A month ago, the New York Times exposed Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s serial exaggerations and fabulism regarding his military service in the Vietnam era. Blumenthal had on several occasions either implied or outright claimed that he had served in Vietnam during the war, when in fact he had never left the US at all. The Democratic nominee for the US Senate had also characterized his service as “active duty,” when the only active duty Blumenthal served was while in training. For the most part, however, these revelations didn’t disturb his standing in the polls, and Democrats heaved a sigh of relief … until this week.
Blumenthal attempted to put the best possible spin on the controversy in an interview this week with the Connecticut Mirror, which prompted a second look at Blumenthal’s claims by the New York Times yesterday. At the center of the new spin was a claim by Blumenthal to the Mirror that his recollection of his draft number was that it was high enough to keep him from being drafted, and that therefore his enlistment in the Marine Reserves was motivated entirely by a desire for patriotic service:
Blumenthal, whose educational and employment deferrals kept him out of the draft from 1965 to 1970, joined the Marine Reserves in 1970, when he says his draft number was probably high enough to keep him out of the military. He said he does not remember, however, the number he drew in the draft lottery.
According to a table published by the Selective Service System, Blumenthal’s birth date of Feb. 13 was the 152nd date drawn in the December 1969 lottery, which covered men born from 1944 to 1950. Blumenthal was born in 1946. The highest lottery number called for possible induction was 195.
Well, Blumenthal may recall that differently, though. And if he was mistaken at the time about his draft number, his explanation would still hold, right? Unfortunately, Blumenthal himself has refuted that explanation. In an Associated Press profile of Richard Blumenthal from October 5, 2002 titled “The Enigma of Connecticut’s Most Public Public Official,” Blumenthal admitted that he knew he had a low draft number, emphasis mine:
At a time when American youths were burning draft cards, Blumenthal enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserves. He said he enlisted because he had a “pretty low draft number.”
Blumenthal did not go to Vietnam. Records from the Marines, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, said he performed no active duty, although recruits are technically on active duty while training.
Blumenthal insists he did six months of active duty. With the Marines, he studied administration and was classified as an “Admin Man.”
Even back then, his explanations didn’t add up. At any rate, Blumenthal’s sudden inability to remember his draft number and the reason for his enlistment — which he recalled with clarity less than eight years ago — is yet another clumsy attempt to get himself off the hook for his fabrications in the years since. Neither the Mirror nor the Times bought that explanation; both researched the claim and found it dubious. This admission from October 2002 should once and for all confirm Blumenthal’s lack of honesty and integrity on this issue.
One more time, though, let’s make clear what exactly is at issue. Service in the Marine Reserves was and is honorable service to the nation. Using legal deferments to put off or avoid military service during the draft era is nothing more than working within the system to meet one’s goals. Lying about the nature and conditions of one’s service and doing so repeatedly, however, exposes Blumenthal as a man who probably doesn’t deserve the public’s trust in high positions. If he’s continuing to lie about this, what happens when Blumenthal gets to the Senate? Are we to believe he’ll suddenly transform into a modern-day George Washington at the cherry tree?
Update: I should have consulted Jules Crittenden on writing the headline.