Blumenthal service record shakes up Conn Senate race

BLUMENTHAL SERVICE RECORD SHAKES UP CONN SENATE RACE…. When Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) announced his retirement a few months ago, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (D) immediately stepped up and became the frontrunner. With huge leads in statewide polls, Blumenthal would be formally nominated at the state party convention later this week, and was on his way to victory.

A damaging New York Times report has put all of this in jeopardy.

At a ceremony honoring veterans and senior citizens who sent presents to soldiers overseas, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut rose and spoke of an earlier time in his life.

“We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam,” Mr. Blumenthal said to the group gathered in Norwalk in March 2008. “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.”

There was one problem: Mr. Blumenthal, a Democrat now running for the United States Senate, never served in Vietnam.

The NYT report added that Blumenthal has “often” used “misleading” rhetoric to characterize this part of his life. That seems entirely fair — he’s clearly described his service in such a way as to give the wrong impression. Blumenthal spent several years in the Marine Corps Reserves, but thanks to five deferments, he was not deployed overseas, and never saw combat.

That said, the controversy here is not entirely clear cut. Based on the article, it appears the NYT only found one instance in which Blumenthal specifically claimed that he “served in Vietnam.” That’s definitely not true, and he conceded that he “misspoke” when he made those remarks more than two years ago.

But in most other instances, Blumenthal appears to have sliced the truth pretty thin, using language the NYT described as “ambiguous.” For example, at a 2008 ceremony in front of a Veterans War memorial, he said, “I served during the Vietnam era,” which is technically true, though vague, perhaps deliberately so.

If, however, Blumenthal was trying to create a fictional service record, he didn’t try very hard. Just two months ago, in a televised debate, he responded to a question about national security by saying, “Although I did not serve in Vietnam….”

As a rule, people who lie about serving in Vietnam don’t announce on television that they did not serve in Vietnam.

Nevertheless, it would be foolish to deny how embarrassing this story is for Blumenthal. There’s no shortage of questions about what today holds for his Senate campaign: will Dems rally behind him or throw him overboard? With the filing deadline next week, will Blumenthal now face a credible primary opponent? Will veterans’ groups put pressure on him to withdraw?

For what it’s worth, Blumenthal will host a press conference in Connecticut today, standing alongside supportive veterans. Stay tuned.