“To fib is human,” said John Schwartz in The New York Times. But for Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, it may also be a career killer. Blumenthal, who appeared destined to win a U.S. Senate seat in November, was forced to admit last week that he has occasionally embellished his military record, suggesting publicly that he had served “in” Vietnam when in fact he had served stateside in the Marine Reserve during the war. “On a few occasions, I have misspoken about my service,” Blumenthal said, “and for that I take full responsibility.” Blumenthal, 64, now begs our pardon, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. But as a publicity-hungry prosecutor in the mold of the now-disgraced Eliot Spitzer, “he has accused hundreds of people and businesses” of fraud for statements “less egregious than his own untruthful claims.” Clearly, Blumenthal lacks the “character” the public has a right to expect in a U.S. senator.
That’s far too harsh, said Margaret Carlson in Bloomberg.com. All of Blumenthal’s campaign and biographical material states his military service correctly, and until his recent exaggerations, he did so in speeches, too. His reputation, till now, has been that of a straight arrow with an incredible record of achievement: magna cum laude at Harvard, editor of the Yale Law Journal, a Supreme Court clerkship, White House aide, and then a successful political career. Unlike many politicians who were eligible (Dick Cheney and Bill Clinton come to mind), he actually served in the military during Vietnam. So why the recent deception? My guess is that he was acting “not from the pathology of the liar but from that of the perfectionist who wanted to erase the blemish only he could see.”
Blumenthal’s hardly the first politician to put a spin on his military record, said Jonathan Turley in NYTimes.com. President Ronald Reagan told Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir that his U.S. Army unit helped liberate the Nazi concentration camps, even though Reagan spent his service making war movies in Hollywood. For politicians, military service during some critical period in history validates their manhood and casts them in a new light—“not some self-serving egomaniac but a selfless public servant.” Lying about serving in Vietnam does cast Blumenthal in a new light, said Kathleen Parker in The Washington Post, and it’s not flattering. “Real heroes never brag, and real Marines don’t lie.”