The hard working staff at Spoiler Alerts was pondering weighty matters to write about when the State Department released the latest tranche of Hillary Clinton e-mails. Now this is a drip-drip-drip of a story that has inspired an occasional post, but the staff here has generally found it to be pretty uninteresting.

Then Maggie Haberman’s tweet came over the transom:

And as I clicked on that link, I found out that I was the knife.

The March 17, 2010, e-mail from Sidney Blumenthal to Hillary Clinton talked about White House senior adviser David Axelrod’s public comments on Israel and the negative press they were generating. Blumenthal closed his part of the e-mail with the following:

Here’s one small but frank thing: Axelrod should not be a foreign policy spokesman on any issue or area. He has badly exacerbated this one. Many people in the press feel he’s out of his lane and resent being lectured by him on foreign policy. Foreign Policy magazine website has run a piece on this, reflecting widespread sentiment. (I’ve enclosed this article bellow the TNR one below.) I’d make [Deputy Secretary of State James] Steinberg tell [National Security Adviser Tom] Donilon they need to rein in Axelrod. Axelrod has enough to do fixing the domestic messes he’s made.

And sure enough, Blumenthal sent along a post I’d written at Foreign Policy two days earlier blasting Axelrod’s public profile on foreign policy matters.


Now this discovery — and the e-mails and DMs I received from friends notifying me of this mention — prompted a complex array of emotions — somewhat akin to the Five Stages of Grief. In order:

1. Disbelief. No one has to read pundits — particularly those of us who don’t have names that rhyme with Gromas Griedman.

Or, to put it another way, here’s how the Clinton State department handled elite “influencers”:

As someone decidedly not in that class, I rarely know whether what I bang out gets heard by anyone. As a writer on foreign affairs, one always hopes to be read by policymakers. But it’s rare to know that such reading actually takes place. So the safest thing, emotionally, is to assume that no one really reads my stuff. So when Blumenthal’s e-mail came across my transom, at first I was in disbelief. But then came …


2. Happiness. SOMEONE READ ME!!!  YAY!!! I’m not gonna lie, dear readers, I went all Sally Field on this news. Sure, it’s a self-centered ego trip, but it’s still nice to know that I was read even if my punditry didn’t get me bumped up to business class in terms of official access. Which led me to …

3. Bargaining. The following dialogue may or may not have taken place:

ME: Hey, I got mentioned in official e-mails!  I’m an influencer!! I deserve a raise, dontcha think?

FLETCHER SCHOOL:  Just because your name appears in a document doesn’t mean that it matters. So, no.

ME:  Hey, I got mentioned in official e-mails!  I’m an influencer!! I deserve a rai–



Which led to …

4. Depression. Sure, for a few minutes I felt like a real influencer, someone that Sid Blumenthal clearly thought possessed some gravitas on foreign policy. And then I saw this:


So I’m at the same level as that guy. Sweet Jesus, that’s depressing.

This is the bigger problem with this e-mail trove: it basically consists of courtiers like Sid Blumenthal and Lanny Davis doing everything possible to flatter and curry favor with Hillary Clinton (all policy principals face this problem, but it does seem particularly concentrated in the case of Clinton). Which means my mention was simply a mechanism through which Blumenthal could try to expand his influence at the expense of a rival. And it was attached to a rather bizarre screed against the New Republic.

Which leads to the last stage:

5. Acceptance.