It's one that compares President George W. Bush to Benjamin Harrison and Rutherford B. Hayes, meanwhile asserting that "just as the presidents of the late 20th century operated in the shadow of F.D.R., those of the first part of the 21st century will stand in the shadow of Clinton."
Speaking of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, "The Clinton Wars" begins with a visit by President Clinton's entourage to the Roosevelt home in Hyde Park, N.Y. While Mr. Clinton looks at his predecessor's desk, Mr. Blumenthal sounds a wistful note. Those were the days when the press was too respectful to mention the president's wheelchair.
Sidney Blumenthal, author of "The Clinton Wars."
THE CLINTON WARS
By Sidney Blumenthal
Illustrated. 822 pp. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $30
# Amazon.com Sales Rank: 135
Which reminds me what The Clinton Wars evoked for me. It has the tone and manner and piety of one of those "Lives of the Saints" books most Catholic school kids were once forced to read at some point or other. Its not a memoir, or a history. Its a Gospel. Its facts are assembled, as the facts in the Gospels were assembled, for one purpose only: to affirm the faith, to rally the flock, to spread the further glory of the Church. Its an allegory of eternal good and evila passion narrative with a scriptural past and a resurrection at the end, the first-person narrative of one saint who prevailed.
It's like a penis, only smaller.
Anyway, I got a kick out of this passage:
In a DC bar, that covers about 3 drinks. And knowing Hitch, it takes a lot more than that to get him buzzed.
Many New Testament scholars have argued well that the gospels clearly DO NOT have the marks of apologia (see most recently "Jesus and the Victory of God" by T. Wright). And Luke, at least, claimed in his prologue to be writing with the intent to "...set out the truth of what you have been told..."
Which is what Blumenthal would say about himself, of course, but it is naive and unlearned to classify the gospels as apologia simply because they claim certain things about their chief subject. As if the only documents deemed to be accurate about an ostensible hero were by writers who had concluded he was not a hero.
There may have been once an actual good man.
But, where were we - oh yes, we were talking about Clinton.
Can greatness be found amidst bananas and cashmere? This is an elegantly perfect putdown.
Look again, Sid.
That dark stuff covering the ground all arond you is NOT a shadow.
The explanation for that title can only be the 'purple helmeted warrior' in clintons left hand.
Different Blumenthal, but it made its point.
My God, this guy is totally delusional (besides being as big of a liar as BJ Clinton).
We're going to have a grand time deconstructing Sid's little fantasy.
Hahahahahahahahahahah!!!!! Stop it. You're killing me! Hohoheeheehee stop it. Hohoho that is rich. That has to be from a Simpsons episode. Has to be.
Sidney Blumenthal, like Michael Kinsley, is a prissy little sh*t!
"The Clinton Wars" means to solidify Mr. Blumenthal's place in history. He wrote memos and speeches (included here for the reader to enjoy). He gave valued advice. He came up with the slogan "One America," which, he helpfully points out, is "an updating of `E pluribus unum.' " He introduced President Clinton to a promising British politician named Tony Blair.
Sidney Blumenthal makes Michael Kinsley look like Mike Ditka.
ROTFL!! It's those stupid little 'pince nez' glasses he wears. I guess he thinks they make him look like an intellectual. Doesn't work for me; they just make him look more like a twit!