Blumenthal Emails to Clinton State Caustic Views of Boehner, Netanyahu

By Patrick Goodenough | September 1, 2015 | 4:18am EDT
Hillary Clinton, seen here during a 2010 visit to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, served as secretary of state from 2009 to early 2013. She is now running for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. (AP Photo, File)

( – The latest batch of Hillary Clinton’s email correspondence released by the State Department on Monday night provides a further glimpse of the kind of advice and opinions she was getting as secretary of state from close confidante Sidney Blumenthal – and some of it was far from diplomatic.

Among the more caustic views shared with Clinton were Blumenthal’s assessment of the congressional Republican Party on the day the party recaptured the House of Representatives and expanded its minority in the Senate in the 2010 midterm elections.

Rep. John Boehner, the minority leader elevated to speaker in that election, received the most cutting evaluation. In Blumenthal’s view he was “louche, alcoholic, lazy, and without any commitment to any principle,” despised by younger lawmakers who were “repelled by his behavior.”

Not stopping there, Blumenthal, a former aide to President Bill Clinton, went on to describe Boehner as “careworn and threadbare, banal and hollow, holding nobody’s enduring loyalty.”

Turning to then-Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the House minority whip who would soon become House Majority Leader, Blumenthal called him the “vehicle” of Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

“Malcolm Hoenlein has been raising money hand over fist for the Republicans through Eric Cantor, now his vehicle,” Blumenthal told Clinton. “The donors are many of the same U.S. donors to Bibi and Likud. Implications obvious.”

Bibi is the nickname of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, whose party is the Likud.

Turning to the Senate, Blumenthal told Clinton that “[Sen. Rand] Paul, of course, hates Mitch McConnell, and vice versa.”

Then-Sen. Jim De Mint (R-S.C.), meanwhile, is “a Fifth Column of the right.”

Blumenthal ended his memo on the midterms by advising that splits within the Republican Party should be identified and exploited.

“Congressional Republicans are vulnerable to a strategy that takes advantage of their internal divisions,” he wrote to the secretary of state. “Policies/tactics should be calculated to locate GOP fissures, find political space by widening schisms, and ultimately break them apart.”

“This is, emphatically, not a strategy of bipartisanship as [President] Obama has pursued it so far,” Blumenthal acknowledged. “It is a different and more informed approach.”

In response to Blumenthal’s email, Clinton wrote: “Thx, as always, for your insights.”

Noting that she was traveling abroad, she asked Blumenthal to keep her informed as results continued to come in, before ending, “Needless to say, I’m so distressed over all of this. All the best, H.”

‘Hold Bibi’s feet to the fire’

The latest tranche of some 7,434 emails sent and received on Clinton’s private server, released by the State Department in line with a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, include many between her and Blumenthal.

Many were forwarded articles, sometimes with a brief comment at the top.

One lengthy 2010 New Yorker article on the Koch brothers came with a one-line comment from Blumenthal to Clinton: “A must read article that looks at the Koch brothers’ control and funding of the tea party and right wing.”

The subject line for the email was: “H: Yes, there is a vast right wing conspiracy. Sid.”

Other emails from the confidante to America’s top diplomat were memos in which he advised her on policy positions or wordings for statements.

One of the latter was sent one day before Clinton was due to address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in March 2010, at a time when the Obama administration and Netanyahu government were at odds of construction work in disputed areas of Jerusalem.

“Hold Bibi’s feet to the fire,” Blumenthal advised, before going on to suggest that she could also cut AIPAC down to size by making reference in her speech to the liberal U.S. Jewish group, J Street.

Charging that AIPAC “has become an organ of the Israeli right, specifically Likud,” Blumenthal said Clinton could “remind it in as subtle but also direct a way as you can that it does not have a monopoly over American Jewish opinion.”

“By acknowledging J Street you give them legitimacy, credibility and create room within the American Jewish community for debate supportive of the administration's pursuit of the peace process,” he wrote. “Just by mentioning J Street in passing, AIPAC becomes a point on the spectrum, not the controller of the spectrum.”

In her speech the next day Clinton did not take up Blumenthal’s advice on referencing the liberal group. Whether she held Netanyahu’s “feet to the fire” is a matter of interpretation, but she did state that new construction in eastern Jerusalem “undermines America’s unique ability to play a role – an essential role – in the peace process.”

Hours later Netanyahu addressed the same event, and declared that “Jerusalem is not a settlement.”

‘Rein in Axelrod’

Among other often frank opinions Blumenthal shared with Clinton in some of the newly-released emails:

--Commenting on the May 2010 Israeli commando raid on a Turkish ship carrying pro-Palestinian activists to the Gaza Strip, Blumenthal suggested that Netanyahu was acting tough because of some deep-seated inferiority complex.

“Bibi desperately seeks his father’s approbation and can never equal his dead brother,” he said, recalling that Netanyahu’s older brother, Yonatan, died heroically while leading the successful rescue of hostages held by PLO terrorists at Entebbe, Uganda, in 1976.

“The raid on the ship to Gaza resembles the raid on Entebbe, except that there are no hostages, no guns, it’s not in Africa, and it’s a fiasco; otherwise, it’s Entebbe,” Blumenthal wrote Clinton.

--Blumenthal dismissively described renowned Iran specialist Michael Ledeen, now with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, as having been “trafficking disinformation.”

--He called the New Republic a “preferred outlet for the highest level Likud/neocon propaganda.”

--Former Obama aide David Axelrod “should not be a foreign policy spokesman on any issue or area,” Blumenthal told Clinton, advising her to “make Steinberg tell Donilon they need to rein in Axelrod.”  (He was presumably referring to then-Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg and Deputy National Security Adviser Tom Donilon.)

--When Clinton asked him who “Clemons” was – after he referenced New America Foundation senior fellow Steve Clemons in an email to her – Blumenthal described him as “a character around town, very busy, gossipy, gay …”

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