WE’VE SEEN THIS (AND WORSE) BEFORE…. Following up on an earlier item, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (D) clearly has a problem on his hands, after misleading rhetoric about his Vietnam-era military service. As far as the political implications go, there’s one key question: is this controversy survivable, or is it a career-killer?
We’ll know fairly quickly whether Blumenthal can persevere — either he and his campaign will be effective in responding to this, or it won’t. Blumenthal hasn’t been tested much as a candidate, and this will clearly constitute the biggest test of his professional life.
But speaking generally, it’s not unreasonable to think a politician can survive — and even thrive — after a controversy like this one. One particularly high-profile figure comes to mind.
Remember George W. Bush?
You may recall, for example, that when Bush launched an unsuccessful congressional campaign, he claimed to have “served in the U.S. Air Force.” That was clearly not true.
In 2002, Bush claimed that he’d “been to war.” That was clearly not true, either.
In many instances, Bush claimed to have completed his obligations to the Texas Air National Guard. Again, that wasn’t true.
In 2007, Bush claimed to have “firsthand” experience with the consequences of combat. That, at a minimum, is misleading.
My point here is not to rehash the former president’s deceptive descriptions of his military service. My point is that a politician can be caught misleading voters about a service record, and still do very well on Election Day. In Bush’s case, he made dishonest claims about serving, and managed to nevertheless get elected president — twice.
Update: Bush also claimed in his ghost-written auto-biography that he “continued flying with” his unit for “the next several years” after completing pilot training in 1970. That wasn’t true, either.