Blumenthal, Frontrunner To Replace Dodd, Lied About Vietnam Service
The word bombshell might be insufficient to describe the revelation by the NYT that the presumptive favorite in the race to replace Chris Dodd in the U.S. Senate lied about his military service during the Vietnam War:
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.”
There was one problem: 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.
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.
Many politicians have faced questions over their decisions during the Vietnam War, and Mr. Blumenthal, who is seeking the seat being vacated by Senator Christopher J. Dodd, is not alone in staying out of the war.
But what is striking about Mr. Blumenthal’s record is the contrast between the many steps he took that allowed him to avoid Vietnam, and the misleading way he often speaks about that period of his life now, especially when he is speaking at veterans’ ceremonies or other patriotic events.
Sometimes his remarks have been plainly untrue, as in his speech to the group in Norwalk. At other times, he has used more ambiguous language, but the impression left on audiences can be similar.
In an interview on Monday, the attorney general said that he had misspoken about his service during the Norwalk event and might have misspoken on other occasions. “My intention has always been to be completely clear and accurate and straightforward, out of respect to the veterans who served in Vietnam,” he said.
But an examination of his remarks at the ceremonies shows that he does not volunteer that his service never took him overseas. And he describes the hostile reaction directed at veterans coming back from Vietnam, intimating that he was among them.
The 2,150 word article goes on, in excruciating detail, to describe the extent to which Blumenthal misrepresented his service during the Vietnam War during political speeches in a manner that seems to clearly show that he knowingly misled the audiences that he was speaking to.
Up until this point, Blumenthal has led each of his potential Republican challengers by seemingly overwhelming margins in the polls. One has to wonder what impact this revelation will have on those results, and whether Democrats in Connecticut might find themselves scrambling to find another candidate in the very near future.
UPDATE (James Joyner): I haven’t followed the dynamics of this race all that closely but this could well be fatal to Blumenthal. There are few more despicable acts a candidate can commit. As commenter Michael Reynolds sagely advises, “claim you’re better-endowed than you are, claim you have no idea who took the last cupcake, claim you scored a winning touchdown, claim all kinds of things. But don’t claim you went in harm’s way for your country when you didn’t.”
UPDATE (Doug Mataconis): The Daily Caller is reporting this morning that the campaign of Republican Linda McMahon is saying that they “fed” the story to the New York Times. How the McMahon campaign figured it out is another question that I’m sure we’ll get the answer to eventually. Blumenthal is scheduled to make a statement later today and the rumor on the morning shows is that he’s going to try to turn this into a fight with the Times. If true, that strikes me as an exceedingly stupid strategy.
UPDATE (James Joyner): Pat Lang quips, “Who would have known that us folks who were thought of by many as moral derelicts for serving would become iconic images?”