CN Column 05/21/10: Blumenthal’s ‘misplaced words’

Note: This week’s column is relatively short due to space constraints in the paper and the fact that I’m too lazy to add anything to it for the web.

Well, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has dug his own grave in the race for Chris Dodd’s seat in the U.S. Senate.

The New York Times nailed the coffin shut  Tuesday, when it reported that the popular Democrat had lied about, or at least exaggerated, his military service during the Vietnam conflict.

As the Times reports (and he has not contested), Blumenthal sought and obtained at least five military deferments between 1965 and 1970 and “took repeated steps to avoid going to war.” He eventually served in the Marine Corps Reserve, but his service there never took him beyond the East Coast.

Yet he told a Norwalk audience in 2008, “We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam. …” Speaking in Shelton, he directly implied he had toured the country and was dishonored upon his return: “I served during the Vietnam era. I remember the taunts, the insults, sometimes even physical abuse.”

In the former, his words cannot be misinterpreted. “I served in Vietnam” means “I was in country during the conflict.” The latter is a little fuzzier; he did serve in the Vietnam era, and probably does remember the taunts, insults and abuse—from watching the news.
Of course the implication was that he was subject to that abuse when he returned to the U.S., after a tour of duty, which is more than likely patently untrue.

Blumenthal’s campaign responded that he’d always been “consistent, honest and clear” about his military service, citing a March debate in which he was, indeed, honest and clear about it.

But his official statements matter little in the face of what appears to be widespread and intentional misrepresentation to voters at speaking engagements.

Still more disturbing, and more telling to what I deem his intentional deception, is the ubiquity of press reports—among them, stories in the Connecticut Post, the New Haven Register and Slate—erroneously referring to Blumenthal as a “Vietnam veteran,” and his apparent unwillingness to correct them.

His defense, of course, is that he’s not responsible for newspapers’ errors and that he doesn’t read everything that’s written about him, so how can he be expected to correct all of the mistakes?

While it’s true that no one is responsible for newspapers’ errors except the papers themselves, I have a hard time believing that he didn’t read the press coverage of his public engagements from two papers that are among the largest in the state, nevermind the feature in Slate, a national magazine. Simple phone calls to the editors of those publications would have resulted in quick corrections.

You see, most publishers, like most Americans, and unlike Blumenthal,  understand that military service is hallowed ground. They don’t take it lightly.

I respect and honor the time Blumenthal did serve as a reservist. At the same time, I am offended by his “misplaced words,” though not entirely suprised that another slick politician has been trying to pull the wool over our eyes. And the last thing we need is another ambiguous dealer of snake oil and dishonesty in our Congress.


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