Sidney Blumenthal, favored target of the right, looms over debate

The perception that Clinton is close with and respects Blumenthal has allowed opponents to cast his views as her own, for their own political purposes.

Sidney Blumenthal, Hillary Clinton (photo credit: REUTERS)
Sidney Blumenthal, Hillary Clinton
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – In his blistering and relentless attack on Hillary Clinton during their second presidential debate on Sunday night, Donald Trump brought up a name unfamiliar to most Americans, but a favored cudgel of the political right, Sidney Blumenthal.
A former journalist, Blumenthal advised Clinton during her run for the Democratic Party nomination in 2008 and is credited with spreading imagery of then-senator Barack Obama in traditional African Muslim dress.
He consulted Clinton in an unofficial capacity throughout her time at the State Department and – according to the former secretary of state – emailed “unsolicited” advice to her throughout some of her most challenging moments, including during the attack on an American compound in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012.
Referencing Clinton’s attacks on him for tweeting directions to a nonexistent sex tape of a former Miss Universe winner at 3 o’clock in the morning, Trump pivoted to Clinton’s reaction to the Benghazi assault.
“The only one she talked to was Sidney Blumenthal, who is her friend and not a good guy, by the way,” Trump said.
In his correspondence with Clinton, Blumenthal pushed the work of his son, Max, who has made a name for himself by criticizing the state of Israel and the idea of Zionism with tremendous hostility and, to many, anti-Semitic undertones. Blumenthal also suggested that Clinton take a tougher public approach to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, similar to that taken by Obama’s White House.
Blumenthal has become a foil for Republicans, not just for his family’s relationship with Israel, but also for his personal attacks on former House Speaker John Boehner and for the rise of the Tea Party – a movement that will “divide the country” to the point of disrepair, Blumenthal asserted.
Clinton appeared to encourage Blumenthal’s informal advice, and forwarded at least some of his emails to her husband, former President Bill Clinton. The perception that she is close with and respects Blumenthal has allowed her opponents to cast Blumenthal’s views as her own for political purposes.