As if Democrats didn’t have enough problems this election year, another blue-state Senate seat has come into play. With Republicans poised to win back seats in notoriously blue states like Delaware, Illinois, and perhaps even California, they can now add Connecticut to their list of strong possibilities. This opportunity comes amid a brewing scandal surrounding the state’s Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal and his past statements about his service (or lack thereof) during the Vietnam War. Blumenthal is currently the leading Democrat in the race for Connecticut’s open Senate seat.
All last year, Democrats were worried about their chances of holding onto this particular seat, which is being vacated by longtime Democratic Senator Chris Dodd. Dodd was plagued with ethical scandals, some surrounding his role in the subprime mortgage crisis. When Dodd announced his retirement in January, Democrats rejoiced and the popular Attorney General was quickly brought in to defend the seat. Most political analysts have been rating this race as “safe” for the Democrats. That is, until this week.
Blumenthal has come under fire for “misrepresentations” he has made about his military record with regard to Vietnam. “Misrepresentations” can be a nice political way of saying “lies.” In the past, Blumenthal had repeatedly brought up his “service” in Vietnam as a means of relating to real veterans and boosting his credibility with the general public. However, the Connecticut Attorney General now admits that, perhaps, he “misspoke” in the past about such service. It turns out that, contrary to a statement he made before an audience in 2008, he didn’t actually serve in Vietnam during the war, but in the U.S.-based Marine Corps Reserves, after seeking a handful of deferments. While such service is nothing to scoff at, the fact that Blumenthal deliberately misrepresented his service is not something that should go ignored.
This isn’t the first time Democrats and Republicans have had to reopen the wounds of the Vietnam War. When he was running for president in 2004, Senator John Kerry (D-MA) famously touted his service in Vietnam as often as he could on the campaign trail. When a group of fellow veterans, calling themselves the “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth,” called Kerry’s service into question – specifically, many of the things he claimed to have done in Vietnam that weren’t quite accurate – the Democratic establishment rushed to silence these critics. Kerry tried to play the victim to their attacks. He tried to turn the tables on his opponent, President Bush, by doing the very thing he complained people were doing to him – questioning his service during that conflict.
Blumenthal, so long as he remains a candidate in this race, will likely do the same thing. At the moment, he has not just one, but three potential Republican opponents. So, right now, he is speaking in hypothetical terms, saying that, while he may have “misspoke” in the past with regard to his service in/during Vietnam, he will not let anyone impugn his service to the country.
Fair enough, but what about the lie?
The issue shouldn’t be what Blumenthal did or didn’t do with regard to Vietnam in 1970, but the fact that he lied about it in 2010. While politicians fudge the truth religiously, this is something that is a little too big to ignore. Most people would remember whether or not they actually fought in a war. Most people would have no trouble choosing their words to explain such service, or resorting to lawyer-tricks of parsing words, speculating on what they really mean or could have meant.
Miraculously, many Democrats in 2008 were able to accept that then-Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton was confused about whether she ran from sniper fire when she visited Bosnia as the First Lady in the 1990’s. They were able to accept her “fabrication,” just as they were able to accept many of Kerry’s alleged fabrications in 2004. Never mind that the media, via 60 Minutes, actually tried to create a news story that questioned President Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard during Vietnam, based on phony evidence, a few weeks before the election that year. It seems that Republicans’ records are always held to a standard of strict scrutiny, while Democrats get to play with the facts from time to time.
If Blumenthal had no problem lying about his military record – a disservice to every veteran that actually served in Vietnam – then he would likely have no problem lying about any important matter that might come before him as a future senator. While politicians not telling the truth is about as common as sunshine in San Diego, it should not be something that is simply swept under the rug when they are caught.
The mainstream media might not want to do its homework when its own side (the left) is the one under attack, but, luckily voters are smarter than that. Recent polls taken on the Connecticut race have found it to have dramatically tightened within the last week, with Blumenthal falling as much as 30 points against one of his potential opponents, Linda McMahon, since the last poll was taken on that matchup.
Time will tell to see if the Democrats are ready to weather this political storm, when there is still more than five months left before Election Day. After all, as anyone can attest from everyday experience, trust is a difficult thing to gain back once it’s lost. Perhaps, it’s not so difficult in Washington, D.C.