Lying to Join The Band of Brothers

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I have never served in combat or been in a warzone for which I thank God.  However, many of my friends are veterans of combat in conflicts stretching from World War II to Iraq.  Such an experience marks them.  They tell me that they have some of their best memories from their time in service, along with some of their worst.  It is a crucible that they have passed through which is hard to completely convey to someone like me who has never gone through it.  Usually they do not speak much of it, although often I have seen a quiet pride when they do speak about it:  a knowledge that they were given a test on their passage through life and made it through, mingled with sadness for their friends who were lost.  They belong to the exclusive club of those called upon to put their lives on the line for the rest of us.  They are entitled to respect for their service, whether they are given that respect by the rest of us or not.

Therefore I take a very dim view of anyone who seeks entry into their ranks under false pretences.  The New York Times has revealed that Richard Blumenthal, Democrat Attorney General of Connecticut and candidate for the Democrat nomination for the US Senate is one such person:

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.

In 2003, he addressed a rally in Bridgeport, where about 100 military families gathered to express support for American troops overseas. “When we returned, we saw nothing like this,” Mr. Blumenthal said. “Let us do better by this generation of men and women.”

At a 2008 ceremony in front of the Veterans War Memorial Building in Shelton, he praised the audience for paying tribute to troops fighting abroad, noting that America had not always done so.

“I served during the Vietnam era,” he said. “I remember the taunts, the insults, sometimes even physical abuse.”

Mr. Blumenthal, 64, is known as a brilliant lawyer who likes to argue cases in court and uses language with power and precision. He is also savvy about the news media and attentive to how he is portrayed in the press.

But the way he speaks about his military service has led to confusion and frequent mischaracterizations of his biography in his home state newspapers. In at least eight newspaper articles published in Connecticut from 2003 to 2009, he is described as having served in Vietnam.

The New Haven Register on July 20, 2006, described him as “a veteran of the Vietnam War,” and on April 6, 2007, said that the attorney general had “served in the Marines in Vietnam.” On May 26, 2009, The Connecticut Post, a Bridgeport newspaper that is the state’s third-largest daily, described Mr. Blumenthal as “a Vietnam veteran.” The Shelton Weekly reported on May 23, 2008, that Mr. Blumenthal “was met with applause when he spoke about his experience as a Marine sergeant in Vietnam.”

And the idea that he served in Vietnam has become such an accepted part of his public biography that when a national outlet, Slate magazine, produced a profile of Mr. Blumenthal in 2000, it said he had “enlisted in the Marines rather than duck the Vietnam draft.”

It does not appear that Mr. Blumenthal ever sought to correct those mistakes.

Go here to read the rest.  Ed Morrissey at Hot Air directs attention to this video where Blumenthal falsely claimed to serve in Vietnam:

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“In fact, we are failing many of our veterans again.  We are failing them just as we did after the Vietnam War, just as we did our World War II and Korean [sic] veterans.  This nation has a way of sending young men and women to war, and then forgetting them when they come home.  And that is unforgivable.  And I know Congressmen like Chris Shays are working hard to change that situation.   We have learned something very important since the days I served in Vietnam, 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.”

Politicians and lying go together like bread and butter unfortunately.  However, Blumenthal has crossed a line here, and I hope he pays a heavy political price for it.  Attempting to falsely obtain the esteem that most Americans accord those who have served in our wars is truly beneath contempt, even for a politician.

22 Responses to Lying to Join The Band of Brothers

  • What’s the difference between a couple of attention-seeking hard lefties like Richard Blumenthal and Jane Fonda?

    Jane Fonda actually went to Vietnam.

  • Lying is dishonorable. As is adultery. Over and over we have evidence that there is one aspect of human frailty both the Left and the Right share in equal measure. Sin.

    I would have more respect for a person who opposed the war on moral or ethical principles and accepted the consequences of that. But American politics is certainly not poverty-stricken for examples of individuals who dodged overseas military service, either legally, financially, or otherwise. The previous two presidents, and three of the last four, certainly.

    I will note that the first President Bush served with honor. The man didn’t need to make a big thing of it in his political life.

  • What? Isn’t Blumenthal sufficiently liberal for the NYT?

    Mr. Blumenstein misspoke. He meant to say, he did not spit on any Vietnam veteran as did Bill and Hillary Clinton, Jimmeh Carter (pardoned draft dodgers), and every VC sympathizer-Obama appointee of that age.

  • The previous two presidents, and three of the last four, certainly.

    About 1.9 million men were posted to Indo-China during the period running from 1965 to 1973. There were some 18 million men born during the years running from 1943 through 1952. Roughly 30% of the military of that era were vocational soldiers (e.g. John McCain). The probability of a randomly selected individual from those age cohorts serving in VietNam as a consequence of conscription or an enlistment for a discrete term was about one-tenth.

