Now that we know a little bit more about Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut Attorney General whose pursuit of a U.S. Senate seat has him periodically masquerading as a Vietnam War veteran, it is clear that simply defeating him at the polls isn’t enough. He should be impeached as Attorney General, and deserves professional discipline from the Connecticut Bar as well. Why? Well, he’s an unrepentant serial liar on a grand scale. Lawyers, including Attorney Generals, are prohibited from engaging in dishonesty, misrepresentation, fraud and deceit, and it is professional misconduct when this rises to a level that calls a lawyer’s trustworthiness and fitness to practice law into question. Does pretending to have credentials, especially military combat experience, that you do not have in order to get a job reach this level?
Of course it does.
The kicker is that Blumenthal is still lying, outrageously defending his misrepresentations and lies by saying he “misspoke.” Disgracefully, this ridiculous theme is being adopted by his defenders in the media and Democratic Party, and it is as much of a lie as his claims of combat service in Vietnam. Misspeaking is when you call your wife by your old fiance’s name. Misspeaking is when you mean to say “no” and you say “yes” because you weren’t paying attention. People aren’t misspeaking when they claim to have done something they know they didn’t do in order to make other people think they have certain credentials and character traits. They are lying. If I say or imply I graduated from Harvard Law School when I didn’t, that can’t possibly be misspeaking, because I know I didn’t. It’s lying. The tiny possibility–infinitesimal, really,—that it would be an honest one-time, good faith mistake on my part vanishes when I do it again.
But Blumenthal is sticking with this defense. He “misspoke.” That’s whopper #2.
Blumenthal intentionally creating the impression that he was a Vietnam War vet is the equivalent of lying on a resume, except that it’s worse. A false resume credential represents one seriously dishonest moment, when the item was included in the document. After that, while each use of the resume repeats the lie, the liar doesn’t have to personally repeat the lie, unless he or she is asked about the fake credential in an interview. Even so, minor resume misrepresentations have resulted in serious discipline for lawyers. A fake resume is an attempt to deceive potential employers about who a lawyer really is. Blumenthal’s pose as a war veteran had exactly the same intent.
If Dick Blumenthal is allowed to stay in the race (his opponent is a real Vietnam veteran), it will prove that the U.S. political culture and voter cynicism has sunk to new, and frightening, depths. Blumenthal’s supporters are now pointing to his support of Veterans’ causes. That’s the way: buy the support of the group who are most dishonored by the lies. Destroy their integrity too, making them support a liar and a phony warrior because there’s something in it for them. Corruption spreads this way; now we know Dick Blumenthal is just the man to spread it. A gaggle of Washington Post commentators weighed in to show how little values and ethics means to the democratic process by declaring that Blumenthal would be just fine. True, they say, falsely claiming combat service is “pretty low,” the revelation came “too early” for it to hurt him in his primary race, which isn’t until August. Too early? Is it ever too early to learn that your potential Senator is a flagrant, arrogant, liar? Besides, says the Post mavens, the G.O.P. Senate candidate blundered by letting it be known that her organization flagged Blumenthal’s deception to the Times, so voters will be receptive to Blumenthal attacks on her for “dirty tricks.”
WHAT??? Is there some Bizarro World ethical standard here I missed? Candidates for office are not supposed to let voters know that their opponents are lying, military-record falsifying frauds? They are supposed to keep the flagrant dishonestly of their opponents secret, and not to do so is a “dirty trick”? Is Connecticut politics now “the ‘hood,” where “snitches” are considered worse that the community-wrecking hustlers and criminals their revelations get off the street? The exposed liar is the victim, and the candidate that alerts the voters that they are being lied to is the villain?
This is the logic of the Blumenthal campaign. Now the rationalizers are getting into the act. Dick’s pal and former Congressman Chris Shays tells the New York Times that he noticed that Blumenthal was gradually began “embellishing” (Translation: “Lying about”) his Vietnam service because, well, he was just so darned proud of all those vets, you know? And the more he respected them, the more he wanted to be just like them! He wished he was in the rice paddies with them, and suddenly, in his mind, he was! Awwwww. Isn’t that nice? We should feel sorry for Dick—he really wanted to fight for his country, and now he thinks those five deferments were a mistake. This is a perfect solution, really: avoid the danger of actual service, and still take credit for it!
Now what would really be nice, and encouraging, and appropriate, and right, would be for leaders of the Democratic Party to say, in clear terms, “Well, obviously we can’t be running an indisputable fraud and liar for the U.S. Senate. He’s got to go.” Wouldn’t that be refreshing?
But no. Chris Dodd defended his putative successor as an “honorable man.” You know—one of those honorable men who falsely take credit for what other men risked their lives to do. Blumenthal’s conduct creates a rebuttable but powerful presumption that he is not honorable. “I think, you know, his actions as it relates to standing up for veterans over a long period of time speaks volumes both where his heart and his actions are,” said Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman said. “I’m sure he will continue to stay in the Senate race, and we will continue to support him.” [You can read about Sen. Menendez’s own ethics issues here.] Other Blumenthal supporters in the party and the press have been even more shameless.
Tragically, the one thing that may keep Blumenthal in the race is the fact that, compared to the rest of the U.S. Senate, doesn’t look as unfit to serve as he really is. But make no mistake about it: he is unfit to serve…as a U.S. Senator, as an Attorney General, as any kind of public servant.
Because he’s a liar. It’s as simple as that.
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The people defending Blumenthal are arguably worse than he is. I’ve written about it at http://ethicsbob.com/2010/05/18/which-is-worse-lying-or-jumping-to-the-defense-of-liars-time-for-connecticut-democrats-to-be-counted/
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