It is always dangerous when a politician “goes off script.” Sometimes the truth comes out, like Barak Obama talking to Joe the Plumber about “spreading the wealth around. ” Sometimes, things go a little aglee, leaving the candidate with egg on their face, like every other time that Joseph Biden opens his mouth. And sometimes… sometimes things go very wrong indeed…
“At a ceremony honoring veterans and senior citizens who sent presents to soldiers overseas, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut rose and spoke of an earlier time in his life.
“We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam,” Mr. Blumenthal said to the group gathered in Norwalk in March 2008. “And you exemplify it. Whatever we think about the war, whatever we call it — Afghanistan or Iraq — we owe our military men and women unconditional support.””
No, on its face, there is absolutely nothing wrong with what the A.G. of the state of Connecticut said — we do owe the men and women who serve this country our unconditional support. What possible problem could I have with Richard Blumenthal’s words? To answer a question with a riddle, how do you know when a politician is lying?? His lips are moving.
“Mr. Blumenthal, a Democrat now running for the United States Senate, never served in Vietnam. He obtained at least five military deferments from 1965 to 1970 and took repeated steps that enabled him to avoid going to war, according to records.”
Five deferments. That would put him in what some might call “Cheney territory,” with the small exception that Dick Cheney never actually claimed to have served in Vietnam. Five deferments. And what did you really do during the war, Mr. Blumenthal?
“The deferments allowed Mr. Blumenthal to complete his studies at Harvard; pursue a graduate fellowship in England; serve as a special assistant to The Washington Post’s publisher, Katharine Graham; and ultimately take a job in the Nixon White House.
In 1970, with his last deferment in jeopardy, he landed a coveted spot in the Marine Reserve, which virtually guaranteed that he would not be sent to Vietnam. He joined a unit in Washington that conducted drills and other exercises and focused on local projects, like fixing a campground and organizing a Toys for Tots drive.”
Well, hooray for Richard Blumenthal, who served his country collecting View-masters and Pet Rocks for the children of the greater Washington DC area. “When I served in Viet Nam” indeed, Richard.
Now, you ask, perhaps this was a single slip of the tongue? I mean, what man in his right mind would claim to have served in a war that he assiduously avoided like the plague? Only a mad-man or a fool would inappropriately claim something so easily fact-checked…
Well, then, we might need to outfit the A.G. for a “hug-me” jacket, or at least a dunce cap, since this isn’t the first time he’s made the claim.
“In 2003, he addressed a rally in Bridgeport, where about 100 military families gathered to express support for American troops overseas. “When we returned, we saw nothing like this,” Mr. Blumenthal said. “Let us do better by this generation of men and women.””
He has, on other occasions, been a trifle more circumspect, leaving the listener to infer what he isn’t *quite* implying…
“At a 2008 ceremony in front of the Veterans War Memorial Building in Shelton, he praised the audience for paying tribute to troops fighting abroad, noting that America had not always done so.
“I served during the Vietnam era,” he said. “I remember the taunts, the insults, sometimes even physical abuse.””
A very lawyerly rendition, befitting a Harvard Yale Law graduate, leaving the audience with the distinct impression that the A.G. has served “in country” while leaving him with enough wiggle room (or, perhaps, “slither room” would be more appropriate) to get out from under any unpleasant repercussions. This is an impression that Mr. Blumenthal has not done very much to correct, over the years…
“But the way he speaks about his military service has led to confusion and frequent mischaracterizations of his biography in his home state newspapers. In at least eight newspaper articles published in Connecticut from 2003 to 2009, he is described as having served in Vietnam.
The New Haven Register on July 20, 2006, described him as “a veteran of the Vietnam War,” and on April 6, 2007, said that the attorney general had “served in the Marines in Vietnam.” On May 26, 2009, The Connecticut Post, a Bridgeport newspaper that is the state’s third-largest daily, described Mr. Blumenthal as “a Vietnam veteran.” And The Shelton Weekly reported on May 23, 2008, that Mr. Blumenthal “was met with applause when he spoke about his experience as a Marine sergeant in Vietnam.”
And the idea that he served in Vietnam has become such an accepted part of his public biography that when a national outlet, Slate magazine, produced a profile of Mr. Blumenthal in 2006, it said he had “enlisted in the Marines rather than duck the Vietnam draft.”
It does not appear that Mr. Blumenthal ever sought to correct those mistakes.
Now, call my cynical, but I find this law part to be the most damaging to any claim of “mis-statement” on the part of the A.G. — the combination of his seemingly deliberate ambiguity, his allegedly accidental misrepresentations and his willingness to permit news sources to perpetuate this canard of active military service in Vietnam all suggests a pattern of behavior on the part of Mr. Blumental — a repeated pattern where, it would seem, that Mr. Blumenthal misrepresented his military service to the public, so much so that even some of those who have worked closely with him were under the mistaken impression that he had served…
“In an interview, Jean Risley, the chairwoman of the Connecticut Vietnam Veterans Memorial Inc., recalled listening to an emotional Mr. Blumenthal offering remarks at the dedication of the memorial. She remembered him describing the indignities that he and other veterans faced when they returned from Vietnam.
“It was a sad moment,” she recalled. “He said, ‘When we came back, we were spat on; we couldn’t wear our uniforms.’ It looked like he was sad to me when he said it.”
UPDATE: My beautiful wife, upon reading this news story, wrote in inquiry to A.G. Blumenthal’s Facebook page, inquiring, as a constituent, that he provide some explanation for these misrepresentations. It was promptly deleted.
UPDATE 3: Apparently, the New York Times has heard Mr. Blumenthal’s “explanation” and found it wanting.