    As we speak, about 70% of the Armed Forces are stationed in the United States. That proportion has varied over the years, but at no time since 1945 have the majority of American servicemen been stationed ‘overseas’.

    There is no documentary evidence and there are no disinterested witnesses who can cast apersions on the military service of George W. Bush, which is why Mary Mapes was scamming around with forgeries.

  • I have not a clue why you are casting aspersions on Ronald Reagan’s service either. Except that that’s what you do.

  • Well … Ronald Reagan served stateside. So did my dad. He admitted he was fortunate not to draw overseas duty as his younger brother did. Mr Reagan was not beyond padding his military record in casual conversation. But I have no problem with an actor making military films stateside. He was about my dad’s age, and my father (as he reports it) was considered too old to be a first choice for overseas duty.

    But I see: you objected to my used of the verb, to dodge, because it is used in connection with those who illegally avoided military service.

    Mr Shaw, aside from your need to learn to spell, do you have proof of spitting, or are you just engaging in a blumenthalism here?

  • Ronald Reagan had an older brother; no younger brother. I object to the use of the term ‘dodge’ because you were insinuating a scheme on the part of the two men in question, and there was no scheme. George W. Bush, Patrick J. Buchanan, Hubert Humphrey, Dan Quayle, and Richard Cheney all had the disagreeable experience of being smeared over their service record. Their service records were perfectly in order (if unimpressive) and they availed themselves of no privileges that were not available to tens-of-millions of other similarly situated.

    I do not think you would have to look very far in the press corps to find folk employed therein who were happy to overlook genuinely hinky service records (e.g. B. Clinton’s) or impugn the motives of Mekong Delta veterans fed up with John Kerry. The whole discourse is disgusting.

  • I spent my “combat time” fighting the report shuffle wars and the battle of PowerPoint, or in pulling long watches “just in case” the order was given and the birds of death were to fly.

    I use terms like “served during” not “served in” although technically I “could” say “in” I was never during “active combat operations” in harms’ way. The standing guard on the Southern Watch, a little different. But that, like being in Korea, was a “cease fire” not combat actions.

    Had Mr. Blumenthal been “honest” he too would have used “served during” not “served in.”

    I had a supervisor that was stationed in the Philippines that was not “credited” for serving in Viet Nam, although she spent 3 days out of every 10 there (medical tech on Air Evacuation missions) and was under fire many times.

    She had EVERY RIGHT to say “served in Viet Nam” but didn’t because her base of assignment was NOT in Viet Nam.

    A couple points that the author got correct. We that served, DO CONSIDER IT AN HONOR. As well as many of the real heroes, did not make it home intact, and that is a burden that we carry. What we do, like Pvt. Ryan in the movie “Band of Brothers,” hope we live our remaining lives to bring honor and respect to those we served with.

  • Art, you’re not reading accurately, and I didn’t express myself accurately. My father indeed had a younger brother. Two, in fact; the other served with him stateside during WWII.

    Your point seems biased in your last post. Politicians of both left and right have served with honor, both as combat veterans and otherwise. Some of them, as I said, “dodged” dangerous service either by dodgy means or, as my older brother did, by serving before the Vietnam years.

    It is also true that politicians of both the right and left have attacked the service records of their opponents. Please don’t try to excuse Karl Rove and others of his ilk in the GOP. Republicans have not hesitated to malign the service records of Dems when it suited their purpose.

    I may be a pacifist, but I can respect the prudential judgments made by those who believe military service is honorable. What is less than honorable is to sin against truth by telling as it is not: and I would place my condemnation equally against a person who shares my ideology and those who do not.

    Mr Blumenthal is wrong for giving a false impression. Mr Reagan’s sin struck me as more of a kindly guy making embellishment for the sake of telling a story. His record wasn’t a key point in his political campaigning.

  • Todd,
    I acknowledge that your assertion that Reagan padded his military record may not constitute the sin of detraction since it does seem germane to the discussion. Whether it constitutes the sin of defamation cannot be so easily dismissed. It seems only appropriate that you provide some evidence to back up such an assertion. If you claim that you cannot because such instances occured only in casual conversations, please do explain how you know so much about such casual conversations. Thanks.

  • Let go of my leg. You made use of the term ‘dodge’ to impugn the character of two politicians who did not merit it.

    I made no partisan points, Todd. I remembered the names of several public figures who have been sliced up by their opponents (Humphrey) or by the press (Quayle) or by the combox chatterati (Cheney). If you can think of three additional Democrats who have received this treatment to balance the roster to your satisfaction, that is fine with me.

    Bill Clinton welshed on his ROTC service obligations. If acknowledgement of that bothers you, tough.

    You have repeatedly made a point of chuffering about the military service of Ronald Reagan, who hardly spoke of it.

