“I think in the end, the people of Connecticut care a lot more about what’s happening today in their lives, whether they’re going to keep their homes, their health care and their jobs.”
…. Conn. Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal (D) campaign adviser Marla Romash in an interview with The Associated Press, adopting the crisis-tested Bill Clinton tactic of insisting that matters like the honesty of elected officials has no bearing on their fitness for their jobs, and is a distraction from the real interests of the public.
Translation: “In the end, we know the public doesn’t care if its elected representatives are liars who, for example, claim to have fought in Vietnam when they didn’t, as long as they deliver the pork. Heck, you’ve seen it: Senators can be outright crooks, and they’ll still get the votes.”
The Blumenthal Vietnam scandal, as I predicted, is serving as wonderfully useful ethics test for other politicians, the media, Democrats, and Connecticut voters generally. Yesterday, for example, the Democrat-friendly site The Daily Beast linked to one story that explained how Blumenthal, in one speech, suggested that he fought in the war at one point and suggested otherwise elsewhere in the same speech. “Blumenthal Didn’t Lie about ‘Nam” was The Daily Beast headline, and it was filed under “Bad Reporting,” meaning the New York Times, which broke the original story. But it is The Daily Beast that was doing unethical reporting: the speech was only one of at least five (another turned up today) in which Blumenthal misrepresented his service.
Meanwhile, over at Slate, house ethics maven William Saletan uses Blumenthal’s own uncompromising standards to judge his conduct. At best, what Blumenthal has been saying about his military service constitutes deceit—intentionally using language to make the listener think something is true that isn’t, but doing it carefully enough that if caught, the speaker can claim that he was misunderstood. Deceit is specifically called professional misconduct in the Connecticut Rules of Professional Conduct, which governs the ethics of lawyers, including Attorneys General. Saletan shows how Blumenthal has mercilessly prosecuted deceit or anything that even could be interpreted as deceit. It is really a superb article, terrific reporting and analysis combined. Please read it. In one section, for example, Saletan addresses an aspect of the Times report that has garnered little media attention: Blumenthal’s failure to correct printed reports, based on the deceit in his speeches, that referred to him as a Vietnam veteran. Saletan’s article lists a series of standards of Blumenthal held his various corporate targets to, and he writes:
“7. You’re responsible for monitoring things written by others that serve your interests. For more than a year, Blumenthal has hounded Craigslist to “scrub” and “rid” its site of porn and sex ads posted by users. Brushing aside the company’s pleas that it can’t police everything, he has subpoenaed documents and instructed the company to “immediately hire staff to screen for” offensive ads and images. Two weeks ago, he demanded: “Describe in detail the manual review process craigslist has created to screen posts in the adult services section, including … the number of individuals assigned to review postings and the name of any company craigslist has or will contract with to perform this function.”
Today, when Blumenthal was asked why he had failed to correct erroneous reports that he had served in Vietnam, he replied: ‘I can’t be held responsible for all the mistakes in all the articles—thousands of them—that are written about me.'”
Saletan proves that it isn’t just candor and honesty that Blumenthal lacks, but integrity as well.
None of which matters to voters, of course, according to Blumenthal’s campaign spin.