Sunday, May 23, 2010

Flanders Field, Politics and Dishonesty

Due to the strange way in which my mind works, FDChief's Flanders Field post set me to thinking about a recent event in the news. It seems that the voters of Connecticut have finally wised up about Chris Dodd, their long-time Democratic senator, and they've decided that his years-long coziness with the banking industry has gone too far. Dodd's specialized in regulatory matters with regard to the banks for years now, and it seems even his own party believes he's just become too much a housepet for the guys who helped ruin the economy. So Dodd's quitting. Nobody will pass this guy, a poster child for politicians who forget whom they serve, but it's clearly in the interests of the Democrats that they retain his seat in the Senate.

Enter Richard Blumenthal, the long-time and popular Connecticut Democratic Attorney General. He's going for Dodd's seat and he's got everything going for him. Me, I don't know much about the Blumenthal, but I do know that I'd generally rather see the Democrats retain Dodd's seat. I'm down on the Republicans, so even though I don't get a vote in Connecticut, I generally think my best interests would be served by Blumenthal being elected. Only one problem here that I can see.

It turns out that Blumenthal is a liar. He's a Vietnam veteran wannabe and he's allowed the citizens of Connecticut to think he actually went off to war: Yeah, Mr. Blumenthal is a Vietnam combat wannabe. Now, I'm not quite sure why anybody cares that much at this late date, but he clearly feels lacking in some important respects. So lacking in fact, that he's essentially lived a dishonest public life. One also must wonder how he's presented himself to his wife, his kids, his friends, etc. He's clearly let the public record reflect combat service on his part, combat service that never happened; has he done this with his closer associates and family?

The Democratic party establishment is scrambling right now, trying to put the best face possible on this. They blame the NY Times for somehow missing a bunch of nuances in what this guy's said, they blame the Republicans for feeding the Times (the Republicans say, "no," BTW), they blame everyone but the lying dog who caused this entire mess. It's pretty simple, Mr. Blumenthal. You either went. Or you didn't. No amount of parsing your words—yes, he's an attorney—can change that fact.

The NY Times today carries a little more, an analysis by their public editor of what the Times reported, and what Blumenthal has said:
Unsurprisingly, the public editor concluded that the Times didn't do anything wrong. And I agree. The Times simply reported what this guy has said.

Ah, Vietnam. Damn, nobody wanted to go at the time, especially not anyone who had money or was connected, but now there are a whole bunch of guys in their 60s who (1) wished they'd gone; and (2) actually lie about it. I did a little research and it turns out there are web sites devoted to "outing" the incredible number of phonies and liars there are out there. It's gotten to the point where I'm also—not quite—glad I spent a couple of tours there; I get bragging rights among old dudes. Some are even envious of me, if you can believe that. Might even get some babes if I weren't too old to do anything about it. Everybody loves me now and I don't care. Actually, my friend, Jim the Ranger, can tell you what my response is to this all of this horseshit.

Blumenthal. As I say, I can't vote for or against this guy. I also believe it might be best for the nation for that Dodd seat to stay in Democratic hands. But would I advise anyone in Connecticut to vote for him? Nah. He would have been fine if he'd just told the truth. He was a draft dodger and he found a safe haven in the Reserves. That particular story hasn't hurt any politicians we've seen lately. You can even be president as a draft dodger. But that wasn't good enough for Blumenthal. He had to make the story better. So I'd tell any Connecticut voter to ask him or herself if they would feel comfortable with voting for a man who's clearly so uncomfortable in his own skin that he feels compelled to lie about a pretty important thing in the past.

Forty or more years later. The past always comes back to bite you in the ass.


  1. I've read a bit about this and I guess what amazes me the most is his arrogance or stupidity (or maybe both) that he thought he could run for the US Senate and not be called on those statements. Blumenthal, dude, WTF were you thinking?

  2. According to what I've read, Blumenthal took to lying about his military service only fairly recently (perhaps the last 1-2 years).

    Everyone has a tender spot, a pet peeve, a carefully cultivated prejudice - whatever you wish to call it - and this one is mine. The only thing I can say for him is that he didn't claim to have seen bloody battle and come home with more medals than Chesty Puller.

    His Republican opponent is certainly no prize. If our candidates are a reflection of the citizenry, and I think they are, this country is in very deep trouble.

    Jay in N.C.

  3. His Republican opponent is certainly no prize. If our candidates are a reflection of the citizenry, and I think they are, this country is in very deep trouble.


  4. "If our candidates are a reflection of the citizenry, and I think they are, this country is in very deep trouble."

    BAck when I was about to make my first trip to the polls, my uncle made a comment about how frightening it was to vote. Being 21 and innocent about this (long before 18 year olds could vote), I said, "Uncle Vince, it is a very heavy responsibility, isn't it."

    "Hell, that's not what is frightening", he said. "Just listen to the mindless drivel being urgently discussed while your neighbors wait in line to vote. If that's the mentality choosing the guys who control our nuclear weapons, for example, it frightening."

    Thanks for the Onion article, Andy. Very funny, but truly spot on satire. Sort of a voice from the grave from Uncle Vince!

  5. I would not vote for the man.

    But then I have an issue with the Times also. They state that the Reserves were a ticket out of Vietnam - not true. Many if not most Marine Reserve units served in Nam. 27th Marines, a Reserve infantry regiment served there, and elements of 26th Marines also. A battalion from the 13th Marines, a Reserve artillery regiment served at Khe Sanh. And there were lots of small cats-and-dog Reserve detachments with differing specialties not found in active duty units that served there also. As I recall the majority (if not all) of the Civil Affairs effort by the Marines in I Corps in Vietnam was done by Reservists.

