The batch of Hillary Clinton emails released last night by the State Department covers just a few months in 2009, yet shows a secretary of State leaning heavily on the advice of confidante Sidney Blumenthal.
Like on May 20, 2009, when Clinton fired off an email saying “Can you talk? What # should I call?”
Blumenthal replied that he was on a train, but “my cell works anywhere.” The number is redacted.
Blumenthal was an aide to President Clinton and has been a longtime loyalist of the Clinton family, so fiercely loyal that he wasn’t welcome in any State Department position in the Obama administration. He went to work for the Clinton Foundation and has been subpoenaed by the House Select Committee on Benghazi to testify about his communication with Clinton in his time period.
In addition to sending Hillary articles to read in the newest released emails, Blumenthal sends back some editing suggestions for draft speeches.
In a July 9, 2009, attachment marked “confidential,” he gives her “options and ideas” for a speech she’s planning to deliver to the Council on Foreign Relations.
“This speech can’t afford to be lackluster. It will then be held up in invidious comparison to Obama’s glittering best efforts. Your speech must have, amid the policies, a distinctive and authoritative voice,” Blumenthal writes.
“Your early draft makes no distinctions between allies or partners; indeed, it barely mentions allies. The early draft also features a strong malaise theme. Even if rebutted after being raised, the focus is on obstacles and hindrances, not on achievements, opportunities and what can be achieved. There’s no accounting of progress so far. The effect is downbeat in tone. At the same time, the draft contains passages of vague and gauzy liberal universalism, while in one line assailing it, an unconvincing juggling act. The notion that all nations and peoples want the same things as Americans will not fly and is open to derision,” he continues.
“It reflects blithe liberal cultural imperialism, among other things (See Graham Greene. And, on the contrary, some nations—and peoples—seek nuclear weapons, like Iran; some don’t want to curb global warming, like China; some don’t care about human rights, like most Arab nations; some have contempt for democracy, including de facto allies like Egypt, not to mention Myanmar; and some are indifferent to poverty, any number of African kleptocracies.) Also there is some confusion of definitions, for example, asserting dialogue with adversaries is ‘strategic engagement,’ when that is a concept usually applied to allies and partners.”
Blumenthal cautions Clinton that “slogans can become shopworn, especially those that lack analytical, historical and descriptive power. What served you once, at your confirmation, may not serve again… You do not need to have a complex foreign policy agenda reduced to two words that the administration’s adversaries will undoubtedly use against you.”
Clinton ended up making a gaffe at the beginning of the speech, saying of CFR’s new location that
“this will mean I won’t have as far to go to be told what we should be doing and how we should think about the future.”
In a Nov. 5, 2009, email, he gives her “ideas and language” for a Berlin address.
“What I have not done here but might be added are references to Angela Merkel (a courageous woman from the east who embodies the highest values of the West); and specific policies,” he notes. “Those can be fitted in.”
He gives his tips in a Dec. 5, 2009, email after then-Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was attacked. Clinton should urge President Obama to give Berlusconi a call, he said. “There are many reasons for Obama to do this, not least to condemn violence against a democratically elected head of state. It would be awkward for the U.S. President not to call a Western head of state of a NATO country who has been physically harmed.”
The tone of Clinton toward Blumenthal in the emails is uniformly receptive.
On Sept. 30, 2009, Blumenthal briefly tells Clinton, “Hillary: You’re addressing a group in Africa on Thursday. Joe Wilson will be there and wants to say hello to you.”
Clinton replies she “certainly will” meet the Fair Game diplomat and asks her aides to set up a meeting.