By now, we've all heard the scandal with Dick Blumenthal in Connecticut. What's clear is that he made some misleading statements ("served during Vietnam"), and told some outright lies ("in Vietnam", "when we returned from Vietnam"), along with some clearer ones ("I did not serve in Vietnam"). What's also clear is that the NYT article was somewhat of a hit piece, with ties to the McMahon campaign.
Also, you should have all by now seen Dale Peterson's Alabama Ag Commissioner ad, along with the even more hillarious Funny or Die parody. If not, go googling and watch them, post-haste.
But one part of the original video caught my interest, and reading comments about the video on various sites, I found I was not the only one to notice it. Peterson says he was "a Marine during Vietnam". He served from 1963-1967, that much is clear. But a quick poke around the internet makes it hard to discover whether he served in combat, or whether he's doing a Blumenthal. Granted, he doesn't say "in", meaning he avoids an outright lie and the worst of the outrage that could be directed at Blumenthal, but I still wonder. If he has being doing this, and there's been no media attention, is this yet more IOKIYAR about military service?
The following page gives more details about Peterson's "linguistic ju-jitsu" with his service, and also notes that some media sources did then mischaracterise his words as "in Vietnam", apparantly without correction from Peterson, which Blumenthal was criticised for when the media did the same with his statements.
One poster on a site pointed out that a pic of some dog tags appears in first second of the ad, and says "Peterson, K.P" (with religion/blood type obscured by another Marine insignia/badge of some sort, I'm not an expert in such things). According to Wikipedia, there was a Dale K. Peterson who commanded the USS Guadalcanal (launched in 1963), though the ship was in the Atlantic during the war. The names and date might just be coincidence. If not, and it was the same Dale Peterson, then isn't commanding a ship impressive enough, and why risk the wrath of media, post-Blumenthal, with the Vietnam reference?
If he did genuinely serve in Vietnam, and especially if he served in combat there, I apologize profusely to Peterson for questioning his record unfairly. But if not, this concerns me. What Blumenthal said was wrong, but for Peterson to do something similar (if not quite as bad- Peterson never said "in", as I mentioned) is not right either, and is simply downright stupid to do in the wake of the press criticism of Blumenthal, which should of been an example to other candidates.
Moreover, it's mystifying why Blumenthal, Peterson or any other candidate would make misleading statements about their service- not only does it cause them political pain if they are uncovered, the time when everyone thought that military/combat service was a massive political plus should long since have passed. Yes, it can speak to character and patriotism. And yes, some candidates and current office-holders are admired for their service and may have been helped by it as a result; Patrick Murphy and Joe Sestak on our side, for example. But generally, the facts are there. In the last five presidential elections, the candidate with the weaker record on military service won. Even in 2004, when Kerry's Silver Star did have the potential to be a plus-point for him against drug-addled part-time Guardsman Bush, the GOP went Rovian and turned it into a negative. In 2002 in Georgia, Khe Sanh amputee Max Cleland was still smeared by 5-deferments Chambliss. 5-deferments Cheney is still treated by the media, if not quite by the public, as a national security expert. Of 60 "Fighting Dems" with military experience who ran in the 2006 midterms, 5 (Webb, Murphy, Carney, Sestak and Walz) prevailed, and Jon Powers, Charlie Brown, Ashwin Madia and countless others fought the good fight and lost in 2008. If you've got military service, by all means, cite it as experience, and it will sometimes help politically, but by no means is it an instant winner. But if not, or if the service you do have is not quite as "impressive" as you would like it sound, why lie or mislead? All pain, no gain.