Blumenthal is Right, Trump is Wrong

This morning, our president woke up and decided to trash Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut because Blumenthal revealed that Trump’s Supreme Court nominee told him privately that he found the president’s attacks on the judiciary “demoralizing” and “disheartening.”

It’s fair to say that Sen. Blumenthal successfully avoided serving in Vietnam. Instead, much like Dick Cheney, he received five military deferments between 1965 and 1970. And much like Dan Quayle, he was able to meet his military obligation by landing a job in our reserves: “He served in United States Marine Corps Reserve units in Washington, D.C. and Connecticut from 1970 to 1976. He attained the rank of sergeant and received an honorable discharge at the end of his enlistment.” It’s also fair to say that Blumenthal has, on at least two occasions, given speeches in which he left the impression that he actually did serve in Vietnam.

The most well known of these examples came in 2008 when he said, “We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam.” That seemed like an open and shut case of lying until people read the entire speech and realized that prior to making the above comment he had said that he “served in the military during the Vietnam era in the Marine Corps.” The latter comment was accurate, although admittedly open to misinterpretation. Blumenthal said he misspoke, and the best evidence to support him is that he’s made many speeches about his military service and in only one other known case did he make any questionable claims. That other case happened in 2003 when he suggested that he was among those who “returned home” from Vietnam.

A search of The Day’s electronic archives on Monday night turned up no articles in which Blumenthal suggested he had served in Vietnam.

The remarks in Norwalk, and another comment in 2003 that suggested Blumenthal had been among those who “returned home” from Vietnam, were rare errors among hundreds of speeches he has given before veterans groups, Blumenthal and the veterans who joined him on Tuesday said.

The campaign also noted that Blumenthal has explicitly stated the correct details of his service in his official state biography, on his campaign website and literature, and in previous profile articles.

I was critical of Dick Cheney’s five deferments because he was so eager to have other people fight in wars of choice but had done everything he could to avoid doing so himself. I wasn’t initially critical of Dan Quayle pulling strings to land a spot in the Indiana National Guard, but it became an issue when Bill Clinton was attacked for avoiding the war in Vietnam. As far as I know, Richard Blumenthal cannot be accused of being a warmonger and hasn’t attacked anyone for inadequate military service. Still, he is a trained attorney who knows the importance of words, and he deserves to take a hit for what appears to have been a deliberate attempt to leave a false impression that he is Vietnam veteran. Had a Republican made the same mistake, I certainly wouldn’t give them a pass.

But Donald Trump is not the man to take exception to Blumenthal’s remarks. Trump also received five deferments during Vietnam. Additionally, he obtained a medical exception for “a problem with his heels.”

The fall after he graduated, Trump was granted a 1-Y medical deferment due to a foot condition.

“I had a doctor that gave me a letter — a very strong letter on the heels,” he told The New York Times.

“They were [heel] spurs,” Trump said of his condition. “You know, it was difficult from the long-term walking standpoint. [It was] not a big problem, but it was enough of a problem.”

Heel spurs are bone protrusions caused by calcium buildup. The condition is typically treated through stretching, orthotics and, at times, surgery.

“Over a period of time, it healed up,” Trump said.

At least he wasn’t a litterbug, right?

As for Trump’s accusation that Blumenthal “lied for years” about serving in Vietnam, that’s so grossly distorted as to be inaccurate. And, at this point, Trump is the most famous liar on the planet, so if lying is a character flaw he’s got the hugest one in this sector of the Solar System.

But there’s another problem with Trump’s attack. He’s saying that Blumenthal doesn’t have credibility and his account of his conversation with Judge Gorsuch cannot be believed. It’s “FAKE NEWS!” But Blumenthal’s account has been corroborated by an interesting source:

Blumenthal told reporters Wednesday that Judge Neil Gorsuch called Trump’s tweets attacking federal judges “disheartening” and “demoralizing.”

A spokesman for Gorsuch later confirmed to CNN that the judge used the terms when describing Trump’s tweets during his meeting with the Connecticut Democrat.

Despite the confirmation by Gorsuch’s spokesman, Trump tweeted Thursday morning that those weren’t the judge’s true feelings.

So, Gorsuch’s spokesman confirms that Gorsuch finds Trump’s attacks on judiciary “demoralizing” and “disheartening” and therefore this isn’t FAKE NEWS!

Meanwhile, Blumenthal thinks we’re heading for “a constitutional crisis” which is true in more ways than one.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.