Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Will Blumenthal Pull a Coakley?

Admiral Jeremy M. Boodra, Chief of Naval Operations, committed suicide on May 16, 1996, 14 years ago. He was the first enlisted sailor to rise to CNO, and the first to rise from the lowest enlisted rank in the Navy to 4 star rank.

Why did he commit suicide? Newsweek was about to charge that he was wearing two Vietnam War combat decorations that he had not earned.

He wrote a letter of apology to “his sailors” for the disgrace. He understood the honor of military service.

His act was, at the worse, an innocent mistake.

He still committed suicide.

Attorney General Blumenthal of Connecticut has consistently misrepresented, if not out and out lied about, serving in Vietnam.

He will probably be the next United States Senator from Connecticut, aptly filling the shoes of Senator Chris Dodd.

Go figure!

Will Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal emulate his Massachusetts colleague, Martha Coakley and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?

In other words, will he choke?

The New York Times yesterday ran a front page story accusing him of misstatements about his military service during Vietnam. It also reported that that he had received 5 deferments from 1965-1970. The story was accompanied by an exceedingly unflattering photo of him.

One link already appears to his public misstatement. Others will emerge.

An earlier New York Times article appeared on April 15, 2010 criticizing his limpid campaign style. He had underwhelmed in a televised debate and then declined to further debate the unknown primary opponent. He also apparently has difficulties answering simple questions during the campaign, and tries to dodge difficult questions.

Someone at the New York Times does not like the Connecticut Attorney General.

Normally all we would need to know is that Blumenthal served in the military. He served honorably in the Marines. He fulfilled his obligation to his country, just as President George W. Bush.

He’s also been publicly very supportive of veterans. That’s highly commendable.

Yet, he has on many occasions hyped his record by claiming to have served in Vietnam, when he had a cushy billet with a Marine reserve unit that was not going to be called up, unlike today’s reserves. He also let the Vietnam service enter the public lore in Connecticut.

Totally unnecessary!

And totally stupid in today’s age when cameras and cell phones capture public and private statements, and when the age of the internet and the Freedom of Information Act allows for the discovery of the truth.

Why? Why embellish his service military? Why lie when no apparent reason exists to?
It’s inexplicable, unless we are witnessing an underlying character flaw.

Perhaps we are. As I write this blog, reports are surfacing that he claimed to be the Captain of the Harvard Swim team, when he wasn’t even on the team.

A number of incidents in recent years warn politicians, coaches, academicians, and executives to clean their resumes. Blumenthal did not pad his resume. He simply hyperventilated his record in public.

He insulted our soldiers, sailors and airmen. By way of contrast, one of the Republicans seeking the GOP nomination is former Congressman Ron Simmons, who served 19 months in Vietnam, and earned 2 Bronze Stars.

Blumenthal’s press conference yesterday was interesting starting with the venue. He symbolically held it at a VFW Hall. The irony apparently escaped him.
Second, he admitted that “On a few occasions, I have misspoken about my service and
I regret that, and I take full responsibility.”

No apology though.

But then he got confrontational, trying to throw it back upon his critics: “I will not allow anyone to take a few misplaced words and impugn my record of service.”

Not total honesty either.

He claims not to know how many deferments he may have received, and that notice wasn’t always given of deferments.

The meaning of life, the literal meaning of life, to young males during Vietnam was their draft status. It often transcended love, sex, beer, and sports.

Blumenthal is smart, very smart, Harvard undergrad, Phi Beta Kappa, magna cum laude, Editor in Chief of the Yale Law Journal. He would have known of his deferment status.

Remember, you had to apply for a deferment, or have a powerful person run interference for you. The Selective Service did not bestow deferments on its own initiative.

He knew.

I understand the deferment game he was playing. That was the norm for Vietnam. Some of our most creative students were brilliant in trying to beat the draft. I understand that.

The happiest day for a classmate of mine was when he secured one of the most prized billets during Vietnam, the Coast Guard Reserve.

(By way of full disclosure, my draft status was 4F because of asthma.)

State attorney generals are very ambitious politicians. They are members of NAAG, the National Association of Attorney Generals. NAAG is also referred to s the National Association of Aspiring Governors and Senators.

Blumenthal patiently waited for a senate seat to open up. This is his turn.

He is the anointed successor to Senator Chris Dodd. He’s been Connecticut’s Attorney general for 20 years. He has name recognition statewide, and is running as a Democrat in an almost solid blue state. Like Coakley, he’s ready for the swearing in ceremony.

Like Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, he misrepresented the extent of his service in Vietnam.

And now he comes across as just another self-embellishing, out of touch politico. He could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

The public is fed up with ethically challenged politicians.

If many other clips emerge, Blumenthal will suffer the death of a 1,000 cuts.

He’s becoming the butt of jokes. For example, what’s the different between Jane Fonda and Richard Blumenthal?

Fonda went to Vietnam.

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