Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Sidney Blumenthal Uses Former Right-Wing Foes To Attack Obama
by Peter Dreier
Former journalist Sidney Blumenthal has been widely credited with coining the term "vast right-wing conspiracy" used by Hillary Clinton in 1998 to describe the alliance of conservative media, think tanks, and political operatives that sought to destroy the Clinton White House where he worked as a high-level aide. A decade later, and now acting as a senior campaign advisor to Senator Clinton, Blumenthal is exploiting that same right-wing network to attack and discredit Barack Obama. And he's not hesitating to use the same sort of guilt-by-association tactics that have been the hallmark of the political right dating back to the McCarthy era.
Almost every day over the past six months, I have been the recipient of an email that attacks Obama's character, political views, electability, and real or manufactured associations. The original source of many of these hit pieces are virulent and sometimes extreme right-wing websites, bloggers, and publications. But they aren't being emailed out from some fringe right-wing group that somehow managed to get my email address. Instead, it is Sidney Blumenthal who, on a regular basis, methodically dispatches these email mudballs to an influential list of opinion shapers -- including journalists, former Clinton administration officials, academics, policy entrepreneurs, and think tankers -- in what is an obvious attempt to create an echo chamber that reverberates among talk shows, columnists, and Democratic Party funders and activists. One of the recipients of the Blumenthal email blast, himself a Clinton supporter, forwards the material to me and perhaps to others.
These attacks sent out by Blumenthal, long known for his fierce and combative loyalty to the Clintons, draw on a wide variety of sources to spread his Obama-bashing. Some of the pieces are culled from the mainstream media and include some reasoned swipes at Obama's policy and political positions.
But, rather remarkably for such a self-professed liberal operative like Blumenthal, a staggering number of the anti-Obama attacks he circulates derive from highly-ideological and militant right-wing sources such as the misnamed Accuracy in Media (AIM), The Weekly Standard, City Journal, The American Conservative, and The National Review.
To cite just one recent example, Blumenthal circulated an article taken from the fervently hard-right AIM website on February 18 entitled, "Obama's Communist Mentor" by Cliff Kincaid. Kincaid is a right-wing writer and activist, a longtime critic of the United Nations, whose group, America's Survival, has been funded by foundations controlled by conservative financier Richard Mellon Scaife, the same millionaire who helped fund attacks on the Clintons during their White House years. Scaife also funds AIM, the right-wing media "watchdog" group.
The Kincaid article that Blumenthal circulated sought to discredit Obama by linking him to an African-American poet and writer whom Obama knew while he was in high school in Hawaii. That writer, Frank Marshall Davis, was, Kincaid wrote, a member of the Communist Party. Supported by no tangible evidence, Kincaid claimed that Obama considered his relationship to Davis to be "almost like a son." In his memoir, Dreams from My Father, Obama wrote about meeting, during his teenage years, a writer named "Frank" who "had some modest notoriety once" and with whom he occasionally discussed poetry and politics. From this snippet, Kincaid weaves an incredulous tale that turns Davis into Obama's "mentor." More Stuff...
I'm disgusted but not surprised. If she miraculously becomes the nominee, she will not get my vote. Her behavior and tactics are devisive, fear-mongering, shameful, and overzealous. She reeks of desperation.
Now, why isn't the mainstream media covering this? Wouldn't this be more news-worthy than "What Will the Negroes Do If Obama Doesn't Get the Nod?" Wouldn't this be more news-worthy than obsessing over Rev. Wright? Of course not. Much is not to be expected from the mainstream media when they continue to give McCain a free ride.
When things like this fall below the mainstream media's radar, it's a reminder of why I rely on the blogosphere. Far too many trivial things are reported in the news and I can't tolerate it. There are significant stories that are reported but then obsession occurs (e.g., Rev. Wright). The mainstream media's obsession with Rev. Wright had me wondering at one point if he was a presidential candidate.
So, if you don't already know, venture into the blogosphere for raw, unsexy news stories. Feel free to peruse through my archives and blog rolls for some insightful commentary and thorough information. Today's popular TV and radio programs simply aren't reliable sources of information and intelligent discussion.