    Mr. Rove is not responsible for John Kerry’s troubles. Kerry’s detractors are other Navy veterans who served in the Mekong Delta ca. 1970, one of whom has been a public nemesis of Kerry since Karl Rove was an undergraduate. Assessing Kerry’s service record is a more complex task because it involves granular knowledge of naval operations; memories decades after the fact; the degree to which a facially fine service record is blemished by the disdain of one’s peers, manifest tall tales, gamesmanship, and one’s troublesome public career after discharge. It really does not belong in a discussion of these other cases.

  • Here is a good overview of Reagan’s military service.

    http://www.reagan.utexas.edu/archives/reference/military.html

    I find it significant that Reagan held a reserve commission in the Army well before World War II, and apparently obtained it purely on his own initiative after he graduated from college. His eyesight prevented him from serving overseas, and he made films for the Army which was his assigned duty. As far as I know, he never claimed otherwise. Reagan of course clearly understood who the real heroes of the War were:

  • The spitting (and bags of crap) happened all the time.

    And, the anti-war demonstrations were not about pacifism. They were about the communists winning the war in which my buddies were fighting and dying; and about weed and sex.

    I was in the USAF from 1972 to 1976. I served with SAC (B-52′s/nukes) in California and with USAFE in West Germany.

    Re: Kerry. If the USMC (part of the Navy) in Vietnam applied the same three purple heart that Kerry used, no marine would have been in country more than three weeks. In the Army, you never got a purple heart unless you were med-evacked/hospitalized.

  • My apologies. The story that came to mind was that Mr Reagan recounted a movie plot as an actual story of heroism at some veterans’ event in 1983. I do recollect the famous account he gave of losing a football feed as a radio announcer and having to “invent” a game for the audience.

    The point is that fibbing like this is more akin to telling tall tales. Some of us wouldn’t do it. A few of us would. Personally, I don’t think Mr Reagan’s exaggerations are terribly harmful. And it was because of his nearsightedness that he was declined for overseas duty. He worked as an active duty officer making films in Hollywood for much of the period 1942-45.

    I think we’re all in agreement that Mr Blumenthal’s exaggerations are dishonorable. I think we can also agree that a person’s military service or lack of it is often a target, and often unfair. Former Georgia Senator Max Cleland strikes me as a guy who got a raw deal from the GOP. Senator McCain (among other Republicans) thought the dirty politics of Senator Chambliss “worse than disgraceful, it’s reprehensible.”

    As for Mr Kerry, my recollection is that he told his own campaign that Bush’s service record was not going to be part of his political strategy. Officers who did attack the senator during the campaign, if indeed one, as you report, Art, did have more of a personal vendetta against the man, seems to line up as well in the category of dishonor.

    These men were serving in their twenties, for the most part. Young men. Placed in extremely difficult circumstances. With their own flaws and immaturity.

    In judging a person of 40, 50, or older, I’m disinclined to criticize the events of young adulthood. Mature citizens, even the Kerry slowboaters, should be also. Even so, the president should have clamped down on that from the start. Letting out-of-control guys with personal issues get off leash is an indicator of his own lack of leadership. Or his approval.

    The fact is that the Right has no moral high road on this. Today Mr Blumenthal. Tomorrow somebody else.

  • Thanks for the clarification, Todd, but I’m not satisfied. I’ll let others decide whether the episode described below is comparable to “padding his military record” or even “inventing a game”, let alone whether the mysteriously plural “exaggerations” that are “not very harmful” isn’t just rich.

    “One of Reagan’s responsibilities was to give accounts of Chicago Cubs baseball games via telegraph. During one game between the Cubs and their arch rivals the St. Louis Cardinals that was tied 0-0 in the 9th inning, the telegraph went dead: An often repeated tale of Reagan’s radio days recounts how he delivered “play-by-play broadcasts” of Chicago Cubs baseball games he had never seen. His flawless recitations were based solely on telegraph accounts of games in progress. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/presidents/40_reagan/reagan_early.html

    “Once in 1934, during the ninth inning of a Cubs – St. Louis Cardinals game, the wire went dead. Reagan smoothly improvised a fictional play-by-play (in which hitters on both teams gained a superhuman ability to foul off pitches) until the wire was restored. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronald_Reagan

    “Reagan says: “There were several other stations broadcasting that game and I knew I’d lose my audience if I told them we’d lost our telegraph connections so I took a chance. I had (Billy) Jurges hit another foul. Then I had him foul one that only missed being a homerun by a foot. I had him foul one back in the stands and took up some time describing the two lads that got in a fight over the ball. I kept on having him foul balls until I was setting a record for a ballplayer hitting successive foul balls and I was getting more than a little scared. Just then my operator started typing. When he passed me the paper I started to giggle – it said: ‘Jurges popped out on the first ball pitched.’” http://www.intellectualconservative.com/article3120.html

  • “My apologies.”

