NEWS BLOG (WSAU) A candidate for U.S. Senate from Connecticut is in political trouble for over-stating his military service.
As a reporter in Connecticut I’ve covered Richard Blumenthal dozens of times. I’ve done telephone interviews with him, I’ve covered his news conferences and speeches, and I’ve done several extended one-on-one sit down interviews with him. His service, or lack of service, in Vietnam never came up. He was Connecticut's Attorney General at the time. Topics like foreign policy, the military, or his past service in the Marine Corps weren't the kinds of things you'd ask a state AG about.
Richard Blumenthal is in the news today for being deceptive about his military service during the Vietnam War. He’s given some speeches were he claims he served overseas. In fact he was in the Marine Reserves from 1965 and 1970, and received multiple deferments to keep from being deployed to Southeast Asia. He is quoted in some speeches as saying “when I served in Vietnam…” There’s no question he said it; it’s on tape. There are other speeches were Blumenthal’s words are more ambiguous, but are chosen to deceive. He talks about “lessons learned in Vietnam” that he “learned from serving in the military during that time.” Audiences have said afterwards they were left with the impression that Blumenthal served in combat.
To the public, Blumenthal built a reputation as a consumer champion as Attorney General. He filed lawsuits against banks over ATM charges, and won lawsuits over bait-and-switch retail practices. He was considered one of the state's brightest legal minds.
But many Connecticut Democrats were also frustrated with Blumenthal because he had tremendous name recognition but was always reluctant to run for higher offer. When Republican John Rowland was removed from office on public corruption charges, Blumenthal would have been the frontrunner if he got into the race. He didn’t, and the Governor’s office stayed in GOP hands for another four years. Blumenthal was also talked about for Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court, or for a federal judgeship at the end of Bill Clinton’s term. Each time, he sent out word that he wasn’t interested. Maybe Richard Blumenthal knew that he was already on the record as stretching the truth about his service in Vietnam. Maybe he knew that his words wouldn’t hold up to scrutiny. That’s exactly what happened.
Blumenthal still has tremendous name recognition and a lot of personal popularity in Connecticut. But now voters have to weigh if they want to send someone to Capital Hill who can’t always be trusted. Suddenly Richard Blumenthal seems a lot like the people who are already in Washington.
Operations Manager, Midwest Communications-Wausau