The Corner

Blumenthal V. Plame

I looked up a small item from the Weekly Standard about Sid Blumenthal to edify a reader who came to Blumenthal’s defense. I don’t post it because I want to pile on Blumenthal. But I do think it offers an interesting insight into how press-freedoms were discussed in the 1990s in the context of Blumenthal and today, in the context of the Fitzgerald-Libby-Plame investigation. Anyway, frm the October 19, 1998 Scrapbook of the Weekly Standard:


Speaking of Sidney Blumenthal: For all that most working journalists in Washington professed to loathe their former colleague when he went to work for Bill and Hillary, they sure did allow themselves to be manipulated by him last February.

Subpoenaed by Kenneth Starr, Blumenthal disingenuously whipped up a frenzy over endangered civil liberties in America — and most of the press uncritically took his word for it. Thanks to Blumenthal’s agitprop, the White House had one of its few good PR weeks. The New York Times headlined its story “President’s Adviser Ordered to Divulge Contact With Press” and quoted Blumenthal as saying his subpoena represented “an outrageous attempt to silence all reporting that might be skeptical or critical of Ken Starr.” Clinton spokesman Mike McCurry weighed in that Starr’s questioning of Blumenthal was “potentially dangerous.”

And Blumenthal poured it on when he emerged from his grand-jury testimony on February 26. “I never imagined,” he hyperventilated, “that in America I would be hauled before a federal grand jury to answer questions about my conversations with members of the media. But today, I was forced to answer questions about conversations, as part of my job, with the New York Times, CNN, CBS, Time magazine, U.S. News, the New York Daily News, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Observer, and there may have been a few others.”

It was a lie. Blumenthal was asked before the grand jury if he had ever distributed White House talking points on Monica Lewinsky to “anyone outside the White House.” Lawyers typically advise their clients to give “yes” or “no” answers under oath. But Blumenthal was warming up for his fascism-in-America press conference later that afternoon, and so volunteered this gratuitously loquacious answer: “If reporters called me or I spoke with reporters, I would tell them to call the DNC to get those talking points, and those included news organizations ranging from CNN, CBS, ABC, New York Times, New York Daily News, Chicago Tribune, New York Observer, L.A. Times.” Yes, Sidney volunteered the names of all those news organizations. He wasn’t “forced to answer questions about conversations” with any of them.

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now.

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