Video: Blumenthal’s “outrageous distortion”; Update: Staying in

posted at 8:48 am on May 18, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

As Allahpundit noted, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has decided to declare himself outraged over the New York Times report that accuses him of falsely claiming on a number of occasions that he served in Vietnam.  He told the Huffington Post that the story is an “outrageous distortion,” and that Blumenthal had “always tried to make it clear that his Marine Reserve service never took him overseas.”  Try squaring that for a moment with this March 2008 video, in which Blumenthal laments the treatment of returning soldiers from that war:

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.

Not only does that show Blumenthal’s response to be pure bunk, it’s actually worse than it seems at first.  Not only was Blumenthal taking credit for serving in Vietnam falsely, he was framing it in a way to make himself part of the victim class.  Blumenthal’s argument in this passage was to remind everyone that America treated its returning veterans from Vietnam badly (and then oddly included WWII and Korean War vets) — and that he himself was part of that group.

It’s not the first time he’s done that, either, as the Times’ Raymond Hernandez reported yesterday:

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.”

It’s one kind of dishonest to burnish one’s military record with claims of battles never fought.  Falsely claiming victimhood as a consequence of those lies is something else entirely, and much more creepy than the former.   Blumenthal plans on appearing later today with veterans supporting his campaign.  I’d guess that to be a rapidly-declining group, especially as this video and other reports make the rounds.

One question remains: how did Blumenthal’s record get out?  Republican contender for the nomination Linda McMahon claimed last night to have discovered Blumenthal’s lies:

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s campaign for the United States Senate has been holed below the waterline by a devastating New York Times expose of Blumenthal’s false claims to have served in Vietnam.  The piece, fed to the paper by the Linda McMahon Senate campaign, is accompanied by a chilling 2008 video of Blumenthal blithely making the false claim.  The “brilliant” Blumenthal provides a stunningly inadequate response, with the universal weasel word “misspoken” appearing in the piece.  It’s followed by a non-sequitur quote: “’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.”

Somewhere, Tim Russert is smirking.  In 1981, Russert was working for New York Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who was facing a challenge from rising freshman Republican Congressman Bruce Caputo.  Caputo had made claims of army service during the Vietnam War that were nearly as false as Blumenthal’s.  He was forced to withdraw from the race with dispatch.

The Blumenthal Bombshell comes at the end of more than 2 months of deep, persistent research by Republican Linda McMahon’s Senate campaign.  It gave the explosive Norwalk video recording to The Times.  This is what comes of  $16 million, a crack opposition research operation and an opponent who, in the words of the president Blumenthal worked for on a draft deferment, who gave them the sword.

Panicked Connecticut Democrats will crash cellphone networks between tonight and Friday trying to decide if they can jettison Blumenthal and have a chance to hold the Democratic seat in November.

The Times may get some questions over this claim.  Did they take a story fed to them by a campaign, or did they independently discover Blumenthal’s fabrications?  Did they use McMahon’s tip and conduct their own investigation?  Or did McMahon’s campaign actually find this themselves, as they claim?  Ironically, the damage done to Blumenthal makes Rob Simmons — a highly decorated actual Vietnam veteran — the biggest beneficiary of this bombshell.  It will highlight his military service and make him all the more desirable in the aftermath of the scandal.

The Democrats have a very short period of time to find a new candidate, if Blumenthal does the expected and retires from politics.  Looking at the calendar, it appears that Democrats only have until May 25th — a week from now — to formally endorse their candidate for Senate, and June 8th to certify the nomination.  The problem for Democrats is that they don’t have any other statewide constitutional officeholders that can quickly fill Blumenthal’s shoes.  The highest-profile Democratic officeholders in Connecticut are in Congress, and those aren’t exactly riding a wave of popularity.  If Democrats try to run a sitting House member in this election cycle, they can kiss the seat goodbye.

This means that a GOP takeover of the Senate suddenly becomes possible again, if still unlikely.  It’s the tenth Democratic seat that becomes legitimately in play.  If Democrats can’t find a candidate in the next few hours, they may wind up losing both chambers of Congress.

Update: According to the Wall Street Journal, Blumenthal’s staying in (via National Review’s Greg Pollowitz and Allahpundit).  That’s as of 9:15 am ET.  I doubt that will last, however.  Blumenthal won’t have a prayer of winning a statewide election after lying about war service, not even in a liberal state like Connecticut.  The Democrats will push him out of the race unless he comes up with a really good cover story for his serial lies about his war record.  I don’t think PTSD will work, either.


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