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Jewish World Review May 7, 2001 / 14 Iyar, 5761

Michael Ledeen

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Consumer Reports

Bye-bye, Blumenthal -- TO get a sense of the magnitude of Sidney Blumenthal's humiliation at the hands of Matt Drudge and his puckish counsel, Manny Klausner, you have to remember how most of the deep thinkers had immediately left Drudge for dead. The Blumenthals unleashed their righteous indignation from the lofty reaches of their White House offices, launching subpoenas with gay abandon, threatening Drudge and his friends with quick and violent decimation. They picked their lawyer carefully, a pompous bully named McDaniel, once of the great Williams & Connelly juggernaut in Washington, now relocated a few miles away in Baltimore. Their public posture and their private threats suggested a confidence verging on certainty, and when their intended victims asked for common decency or normal good faith, they responded with the backs of their hands.

When my wife Barbara and I were summoned to testify, we asked that the session be open to the press (the alleged object of Blumenthal's concern). No way. We asked if a pool reporter could attend. Forget it. How about our children? Nyet.

Once in reach of their preposterous questions, we were asked to identify any and all members of the press (the alleged object of Blumenthal's concern) with whom we had discussed the Sidney matter. Virtually all of them were subsequently subpoenaed for interrogation. It was a farcical replay of Sidney's cameo appearance on the steps of Kenneth Starr's courthouse, when he lied to the assembled journalists, accusing Starr's prosecutors of asking him about his contacts with the press (then, as always, the alleged object of Blumenthal's concern).

The suit against Drudge was never about "damage" to the Blumenthals' reputation; the accusation that Sidney beat his wife was quickly withdrawn, accompanied by a full apology (a lot better than most public figures get under like circumstances). The Blumenthal/Drudge skirmish was part of the Clinton campaign to intimidate administration critics by any and all means. It goes under the name of the politics of personal destruction.


That Blumenthal despised the very idea of a free press was clear from the outset, and became clearer still as the case dragged on. When we had the audacity to post our depositions on the Internet, Blumenthal was outraged, and demanded that the judge put a stop to such outrageous behavior. Imagine! Someone had the gall to actually provide the public with something they had every right to know.

In addition to trying to frighten the opponents of his administration, Blumenthal had other, more esoteric objectives. Along with Hillary Clinton, Sidney seems to be one of the handful of true believers who actually embraced the notion of the "vast right-wing conspiracy," and he no doubt hoped that he would be able to document its wicked ways once he got its chief practitioners on the witness stand, all sworn to tell the truth. Thus, the repeated questions about people with whom we spoke. Thus, the widening circle of subpoenas. Even as he fades away in the direction of a softly padded room, Sidney insists he was done in by a conspiracy: There were just too many people prepared to finance Drudge's defense.

Sidney's bad joke has now ended, and we will now have to wait for his White House memoirs to see his manic vision in full detail. Not to worry, we can bear the delay. For now, we can revel in the refreshing spectacle of the full exposure of yet another factotum of the Clinton era. The ill-considered pardons punctured Bill's balloon; Sidney's retreat collapsed his.

But that is not the end of the story, for we must still deal with the alleged object of Blumenthal's concern: the press. Precious few journalists had the stomach to write the obvious truth about this sorry matter, and some very illustrious defenders of the press (Floyd Abrams, to name one) proclaimed the suit a noble cause, and Drudge a worthy target. That is no small matter, because it shows once again that a large part of the press is so thoroughly politicized (or, if you prefer, intimidated), that suppression of the truth is accepted as an ordinary occurrence.

So let us toast two unconventional, and precious characters: Matt Drudge and Manny Klausner. Unwilling to be cowed, patient to a fault, full of good grace and good humor, they live to fight another day. For which we are most grateful.

JWR contributor Michael Ledeen is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of Tocqueville on American Character . Comment by clicking here.


04/20/00: Handling China
04/11/00: EXAM TIME!
04/05/00: Chinese over-water torture
03/27/00: Fighting AIDS in Africa is a losing proposition
03/14/00: Big Bird, Oscar, and other threats
03/09/00: Time for a good, old-fashioned purge
03/06/00: Powell’s great (mis)adventure
02/26/00: The Clinton Sopranos
02/20/00: Unity Schmoonity: Sharon is defying the will of the people
01/30/00: The Rest of the Rich Story
01/22/00: Ashcroft the Jew
01/11/00: A fitting close to the Clinton years
12/26/00: Continuing Clinton's shameful legacy
12/21/00: Clinton’s gift for Bush

© 2001, Michael Ledeen