Connecticut Attorney General and Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Richard Blumenthal addresses a report that he has misstated his military service during the Vietnam War at a news conference in West Hartford, Conn., Tuesday, May 18, 2010. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Richard Blumenthal is the Pinocchio of politicians.
He said he served in Vietnam. But he was telling a big lie. And ultimately he admitted that, when he claimed he had served America in that bloody cauldron, he “misspoke.”
What a crock! It’s hard to imagine that any Connecticut voter who fought in Vietnam can forgive this guy for lying about his military service.
There’s been much written about Blumenthal and his statements since he first revealed that he was not telling the truth. Some people have tried to excuse him on the grounds that many people lie a little bit, including politicians.
As he accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for the U.S. Senate, he admitted: “I have made mistakes. I regret them and I have taken responsibility. But this campaign must be about the people of Connecticut. I want to get results for the people of Connecticut. And I’ve proven I can.”
Blumenthal has won much praise for his record as Attorney General of Connecticut. But, since a New York Times story dealing with his military record was published a week ago, he has been criticized severely by political rivals and some editorial writers.
The New York Times quoted Blumenthal as telling a group in Norwalk in 2008: “We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam.”
It wasn’t true. And he knew it wasn’t true. So what are we to make of the man who says he “mis-spoke” about his military career. The fact is he received five draft deferments during the Vietnam War before enlisting in the Marine Corps Reserves. He never left the United States.
One delegate to the Democratic convention that nominated Blumenthal, Carolanne Curry, told the Times she had abstained from the roll call vote nominating him because he had missed a “golden opportunity” to apologize. “People were ready to hear it,” she said of his televised news conference, “But to equivocate, and defend—it was just too much for me. What’s the matter with ‘I’m sorry’?”
I spoke to political consultant Hank Sheinkopf. “The Democrats have a problem,” he said. “They’re stuck with him. He handled it badly. He didn’t really apologize. He talked about working to help veterans in the past but that wasn’t called for. Rather, he should have ‘fessed up and moved on!”
Late Sunday night, he finally "fessed up" in a statement to the Hartford Courant -- but it was an awkward, equivocal apology.
Sheinkopf says that, although Blumenthal has been hurt by these revelations, the Republicans might still lose. He points out that a previous Connecticut governor, John Rowland, resigned in June 2004, and was sentenced to a year in federal prison for taking gifts from people doing business with the state. “So,” says Sheinkopf, “the Republicans don’t have a great record.”
Blumenthal is considered a brilliant lawyer. He argues cases with careful attention to detail. He grew up in New York City, attended the Riverdale Country School in the Bronx and Harvard and, later, Trinity College in Cambridge, Britain. He worked in the Nixon White House for Patrick Moynihan.
It’s difficult to believe that this fastidious lawyer would allow himself to “mis-speak.” Again and again, he has been described in Connecticut newspapers as having served in the Vietnam War. At a Bridgeport rally in support of troops serving overseas, he said: “When we returned we saw nothing like this. Let us do better by this generation of men and women.” And, at the dedication of a Vietnam memorial, he reportedly said: “It was a sad moment. When we came back, we were spat upon, we couldn’t wear our uniforms.”
Blumenthal may weather the storm of controversy stirred by these revelations. But, certainly, the voters should be looking at his strange record. The word mis-speak doesn’t excuse some of the strange things he’s said.
As any Attorney General, prosecutor or lawyer knows, telling an untruth in a court of law is a serious offense. It’s called perjury. And, while it may not be considered perjury to tell a lie during a political campaign, it’s certainly not acceptable.
The voters will be the jury. And they will decide whether or not Richard Blumenthal should be punished by being denied a U.S. Senate seat in the November election. What he has said and hasn’t said deserves serious consideration.