If you believe Connecticut Attorney General (and U.S. Senate candidate) Richard Blumenthal, then you believe he simply "misspoke" in claiming--on multiple occasions--that he served as a Marine in Vietnam.
But, thanks to The New York Times, we know Blumenthal's assertion simply wasn't true; in other words, he lied to voters on multiple occasions, depicting himself as a Marine Corps combat veteran of the Vietnam War.
The Times reported that Blumenthal had repeatedly distorted his military service. The story included quotations and a video of Blumenthal saying at a 2008 event that he had "served in Vietnam."
The newspaper also said Blumenthal intimated more than once that he was a victim of the abuse heaped on Vietnam veterans upon their return home.
At a veterans event in Shelton, Conn., for example, he said, "When we returned from Vietnam, I remember the taunts, the verbal and even physical abuse we encountered," according to a 2008 Connecticut Post story.
Blumenthal, 64, joined the Marine Reserve in 1970 and served six years, none of it overseas. He put in much of his time in Washington, where he took part in such projects as fixing a campground and working on a Toys for Tots drive, according to the Times.
He received at least five military deferments that enabled him to stay out of the war between 1965 and 1970, during which time he went to Harvard, studied in England and landed a job in the Nixon White House. Once he secured a spot in the Marine Reserve, he had almost no chance of being sent to Vietnam, the newspaper reported.
Today, Blumenthal tried to publicly defuse the scandal, dismissing the matter as a "few misplaced words." From the AP account of his press conference:
"On a few occasions, I have misspoken about my service and I regret that. And I take full responsibility," said Blumenthal, a trim, square-jawed figure with the bearing of a military man. "But I will not allow anyone to take a few misplaced words and impugn my record of service to our country."
Others--including real Vietnam veterans--might disagree with that characterization. He would never admit it, but with today's mea culpa, Mr. Blumenthal moved to the front ranks of America's military frauds. It's a sad and sorry formation, population by those who never served and those who did wear the uniform, but sought to embellish their military resume.
While the Connecticut attorney general clearly falls into that latter category, it doesn't excuse or lessen his fraud. In fact, there was a certain amount of calculation in his deceit; Mr. Blumenthal clearly believed that a sycophantic press would accept his claims without question, and he carefully constructed his lies (intentionally or unintentionally), to remain outside the confines of the federal Stolen Valor act, which makes it a crime to claim military awards, promotions and honors that were never received. Unlike other phonies, Blumenthal never claimed awards for heroism or battlefield promotions. As far as we can tell, it isn't against the law to claim you served in Vietnam when, in reality, your military career was confined to the CONUS.
Still, the good people of Connecticut deserve better, and if Blumenthal was a man of honor, he'd drop out of the race and resign as attorney general. After all, why should voters put their trust in a man who lied (repeatedly) about his military service for years. And, if he's willing to fib about a relatively brief portion of his career, what else would he be willing to fabricate?
But the Nutmeg State is reliably Democratic, and insiders say Blumenthal will likely capture his party's nomination and remain the front-runner for that Senate seat. That's a rather sad commentary on the electorate in Connecticut, and Richard Blumenthal's serial deceit. But it wouldn't be the first time a state has elected a Senator who has willingly distorted his military record.
We refer, of course, to Tom Harkin of Iowa. Through the years, Mr. Harkin made a number of misleading statements about his service as a Navy pilot in the Vietnam era. At one point, Harkin claimed to have flown "reconnaissance" and "combat patrol" missions over South Vietnam, but later conceded that he was actually a ferry pilot, returning repaired aircraft from a maintenance depot in Japan, to other bases in Southeast Asia.
Perhaps Mr. Harkin could stump for Richard Blumenthal. After all, the would-be Senator doesn't mind the company of men who fudge their military resumes. At yesterday's press conference, he was joined by a number of veterans and other supporters. Among that group was one Elliot Storm, a.k.a. William Joseph Trumpower, a veterans organizer for the Blumenthal campaign.
Unlike the candidate, Mr. Trumpower is a Marine combat veteran of Vietnam. But the "organizer" has also embellished his own military resume over the years, claiming multiple purple hearts (he only received one) and two Bronze Stars with the "V" device. Trumpower also wears the gold bars of a Second Lieutenant, claiming he received a commission through the Marine Corps.
But according to the POW Network, a group that helps expose military frauds, Trumpower was never an officer, and he never received the Bronze Star. Based on FOIA information, here is a listing of Trumpower's actual decorations:
ACTUAL - National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Purple Heart w/1*. Served 11 Oct 1968 to 30 Jan 1970 as a USMC rifleman (MOS 0311). Has enlisted service number (not officer's)
Yet, there stood Trumpower at yesterday's press conference, invited to stand with Blumenthal. It's unclear if the campaign was aware of Mr. Trumpower's phony military claims, but he exposed within minutes by several posters on Free Republic.com, familiar with the database maintained by the POW Network.
At this point, Blumenthal's race has moved from a slam dunk to a toss-up. And, with friends like Elliot Storm/Trumpower hanging around, the military issue will continue to haunt his campaign.
Perhaps Blumenthal could reach out to a Democratic politician who actually served in Vietnam and is proud of his achievements. You know, someone like John Kerry.