Blumenthal Characterizes Vietnam Stories As “Misplaced Words”, CT Senate Race Now A Toss Up
Yesterday, Connecticut Attorney General, and Senate candidate, Richard Blumenthal addressed the allegations raised by the New York Times that he had misrepresented his Vietnam-era military service, and used it as an opportunity to attack the messenger:
HARTFORD — Attorney General Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, a Democrat running for the United States Senate, said on Tuesday that he took “full responsibility” for saying he had served in Vietnam when he actually had received five military deferments before enlisting in the Marine Reserve, enabling him to avoid combat overseas.
His mea culpa, broadcast live on national television, was hastily arranged by Mr. Blumenthal’s campaign and national Democratic aides in an effort to put out a political fire that some party officials had worried could imperil his candidacy.
“On a few occasions I have misspoken about my service, and I regret that and I take full responsibility,” Mr. Blumenthal said at a packed news conference at a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in West Hartford. “But I will not allow anyone to take a few misplaced words and impugn my record of service to our country.”
Mr. Blumenthal, 64, said he had been unaware of what he called “those misplaced words” when he delivered them. He said that the errors were “totally unintentional” and that he had made them only a few times in hundreds of public appearances.
“Unlike many of my peers,” Mr. Blumenthal said, “I chose to join the military and serve my country. I am proud of my service in the United States Marine Corps Reserve.”
With aging military veterans flanking him and shouting “Semper Fi!,” the Marine Corps motto, and other words of encouragement, Mr. Blumenthal refused, however, to accept responsibility for mischaracterizations of his biography that have appeared in newspapers and elsewhere.
“I am responsible for my own statements and for any of my misplaced words any time that I misspeak,” he said. “I can’t be held responsible for all the mistakes in all the articles, thousands of them, that are written about me.”
Simultaneously, the Blumenthal campaign released to reporters a video clip from March in which Blumenthal does clearly state that, while he as in the military, he did not serve in Vietnam. The questions about Blumenthal’s apparent habit for “misplaced words” about his Vietnam-era service continue to arise, however, with one of his close friends saying today that Blumenthal seemed to be making the claims more and more as time went on:
Former Representative Christopher Shays of Connecticut found it puzzling: over time, his friend Attorney General Richard Blumenthal kept revising how he talked about his military service during the Vietnam War. At first, in the 1980s, he was humble. He played it down, Mr. Shays recalled, characterizing it as humdrum desk work.
Over the last few years, however, more sweeping claims crept into Mr. Blumenthal’s descriptions, he said: that Mr. Blumenthal had served in Vietnam and had felt the sting of an ungrateful nation as he returned.
“He just kept adding to the story, the more he told it,” Mr. Shays said.
Mr. Shays said he became alarmed enough by the discrepancies that he at times considered mentioning the issue to Mr. Blumenthal, who on Tuesday said he took “full responsibility” for the occasions when he “misspoke” about his military history.
Mr. Shays, a conscientious objector who avoided the Vietnam War, has his own theory about Mr. Blumenthal’s evolving descriptions of his service: “I think that it was a way that he quickly bonded with people I am sure he admired and respected.”
“It’s very seductive,” he added, recalling his own visits with American service members in Iraq before he left Congress after losing re-election in 2008 as a Republican.
That’s an awfully convenient way to justify lying, Congressman.
In any case, whatever Blumenthal’s motivation, the real question is what impact all of this will have on the race to replace Chris Dodd and, at least initially, it seems clear that Blumenthal has damaged himself. Last night, The Cook Report is now calling the race a toss-up, a fact reinforced by the first poll to come out since the New York Times story broke:
Following a New York Times report that he exaggerated his military record, Democratic Senate hopeful Richard Blumenthal has lost ground in match-ups against all his potential Republican challengers in Connecticut.
The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Connecticut finds Blumenthal with just a three-point advantage over Linda McMahon, 48% to 45%. Two weeks ago, he led the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment by 13 percentage points. The New York Times story broke late Monday; the survey was taken Tuesday evening.
When matched against former GOP Congressman Rob Simmons, Blumenthal leads by 11 – 50% to 39%. Two weeks ago, the longtime state attorney general held a 23-point lead over Simmons.
Blumenthal now leads Peter Schiff, a high-profile Wall Street investment banker, 53% to 37%. In the previous survey, he posted a 54% to 29% lead over Schiff.
McMahon and Simmons are the candidates that Blumenthal needs to worry about; McMahon because of her money, and Simmons because he actually did serve in Vietnam and was awarded two Bronze Stars. Before the General Election, though, Blumenthal may face problems inside his own party:
Merrick Alpert, the little-known Democratic Senate candidate in Connecticut who has been shunned by the party establishment, said he’s received overtures from nearly two dozen delegates who are ready to abandon Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s candidacy.
Alpert said The New York Times revelation that Blumenthal lied about his service in Vietnam has given his underfunded candidacy new life just days before state Democratic convention.
“We are now interacting with a lot more delegates than were willing to a day ago. We’re seeing delegates beginning to cross over,” Alpert told POLITICO in an interview. “There is now going to be a movement to allow us to speak Friday at the convention. There are several people on the rules committee saying Blumenthal may not be electable, let’s let Merrick Alpert speak at the convention.”
Connecticut Democrats are set to meet Friday to officially endorse their slate of candidates. A candidate needs to capture 15 percent of the vote to qualify for the August primary ballot, a prospect party leadership has aimed to avoid in the Senate contest, in part by refusing Alpert as much as a speaking slot.
Democratic Party chair Nancy DiNardo did not immediately return a call for comment.
“All I’ve ever asked is allow me to make my case. A vote for Richard Blumenthal is a vote for Linda McMahon. Richard Blumenthal’s unelectable. It is simply a matter of when he falls, not if. Why do we want to hand his over to Republicans when we refuse to acknowledge the reality?,” he said.
He said the case he’s now making to delegates is, “If you stand next to me, I can guarantee you I’m not going to have to stand next to you and explain why I lied about going to Vietnam.”
Honestly, I don’t see how Blumenthal survives this.