Slate staffers on Richard Blumenthal's Vietnam lies.

Slate staffers on Richard Blumenthal's Vietnam lies.

Slate staffers on Richard Blumenthal's Vietnam lies.

Conversations in real time.
May 18 2010 12:42 PM


Is lying about military service worse than lying about an affair?

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Was Blumenthal careful enough not to have this kill his candidacy? He was in the Marines during Vietnam in a way. He wasn't directly lying in every instance the NYT cites, just being misleading. Then there's the flat-out lie about being captain of the swim team. I'm betting these won't be the only two things.

Historian Joseph Ellis got caught really telling whoppers about Vietnam. Is there anyone else caught this way?

Dickerson: Darrow "Duke" Tully, publisher of the Arizona Republic and McCain friend, lied about being in the Air Force during Korea and Vietnam.

Josh Levin: In 1999, Toronto Blue Jays manager Tim Johnson got fired for lying about serving in Vietnam. He told his players made-up stories about his battle experience to get them fired up for games. Turned out he was in the Marine Corps reserves. He also said he was a basketball star who'd been offered a basketball scholarship to UCLA. Blumenthal ripped off this guy's whole fake résumé!


More Vietnam liars: Brian Dennehy, David Duke, Tom Harkin, Joseph Ellis.

Larimore: Isn't it also the case that Vietnam is the last war that we'll have this kind of problem with? It was the last war with a draft, for one, to create tensions between the privileged with their deferments and everyone else. And with the exception of the brief first Gulf War, it was the last war fought pre-Google. Anyone who tried to brag about serving in Afghanistan or Iraq would be figured out in about five minutes.

Dickerson: What if being a politician is what causes this? You spend so much time faking enthusiasm and interest and deep friendships (I love Arlen Specter!) that you live a day of constant embellishments.

For those of us not in politics it seems like there's a huge gap between saying "I did A" and actively avoiding A. How could a person say something so far from the truth without being twisted deep insider? But when making stuff up is part of your job, maybe you start from a different base line. Remember Hillary Clinton and the Bosnia sniper fire? (Which, I'll remind, was once offered by Barack Obama's campaign as disqualification from office.) You see this all the time on the campaign trail where politicians add a little more to a story at each campaign stop. If campaigns were any longer, they'd end up with a kung-fu fight and a marching band.

Or it's like being a writer like Edmund Morris or even Barack Obama, who made the story better where it needed to be in Dreams From My Father.

The only problem is that Blumenthal is an AG who is supposed to go the other way, getting very specific about things.

Emily Bazelon: From Connecticut, it all feels over-determined. Blumenthal has been the boy wonder for so long that as he aged out of boyishness, Democrats wondered if he'd ever do them the favor of running for higher office. Now here he is, screwing up his campaign with weird exaggerations/lies about the bygone era of Vietnam, of all things. His statements obviously and sort of pathetically contradict his own public record. John, I think you're right about the parallel with Hillary saying she'd been under sniper fire. Politicians are supposed to be covered in glory. Blumenthal didn't have real war glory to cover himself in, so at particular moments he got carried away by the image he wanted to project and pretended. You're allowed to do that in front of your mirror but not to an audience. Even (especially) if you're the favorite son.

Slate V: Blumenthal admits he misspoke about his military record

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