Thursday, September 29, 2016

September 29, 2016--Sidney Blumen-Who?

During the last half hour of Monday's presidential debate, moderator Lester Holt asked Donald Trump the inevitable question about his many-years-long campaign to call into question Barack Obama's citizenship and thus eligibility to be president. The Birther business. And by posing it during the segment of the debate devoted to race, Holt upped the ante.

Rather than just apologizing for pressing the issue so hard for so long in an attempt to move on--as Hillary Clinton successfully did when asked about her emails, saying--"I made a mistake,"which effectively ended the matter--Trump stumbled on and offered an incoherent and defensive response that on reflection was interesting because of what was largely ignored--his mumbling something about "Blumenthal." Seemingly suggesting that "Blumenthal" had something to do with raising the Birther issue.

Neither Clinton nor Holt followed up vigorously, wisely in its own way as Trump was on his own momentum twisting in the wind.

I was half-asleep by then and did not think that much about it.

But later that night, on one of my after-midnight talk shows--"Red Eye Radio"--a caller referred to Sidney Blumenthal, a close Clinton aide, as the progenitor of the Birther movement. A movement, so called, populated mainly of middle-age racist white men. That must have been, I thought, what Trump was trying to say.

I remembered Blumenthal as a senior advisor to Bill Clinton during his presidency. I knew Clinton trusted his political instincts, especially when it came to launching political attacks. This very much included Blumenthal's trying to help Bill thread his way though the cyclone of the Monica Lewinsky affair.

I also remembered that the Obama administration would not allow Hillary Clinton, when she was named Secretary of State, to hire him as one of her senior advisors. David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs, for example, indicated they would resign their White House positions if Blumenthal was appointed.

Call me foolish, but also from the talk-show world, I thought this had to do with rumors that Hillary and Sidney were fooling around and Obama didn't want any of that going on on his watch.

To check my recollections and to see what Trump might have been attempting to say during the debate, I googled "Blumenthal Birther" and within a microsecond there was all sorts of stuff, ranging from ratings from the lunatic fringe to other postings that appeared credible. Especially one from McClatchy News' Website of September 16, 2016--a few days before the debate.

For the uninitiated, McClatchy is a major publisher of daily newspapers, 29 at the moment, including a number that they secured from the Knight-Ridder company. They have won 9 Pulitzer Prizes and the first  I.F Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence. So they are far from ideological.

Since before the 16th Trump yet again made Birther noises and mentioned Blumenthal, who since 2008 has been a close advisor to Hillary, on its Website on the 16th McCaltchy posted a piece about its role in the Birther controversy.

It appears that during the run up to the Iowa caucuses in 2008, before Trump was questioning Obama's legitimacy, when Clinton was opposing Obama for the nomination, a staffer from Iowa approached McClatchy with a tip--she claimed that Obama was not born in the United States. When the word about this got out she was quickly disavowed by the campaign and summarily fired.

Closer to the point, then McClatchy Washington Bureau Chief James Asher, at that same time was approached by Sidney Blumenthal with the same "news." They refused to run it but again the word began to leak out.

Then this past Friday, and then again on Monday, Asher was quoted as saying that, "Blumenthal did spread the story to him, and that he assigned a reporter to check it out."

Though this may appear to be a posting about Trump with the implication that he was doing his version of a good citizen's due diligence, it is anything but.

Trump has been despicable throughout, including the other night when he appeared to stammer that he didn't do what he was accused of doing (wrong) and that he had not been pressing the calumny recently (again wrong, in fact that is blatantly untrue).

What is also despicable is the cravenness of moderator Lester Holt not knowing, or pretending not to know, the true genesis on the Birther slander with Sidney Blumenthal front and center.

Trump may have been the principal mouthpiece and self-promoter in promulgating the Birther lie but it did not begin with him. More truthfully, it may have originated with Hillary Clinton's closest advisor.

If it took me five minutes to get this straight. Holt with his squadron of producers and assistants could have done the same thing in half the time. And surely Hillary or one of her people could have, should have done the same thing.

None of this is impressive.

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