    I do not know about the Army Reserves but Marine Reserve units were never a haven from service in-country like George Bush's Air National Guard unit which was banned by law from serving overseas. The Times has done the Reserves and the American public a disservice by their sloppy reporting. Where were they in 2000 when Bush was getting a free ride? Where were they when Judy Miller was planting Cheney/Chalabi BS on their front page in the run-up to Iraq?


  6. Mike-

    The 13th, 26th and 27th Marines are of the 5th MarDiv, which was reactivated during Viet Nam as a regular division, not a reserve unit. The 4th MarDiv (USMCR) (23rd, 24th, 25th and 14th Marines) was not activated for RVN.

    In the main, LBJ made very minor use of the reserve components during RVN. However, I had the pleasure of working with an artillery battalion of the New Hampshire NG that was among the very best in our corps area.


  7. I remember when this became an issue in the Clinton years. Seemed silly to me then and it seems silly now. Going to war was a real problem then - lots of guys saw no point in getting into a foreign civil war - and IMO we've done outselves no favors in whitewashing that with the "support the troops" rhetoric.

    There were a lot of things I wish Bill Clinton had been a better man about - instead of the sort of skeevy politician always looking for a weasel word or a slick way around a problem - and this was one of the biggest. I think the best thing in the world would have been for him to have manned up and, when he was asked about Vietnam, said; "Y'know, boys, I thought the war was a mistake then and I still think that. Which in no way takes away from what it took for our guys - and their guys - to have the sack to go and fight like a bunch of mad motherfuckers for twelve years...or forty years, for the Viet boys. But I didn't like the idea of getting my balls blown off fighting in a Vietnamese civil war, so I made some choices that made that possible. What I DO regret is that a lot of other kids who didn't want to get THEIR balls blown off did, and a lot of that had to do with people like me who took the easy way out instead of standing up for what we thought was right and fighting to END that war sooner. Some kids did that, and I respect the hell out of them for it.

    So if you went and fought there, good on you. If you fought here, protested, went to jail rather than went to Vietnam to try and stop the war, good on you, too. Shame on those of us, like me, who took the easy way out. But a lot of us who could, did, and it's time to stop pretending otherwise."

    Maybe that way we could face up to the fact that lots of guys DON'T want to go to war and a lot of them that did, did it with all the "heroism" and grace of a guy trapped on a moving escalator. And idiots like this skeevy pol could concentrate on lying about stuff like how much he'll suck up to his rich contributors and not have to lie about a thirty year old war...

  8. Aviator -

    Yes the 5th Mar Div was activated, and at that time the regiments were populated with both reservists and active duty personnel. When they were activated I served with Joey Wolfe who volunteered for duty with 27th Marines as there were not enough reserve NCOs in the ranks. His squad except for him and one Corporal were all reservists.

    Later in-country I served in an intel unit staffed with reserves as well as active duty. These guys were not dropouts who had been activated for disciplinary reasons for missing too many duty weekends. They were activated en masse as there were not enough of their specialties on active duty.

    I also resent the Times article implication about this guys unit being a slimy do-nothing organization because they participated in 'Toys for Tots'. Yes, he is a slime but not his reserve unit. All Marine Reserve units (100%) participate in that program around Christmastime, and they do it on their own personal time not as part of their duty requirement. There may not be a Toys for Tots program near you in Greece, but there is certainly one in Portland near Chief and in Beaufort or Savannah near Publius and in Florida near Ranger and elsewhere around the country. The program was never unique to whatever reserve unit that Blumenthal served in.


  9. mike: The ARNG and USAR record in the RVN is pretty slim. A very tiny number of units were activated and sent, and those that went served well and (where they were combat arms) fought well.

    Most of the RC, however, WAS a refuge for those who wanted to keep from getting their balls blown off but didn't want to run to Canada, go underground or jail. I had to laugh when we had a retired COL who had been an O-3 battery commander come to give us a recruiting pep-talk back in '01 or so about how his battery had always been at 110% of authorized, by God, and all we needed to do was show the flag a little more and the Boys would come flocking to the colors.

    Of course, the fucker was BC between 1967 and 1969. I've talked to guys who were in my old FA battalion back then and it sounded like a hell of a sweet deal: drive to Yakima once a month, set up a firing position and shoot Saturday morning and early afternoon, and then the "expend all remaining rounds" command would come down the the party start. The hangovers typically lasted until Monday morning...

    Nobody wanted to rock the boat, nobody wanted out...just a sweet bunch of guys happy to be defending the Homeland from Vietnamese aggression...

  10. Mike-

    I participated in Toys for Tots as a Marine, and know the program well. You don't have to defend it to me. The program, IIRC, dates back to the early 50's and is a great benefit to needy kids.


  11. To all,
    I like to believe that all men would fight for our country IF the threat were real Even Bill and George.
    Rather than atk individuals i atk the system.
    We have lost touch with reality in all DOD/DOS priorities and this is due to lightweight civilian leadership that lacks focus and cohesion.
    Now for my bullshit- how can a non entity like HRC be setting a hawk like poicy????? Where'd she grow the balls?
    Certainly they didn't rub offa Bubba.
    mike, it's nice to hear you still kickin'