Blumenthal, Frontrunner To Replace Dodd, Lied About Vietnam Service

vietnam warThe 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?”

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2010, Military Affairs, US Politics, , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. mannning says:

    All virtues are closely coupled, such that an abject failure in one virtue, say truthfulness, means failure in all virtues. Ergo, Mr.Blumenthal is virtue-less.

  2. PD Shaw says:

    I feel my service during Vietnam was some of my most important contributions to the country and set me apart from the pre-schoolers who seemed oblivious at the time. I don’t mean to imply that I actually served or that the word “Vietnam” has any relevance to that last sentence, but as a nation we must learn to move past our petty debates and realize that in each of us there is someone for whom the words “service” and “Vietnam” could conceivably belong in a sentence together. To doubt it, is to let the Viet Cong win. And I for one will not let the Viet Cong destroy America, can we say the same for my opponent?

  3. Michael Reynolds says:

    All virtues are closely coupled, such that an abject failure in one virtue, say truthfulness, means failure in all virtues. Ergo, Mr.Blumenthal is virtue-less.

    That’s so stupid it absolutely defies further comment.

    But on the topic: 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.

    And gentlemen in England now a-bed
    Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
    And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
    That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

  4. TangoMan says:

    Two politicians facing scandal. The New York Times reports.

    A Republican:

    Senator Trent Lott’s announcement on Monday that he would resign in a few weeks added to the growing Republican exodus from Congress, but may have strengthened Mr. Lott’s post-Senate job prospects.

    A Democrat:

    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, . . . .

  5. AllenS says:

    Blumenthal is a Democrat. He could use the excuse it all depends on what the meaning of “is”, is.

  6. Maggie Mama says:

    The 2,150 word article goes on, in excruciating detail, to describe the extent to which Blumenthal misrepresented his service during the Vietnam War…

    Doug, why can’t we call a LIE a LIE? Why must you use the word “misrepresented”?

    In your other life are you a politician or member of the MSM?

  7. yetanotherjohn says:

    I had thought this was a senate seat that got away from the GOP in 2010. Perhaps there is a chance yet.

    This is reminding me on 2006 where the democrats had to run the table of 6 even possible seats and seemed to catch a break like this every time. This year the GOP has to run the table for 10 seats.

    Ironically, the GOP would be better off not getting all 10 seats. 10 seats would get them 51 seat majority which would be fragile (not going to march in lock step) and would still be subject to the filibuster (which both parties have used as a stumblig block for the other). But being at 50 with Biden casting the tie breaker or 49 would leave no expectations. It would also be more likely to prod the parties into thinking a bit more bipartisan.

  8. David says:

    He has a pattern of lying. Doesn’t rise to the same level but he has always claimed he was captain of his varsity swim team at Harvard, and he wasn’t.

  9. Ugh says:

    There are few more despicable acts a candidate can commit.

    They didn’t keep Bush/Cheney from winning re-election in 2004.

  10. David says:

    Nevermind, they added it to the New York times story, after I read it last night.

  11. mannning says:

    I see that Mr Reynolds is unfamiliar with the concept of the ‘Unity of the Virtues” which was proposed by Aristotle as part of the “Doctrine of the Mean” and explicated more thoroughly by St. Thomas Aquinas.

    The gist of the steps to this end, as stated by J. Budziszewski in his review of these scholars, were:
    1) EVERY MORAL VIRTUE DEPENDS ON PRACTICAL WISDOM; 2)PRACTICAL WISDOM IN TURN DEPENDS ON MORAL VIRTUE; 3) EVERY MORAL VIRTUE DEPENDS ON EVERY OTHER.

    The wisdom of Mr. R calling Aquinas, Aristotle and Budziszewski(as paraphrased by me) stupid is much in question!

  12. The Q says:

    So Tangoman, how does Republican Senator David Vitter, (whose wife famously said that if she were Hillary she would cut the dick off her philandering husband) who got caught cheating on his wife and didn’t resign, fit into your holier than thou system?

  13. Michael Reynolds says:

    Mannning:

    Sadly many great philosophers have said many stupid things.

