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Most readers here know there has been some blowback from Richard Blumenthal's U.S. Senate campaign after the New York Times published facts regarding his Vietnam-era military service. The Times reported inconsistencies in the way that service has been described over the years, by Blumenthal and by various reporters.

I know nothing else about Richard Blumenthal, so I can't say whether he would make a good Senator, but I'm troubled by his supporters' defense of his errors of omission.

Plainspoken, it's a weak excuse for him to blame his troubles on "misplaced words." I'm embarrassed that a few (only a few) Democrats are defending his actions. Really, is there a difference between Dick Cheney's draft-dodging and Blumenthal's draft-dodging?

Lying just once is still lying, and he apparently did little to clarify the facts for those sloppy reporters who misread his carefully crafted descriptions about his military service. Maybe that's not Blumenthal's job, but I would want someone a little more proactive representing me in the Senate.

A close relative of mine joined the Reserves at 17 as our troops were coming home from Vietnam. He is a "Vietnam era veteran" by about 3 months, but he would never imply to anyone that he was part of the military effort in Vietnam. He served in Iraq and Kuwait during the Gulf War, and probably identifies himself rightly as a Gulf War veteran, though like many veterans, chooses not to talk about his war experiences in public.

Blumenthal (legally) gamed the system, taking multiple deferments and finally landing a coveted spot in the Marine Corps Reserves, which at that time was considered a safe haven from combat duty. The fact that the Reserves were filled with sons of rich people, professional athletes, and others with influence was just a coincidence (wink, wink.)

The phrase he often used to describe himself, "Vietnam era veteran", is technically true, but does not give him free reign to use "we" when talking about the Marines who actually went to Vietnam. If he wants to use "we" when describing his bravery running the "Toys for Tots" program, no problem.

Apparently there were times when Blumenthal was quite clear about his military record - but at least a few instances where he was unnecessarily vague. The ethical and respectful thing for him to have done was never mention the word Vietnam when describing his service. He was never there and he did everything he could to avoid going there. He is not a Vietnam veteran, and his riding the coattails of those who are, even if he only did it a few times, is dishonorable. Forgivable, but wrong.

Originally posted to Giles Goat Boy on Wed May 19, 2010 at 08:14 AM PDT.

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