The controversy over the
war record of Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut attorney general and presumed Democratic
nominee for Chris Dodd's Senate seat isn't going anywhere. Blumenthal
has denied the initial New York Times report,
which accused him of misleading voters into
believing that he served in Vietnam (he did not serve there). He says that he
"mispoke" or gave "misplaced words" on a "few occasions" but that he has
neither deliberately nor consistently lied about his record. He
specifically says he meant to say "I served during Vietnam" rather than
"I served in Vietnam." But most pundits aren't buying it. Here's why
- 3 Questions He Must Answer The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza asks, (1) "Did he really only misspeak a handful of times? Or did he misspeak lots more times in order to build up his bona fides on military issues?" (2) "Will other examples of misstatements -- whether on Vietnam or other elements of Blumenthal's resume -- surface?" (3) "Will any Democrat come out and call for Blumenthal to give a deeper explanation of his deferments as well as the way he characterized his service? Or even call on him to step aside from the Senate race?"
- Could 'Another Shoe Drop?' Salon's Steve Kornacki wonders, "Will another shoe drop? Right now, it appears that Blumenthal can mount a decent defense. Others have stepped forward to say that he's accurately described his military record in the past. If it looks like he's guilty only of misspeaking once or twice (or of getting a little carried away once or twice, sort of like Hillary Clinton's Tuzla airport story), then Blumenthal's support within his party should be safe ... But if more examples of apparent embellishment emerge and a pattern takes shape, the fallout will be severe."
- 'Accidentally' and 'Repeatedly' The National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru raises an eyebrow. "Blumenthal Regrets Having 'Misspoken' at presser now; claims to take full responsibility for it. Seems like it would be hard to emit the words accidentally and repeatedly."
- Even When Honest, He Was Misleading Matthew Yglesias sighs, "At times he’s simply alluded accurately, though arguably misleadingly, to having served in the 'Vietnam era' (they actually gave out a medal for this even to people who never went to Vietnam, I believe my uncle Paul has one) but he’s also at times plainly told audiences that he served in Vietnam. He didn’t. It’ll be a blow."
- Why Didn't He Protest Reports of his Vietnam Service? The Tribune's Kathleen Hennessey writes, "Blumenthal's campaign never corrected media reports that described the candidate as a Vietnam veteran, the Times says."
- The Weird 'Mea Culpa' Newsweek's Daniel Stone can barely believe Blumenthal's non-apology of "digging a hole. At one point he blamed the maliciousness of the Times, whose reporting he called an 'outrageous distortion.' When asked why he never corrected the dozens of times his misstatements appeared in newspapers, he blamed reporters in general." Stone concludes, "An ambitious kind of apology, to be sure. But enough to make everybody completely forget all this funny business ever happened? Not likely."
- 'Perpetuate a Myth' The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder doesn't think Blumenthal lied. But he doesn't let him off the hook either.
Blumenthal is correct that no one can control the articles that are printed about him. But surely this is a misdirection. Ambitious politicians have teams of communications professionals devoted to shaping, manipulating and repairing their public images. It is undoubtedly clear that Blumenthal sought out the identity of a Vietnam veteran, wrapped himself in that cloak, and used it to perpetuate his power. Even if he did not intend to mislead voters about his service, it is incumbent upon him to make sure that he did not use his position to perpetuate a myth that enhanced said power. To me, that DOES make him responsible for being accurate about his service record and going out of his way to correct the perceptional.