No joke; that’s his defense. Skip ahead to 7:00 of the clip and behold. My favorite part, actually, comes a few minutes earlier at around 3:40 when he pinches this rhetorical loaf:

“On a few occasions I have misspoken about my service and I regret that, and I will take full responsibility,” the Democratic Senate candidate told reporters. “But I will not allow anyone to take a few misplaced words and impugn my record of service to this country.”

“I will take full responsibility,” says a guy who’s (a) surrounded himself with vets to provide moral cover, (b) in the midst of lying his ass off about how he supposedly mixed up the concepts of serving “in” a war rather than “during” it, and (c) shamelessly insisting that people are impugning his service when no one’s doing any such thing. Even lefty Greg Sargent felt compelled to call him on that — before slapping him on the wrist with the admonition, “Don’t do it again, Dick.” Gee, Greg. Go easy on the guy.

Let me gently remind you at this point that, per last night’s Times article, Blumenthal’s sins go a bit further than occasionally confusing “in” with “during.” According to the NYT, “even those who have worked closely with him have gotten the misimpression that he served in Vietnam.” And while transcripts evidently aren’t available, some of his speeches were sufficiently misleading to have been described by newspapers as dealing with “his experience as a Marine sergeant in Vietnam.” Through gritted teeth, lefty Marc Ambinder lays that right in Blumenthal’s lap:

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. Military service is threshold-honorable. But after that threshold is crossed, people judge you differently if they know you actively sought a position in a service that put your life in harm’s way. Blumenthal did not.

This isn’t complicated. He’s an ambitious pol and he knew he could squeeze a few more votes out of the electorate by creating the impression that he served in ‘Nam. Evidently he’s been playing this game of hinting that he did without clearly saying so for years and years, with only occasional slip-ups of the in/during variety. That is to say, it sounds like he intended to deceive people all along, but chose his words carefully in all but a few instances to preserve plausible deniability in case he was ever called on this. He’s a seedy liar, but a clever one.

Now that the in/during mix-up is in vogue, I assume it’s also okay for people who went to college in Boston to say they went to school at Harvard. Because you know how easy it is to confuse “at” and “near.” Exit quotation from a Twitter pal: “Dick Blumenthal’s favorite Village People song is ‘During the Navy.'”

Update: Like I said, this has obviously been going on for years. Funny how the innocent “misstatements” tended to get worse and worse as his career progressed, no?

Former Representative Christopher Shays of Connecticut, a Republican who says he is a good friend of Richard Blumenthal’s, said in an interview Tuesday that he had watched with worry as Mr. Blumenthal gradually embellished his military record over the years…

Mr. Shays said the change occurred gradually in statements made over time.

“More and more it kept creeping in,” he said. “And it was very different than when he first described his service. I’m not surprised, because he just kept adding to the story, the more he told it. I think what happens in a case like this, it’s a tiny increment of change, but when you haven’t heard him in years you say, that’s a big difference.”…

Mr. Shays said he grew uncomfortable only last month, when he and Mr. Blumenthal attended a memorial for survivors of a building collapse in Bridgeport in 1987, and Mr. Blumenthal again brought up the Vietnam War. “He didn’t say he was there; he said, ‘when we came home’ and talked about soldiers being spat upon,” Mr. Shays said. “The inference was that he was in Vietnam.”

Tags: Connecticut