W. Joseph Campbell

Mythologizing military service in Vietnam

In Debunking, New York Times on May 18, 2010 at 8:48 am

Today’s New York Times carries a potentially devastating piece about Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s dissembling about his military service during the Vietnam War.

Blumenthal, an odds-on favorite to win election this year to the U.S. Senate, told at least one audience in Connecticut, in 2008, that he had served in Vietnam.

“There was one problem,” the Times article says. “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.”

Blumenthal in Marine Reserve (NYTimes)

The Times has posted at its online site a video in which Blumenthal refers to “the days that I served in Vietnam.” Moreover, the Times reported, Blumenthal in 1970 “landed a coveted spot in the Marine Reserve, which virtually guaranteed that he would not be sent to Vietnam.”

Whether the disclosures are enough to ruin Blumenthal’s candidacy is uncertain.

But I wonder whether Blumenthal–who in nearly 20 years as attorney general seemed ever-eager to go before the television cameras to announce state-sponsored litigation–will be able to stand up to the scrutiny, which is sure to be intense over the next several days.

I knew Blumenthal, vaguely, during my time years ago in Connecticut, reporting for the Hartford Courant–which has to be keenly embarrassed that the Times scored this scoop, debunking Blumenthal’s claim.

Blumenthal always struck me in public as slick-haired, brittle, and ill at ease. Surprisingly so, given his frequent appearances on television.

My guess is that he’ll acknowledge a lamentable slip of the tongue and muddle on, a damaged and perhaps vulnerable candidate for a Senate seat that Democrats have held for 46 years. But I wouldn’t be surprised at all were Blumenthal to find the scrutiny too intense to bear, and step aside.

And with further disclosures about his mythologizing his wartime record, Blumenthal’s candidacy will be toast.

Many thanks to Jim Romenesko for linking to this post.


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