    To argue that lack of one virtue necessarily means an absence of all virtue is demonstrably false. Do you suppose that all medal of honor winners also demonstrate chastity, honesty, temperance and humility? Are they lacking in courage if they cheat on their wives?

    Further, it argues that a person who fails in one virtue may just as well fold his moral tent and become a thorough-going reprobate since he can never hope to achieve a measure of virtue.

    So it’s demonstrably untrue, it undercuts the very virtues it should be hoping to advance and it empowers hypocrites to denounce any and all so long as they remain blind to their own failures. It celebrates the unself-aware man.

    So, yeah: it’s stupid.

  14. mannning says:

    Sadly, one needs to have knowledge, practical wisdom and a host of virtues to be able to criticize the ancient philosophers, such as Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, St. Thomas, and St. Augustine, adequately, and to rashly label them stupid as well! You have placed yourself on a very high intellectual pedestal, seemingly with no support but your own good opinion of your wisdom.

    Your medal of honor winner may have performed the most stupid and foolish act imaginable in an excess of courage(rashness) and lack of prudence, and we all know what foolish, imprudent or rash men do to the rest of the virtues. His reward may well not be truly commensurate with his deed.

    Your reprobate needs to heal his soul and work to restore his virtues–all of them, which he can do!–else he is one of the rotten apples in the barrel.

    A man that doesn’t know his lack of virtues, and proceeds to act out his life with that burden is most likely to be found in prison. But, he, too, can learn; sometimes, the hard way.

    We do have laws, customs and morals that try to ensure that we maintain some of our more important virtues, since man is so prone to err. Sadly, too, so many lack even the basic knowledge of these things in themselves, and they are likely not taught them adequately at home, in schools, in church, or even in the school of hard knocks.

    The virtues are indeed interconnected, meaning that a flaw in one virtue means a flaw in every virtue. Too little or too much of a virtue is a flaw, just as absence of a virtue is a flaw, according to Aristotle’s Doctrine of the Mean.

  15. sam says:

    Uh,

    1) EVERY MORAL VIRTUE DEPENDS ON PRACTICAL WISDOM; 2)PRACTICAL WISDOM IN TURN DEPENDS ON MORAL VIRTUE; 3) EVERY MORAL VIRTUE DEPENDS ON EVERY OTHER.

    The protasis of that (1+2) is about as pure a tautology as I’ve ever seen (I’ve cleaned it up a bit, and if manning disputes the cleanup, he’s got more problems than he knows):

    ((If 1, then 2; and if 2, then 1) then 1 iff 2 and 2 iff 1) then (whatever you want)

    And, as we all should know from our elementary logic class, from a tautology, anything follows, as I indicate. Of course, manning will invoke natural law, and claim that what that argument states is, well, you know what it is. Which, of course, is why appeals to natural law are, in the end, circular.

  16. mannning says:

    Thanks, Sam, for taking my sketchy offering and “cleaning it up” as you say, but your fiddling was not the intent of the author. In writing short responses for the subject at hand it is easy for me to cut too much out. The problem with this quotation from Budziszewski(B) is that the word “depends” is used in different senses for each relationship.

    It is intended to express the idea that if moral virtue X depends on practical reason (say, to find the proper mean between the pair of associated vices to that moral virtue), and practical reason depends on moral virtue Y(to ensure proper treatment of truth and to preserve practical reason, for example), then moral virtue X depends on moral virtue Y. You can substitute any of the moral virtues for X and any other for Y, subject to identifying the correct dependencies. This is hardly a tautology, contrary to your claim.

    There is nothing wrong with championing Natural Law as well (might also add the rest of St. Thomas’ divisions, too!), but your attempt at showing circularity of NL from the doctored non-tautology above is rather far misplaced.

    B goes on to state that “by this reasoning, friendliness is addled in the untruthful man, truthfulness is addled in the unjust man, justice is addled in the cowardly man, and so on,” which memes eventually course through the entire network of moral virtues of any importance.

    There seems to be a hint that some responders are actually atheistic moral relativists here, in which case, there is no more to be said.

  17. mannning says:

    Well, one more thing. If a man lies about something, his virtue is imperfect and he should not be in positions of power. Bye bye, Blumenthal.

  18. mannning says:

    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.”

    So it’s ok to lie, just not about military service. How very asenine.