Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Richard Blumenthal: Lies and Misstatements

“Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practice to deceive”
Sir Walter Scott

Depend on it: God keeps his word even when the whole world is lying through its teeth.
Romans 3:4 (The Message)

Richard Blumenthal, a candidate for the United States Senate, and the Attorney General of Connecticut since the first George Bush was President, gave a speech to a Veterans group in which he referenced the time when he was in Viet Nam. Which would not be memorable, except for the fact that he did not serve in Viet Nam (and the speech is preserved on You-tube).

Other times he spoke in ways that would lead one to believe he had been in Viet Nam, without actually saying it explicitly. He didn’t precisely lie on those occasions, but he made misleading statements.

In fact, he was in the Marine Corps Reserves. Those of us who lived through that era know how difficult that time was. We remember the bitter divisions. Some opposed the war and went anyway, others dodged the draft, and those with connections were able to get into the reserves and stay far from the dangers of war without actually dodging the draft. Some who supported the war in general, still did not want to serve, and others enlisted at the first opportunity.

On the fortieth anniversary of Kent State, and the Student Mobilization to End the War in Viet Nam (One Strike: Three Demands), the memories are still fresh. And I remember the draft lottery, which gave me a very high number and assured that I would not have to make a difficult decision.

Recently I have been reunited with a friend I had not seen in many years. Our paths diverged when I went off to college and graduate school, and he went into the Army. While I was in college, he was in Viet Nam jumping out of helicopters with a fifty pound pack on his back. The pounding crippled him so badly that now he can barely walk.

Blumenthal acknowledged his “misstatements.” In his mind, I guess that’s what happened. Maybe when he was giving that speech he had planned to say, “When I was in the Marine Corps, during the Viet Nam War,” or something similar. Maybe he did not know what he said. (I find that doubtful.) And maybe he knew as soon as the words were out of his mouth, but he did not know how to get them back. Then people began to thank him for his service, and the newspapers repeated the story, and service in Viet Nam became a part of his biography. And (apparently) he could not bring himself to take the painful step of correcting the record.

My guess is that the consequences will be big.

The story won’t die. You-tube is for eternity. And Viet Nam has marked us in so many ways. Allegedly, he also falsely claimed to have been captain of the swim team at Harvard. Not good. But probably forgivable. Harvard isn’t Viet Nam.

The good news is that God is faithful, even when the whole world is lying through its teeth.

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