    Of course you’re not satisfied, Mike. Enjoy the day.

  • Polls showing Dodd’s seat just went from a safe Democratic seat to a tossup. And the story is only two days old. Gotta love the NY Times.

  • Former Georgia Senator Max Cleland strikes me as a guy who got a raw deal from the GOP.

    The political mythology machine just runs on and on. Here’s the bloody ad attacking Max Cleland’s Senate votes.

    As for Mr Kerry, my recollection is that he told his own campaign that Bush’s service record was not going to be part of his political strategy.

    1. There was nothing to attack;

    2. His political strategy was expressed in using his boat mates as campaign props.

    Officers who did attack the senator during the campaign, if indeed one, as you report, Art, did have more of a personal vendetta against the man, seems to line up as well in the category of dishonor.

    No, it does not. It is only dishonorable if they self-consciously manufactured a false narrative. It is a matter of record that Kerry had been dining off his military service for more than 30 years; that he was awarded a Purple Heart for an injury to his rear end that left him in the hospital for thirty six hours, a Purple Heart for a superficial injury that required no inpatient care, and a Maj. Frank Burns style Purple Heart for a trivial injury that may have been inadvertantly self-inflicted; that he had made repeated incredible claims to having been sent on intelligence missions to Cambodia; that he also claimed to have been an ear-witness to military operations involving the Khmer Rouges at a time what the Khmer Rouges were a trivial force operating hundreds of miles away from the Mekong Delta; that he claimed to have listened to a mendacious speech by his commander-in-chief concerning American incursions into Cambodia when no such incursion were undertaken until a year after he had been shipped home….

  • Some really good points and words by Art Deco, DRM and T. Shaw.
    For my part, I served twenty years between two services (Navy and Army). While I have ventured into harm’s way no less than four times, to include deployment to Operation Desert Shield/Storm, I cannot say with a straight face that I am a combat veteran. For most of my career in the Army, I was authorized to wear a “combat patch” (wearing on your right shoulder the shoulder insignia of the unit with which you deployed to a combat zone for 30+ days). But even the patch that I wore gave evidence that I was a card-carrying rear-echelon puke.
    I am trying to paint the picture that I had long service and some (very little) fairly risky service. That said, I would never intimate that I am a veteran of close-quarters combat. When anyone asks if I have ever killed an enemy, I say “Praise God, I have never had the opportunity!”

    Mr. Blumenthal sought and received five deferrments, then managed to wrangle an assignment to the USMCR to avoid any remaining risk of deployment to Vietnam. It was his right to do all of these things. Unless further examination of the facts were to indicate that he behaved in similar fashion to Slick Willie Clinton, you can call him a coward if you want to, but cowardice is not illegal.

    But he seems to present a pattern of attempting to associate himself with those who served on active duty during, or even fought, that war. This is not accidental. A lawyer who has risen to the position of a State AG (necessitating proficiency in both the written and spoken word) cannot then claim to be unaware of the effects of his carefully chosen words upon his listeners.

    So let me state, with absolute disgust toward the Con (yes, I think that’s the best way to spell it in this case) AG, that his conduct here and now, not forty years ago, demeans any military service he might have rendered.

    Given then opportunity, I would spit in his face in any airport, anytime.

  • “In judging a person of 40, 50, or older, I’m disinclined to criticize the events of young adulthood.”

    Todd, really? So explain your back-stab at GWB again…

    “Even so, the president should have clamped down on that from the start.”

    Sorry, but McCain-Feingold created the runaway special purpose group phenomenon. So the mechanism of direct control was simply not there. Bush distanced himself from the swift-boaters, who were not saying their piece on his behalf.
    Oh, and then there’s this almost extinct, clearly arcane Constitutional notion of freedom of political speech.

    “Letting out-of-control guys with personal issues get off leash is an indicator of his own lack of leadership. Or his approval.”

    Personal issues? Try Winter Soldier on for size- that was your boy Kerry’s baby. He testified to it before Congress by way of launching his political career. It was all lies.
    As for approval, do you believe that some level of veracity is to be expected of elected officials? If so, you should approve of flashlights focused on their paths. Shine the light on everything. Let the voters decide what is damning and what is not.

  • AD,
    Thanks for reminding everyone what a masterful job the Dems did at manipulating the public’s memory of that ad. By repeatedly accusing the rather unremarkable ad as questioning Cleland’s patriotism, they managed to manufacture a myth. Truly masterful.

  • Todd,
    Your apology was diminished by your subsequent dissembling. What exactly were the “exaggerations” that you were referring to? Of the two examples you seem to rely on the first seems more a case of harmless confusion and the second was at most a harmless fib; neither was an exaggeration.

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