Sid: Why Didn't You Quit?
Jude Wanniski
February 9, 1999

 

Memo To: Sidney Blumenthal
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Christopher Htchens

A number of reporters called me yesterday after hearing from one person or another that I'd been talking to Christopher Htchens recently. One even asked if I was the fellow who called House Judiciary and told them about your lunch last March with Christopher and his wife. No, not me. I've known him for many years, but had no contact in recent years until I read his piece about Clinton in Vanity Fair a couple of months ago. I called to congratulate him, and found that he was even more exercised about Clinton's presidency than had come across in the magazine. As I remember, in his piece he said he did not wish conviction on President Bill Clinton, but cheered impeachment. He was not aware that I had been supporting Clinton -- until I heard the stuff about the President spinning the big lie about fending off Monica the sexual predator as a way of explaining the Linda Tripp tapes. Rep. Lindsey Graham, who in his closing remarks Monday said this was the worst thing Clinton did, and that it was "disgusting, " put it about where I did. Although I did not shy from the word "evil," as Graham did.

It was not until he saw the videotape of your deposition last week that Christopher became unhinged. He called me at home on the evening when the deposition was released, and he saw that you said you had not been the source of the stalker story. He told me about the lunch last March and was greatly distressed that you would be trimming the story to help Clinton. I kept telling him it was probably true that you did not get on the horn in a boiler-room operation, spreading the trash against Monica, but that you surely must have mentioned it to people around the White House. In your deposition you talked about how anguished the President was and how he wanted "to get the truth out." It seemed inconceivable to me that you would only tell your wife, but I told Christopher that surely the President told the same story to Jim Carville and/or Paul Begala, and that they would run the boiler-room operation to broadcast the story.

Jonathan Broder of MSNBC called me Monday afternoon and tried to get me to say in a dozen different ways that Christopher had "betrayed" you. I told Broder that was not true. What Christopher did was with the most high-minded of motives and that I e-mailed him on Saturday night telling him how proud I was that he did what he did. He could have hung up on the House Judiciary committee, but I knew he knew that if he did so, he would be complicit in the evil act of the President who would use you and others to squash his little cupcake like a bug. I told Broder that I could see how you rationalized in your own mind that just because you only told a few people now extended to family and friends that you were not the primary source of the stalker stories. I said I could see how he would come to the lunch with Hitchens, wanting him to think better of him for staying on in the White House after all the yuk poured out. In guessing your motive for telling Christopher and his wife, I surmised it was out of a hope that you would be able to have him think better of you. If you watched Christopher on CNN today after the closing arguments, you would have seen him telling Bernie Shaw and Judy Woodruff that he would not testify before any committee that you had perjured yourself.

I'm sorry to have to tell you, Sid, that I also told the MSNBC reporter that I had no sympathy for you and what you have bought for yourself. Once you learned the President had lied to you in your January meeting, your own disgust should have propelled you from the White House, but it did not. I have no idea why you would risk conviction of perjury charges for the way you tried to shield Clinton. It is at least doubtful to me and to Christopher that you did much more than play with words, the way Clinton has. I'm not so sure about Vernon Jordan, who should get himself a good lawyer for the stack of falsehoods he told to the grand jury. It is amazing how many people who try to cover for Clinton wind up toasting in purgatory or burning in hell.

I'm afraid that unless the Democrats in the Senate come to their senses, they will wind up as a body consigned to the special place history reserved for those who have betrayed their country for a short-term gain. A Faustian bargain. I would not be surprised, Sidney, if you had actually read the original Goethe's Faust in the original German. You are a serious intellectual and, as the House managers found, a gentleman. But you did strike a Faustian bargain in order to hang on to the illusion of eternal youth that your proximity to the President and First Lady offered. You can still save some shard of your self-respect, I would think, if you tendered your resignation as soon as the votes are in.