From The “You Keep Using That Word…I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means” Files: A Cheap Shot From The Heroes

Many conservatives are cheering this open letter from 14 Medal of Honor recipients to Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.):

Dear Sen. Richard Blumenthal,

You recently called upon your Senate colleagues to subject Judge Neil Gorsuch’s record to “extreme vetting,” questioning both his qualification and biography. The Senate certainly has the right and obligation to closely review any nominee for the United States Supreme Court. Conversely, it is our right as Americans and veterans to scrutinize your hypocrisy in doing so.

We are veterans of the Vietnam War. We fought alongside our brothers in arms, many of whom died or were gravely injured there. We saw the treatment meted out on us and our fellow military personnel upon our return, yet we never questioned our commitment to our nation’s freedom. But perhaps more relevant to this discussion is that we know you were not there with us.

The fact you repeatedly and consistently claimed to have served in Vietnam is a gross case of stolen valor in our opinion. You obtained at least five military deferments between 1965 and 1970, at least two of which were seemingly political favors to you so that you could avoid joining us in a war zone. Here are just a few examples where it appears that you have chosen to buttress your political resume by shamefully inflating your record of military service:

In 2003, you apparently stated, “When we returned [from Vietnam], we saw nothing like this [a public outpouring of support for deployed military personnel].”

In 2008, the New York Times reported you said, “We have learned something important since the days I served in Vietnam …”

At a Vietnam War memorial in 2008, it is reported you stated, “I served during the Vietnam era … I remember the taunts, the insults, sometimes even the physical abuse.”

We recognize that military service of any kind is valuable to the protection of our nation’s freedom. There is no shame in engaging in “Toys for Tots” campaigns, recycling efforts, or assisting in the improvement or construction of various facilities, which appears to be a fair description of the bulk of your duties during the Vietnam War.

What is offensive to those who fought in a most brutal conflict, some of us who were captured and tortured by our enemy, is any comparison of those most brutal experiences to the ones of people like you who never even sniffed the air in Vietnam.

The letter’s description of the Senator’s lies before being elected a U.S. Senator is accurate. The fact that he did not withdraw from consideration when those lies were exposed, that the Democratic Party allowed him to stand for election anyway, and worst of all, that Connecticut voters debased their state and the U.S. Senate by electing him demonstrated the creeping progressive ethics rot among liberals that has only worsened since.

However, Blumenthal was not engaging in hypocrisy by calling for extreme the judge’s vetting. It would have been hypocrisy if he proclaimed that no public official who has inflated his biography or faked credentials is worthy of public office. That’s not what he said, however. Indeed, if there is anyone qualified to testify to the importance of vetting the qualifications of apparently qualified nominees, it’s Sen. Blumenthal.

No, the letter is an ad hominem attack, and the ethics breach has been committed by its signatories. If they have an objection to his call for “extreme vetting, ” they should rebut it on the merits. Instead, they attacked the individual rather than his argument. That is the essence of ad hominem. Their attack was “to the man” rather than to his position.

The two terms for unethical conduct most often used inaccurately to sustain accusations are, ironically, hypocrisy and ad hominem attacks. You don’t often see both misused in the same matter, though.

______________________

Pointer: Washington Examiner

5 Comments

Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Public Service, Quotes, War and the Military

5 responses to “From The “You Keep Using That Word…I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means” Files: A Cheap Shot From The Heroes

  1. E2 (nee Elizabeth I)

    You’re right,of course, about the inaccurate word usage. Regardless, I found the letter both informative and moving. Let the vets speak, even though their lead-in was poorly written and ill-conceived. Go after Blumenthal, by all means. He deserves it. But why pick these vets for their word usage when these mistakes are made consistently by those who know better, even on this blog. You should follow up with a list of other “attackers” who are making ad hominem attacks without admitting it. Even if deserved.

  2. Glenn Logan

    This is absolutely right, Jack. As someone who served in the military (although not in Viet Nam, by an means), I sympathize with those angered over Blumenthal’s “stolen valor.” But as outrageous as that conduct may have been, it can’t be used as a cudgel against Blumenthal’s positions unrelated to military service.

    Many of us fall into this trap constantly, conflating bad acts with hypocrisy because we need a rhetorical blackjack to beat our opponent with. It’s easy, facile, unethical, and wrong.

    No doubt Blumenthal deserves a trip to the woodshed. Consider what he said when Merrick Garland was Obama’s nominee:

    “There’s a duty to fill that vacancy, to make the system work. Our constitutional system depends on nine members serving on the Supreme Court, which is why there has never been a vacancy in the last, I think, 30 years lasting longer than 237 days.”

    Then at the end of January:

    “One of the unfortunate consequences of the Garland obstructionism has been to show that, in fact, the Supreme Court can function with eight members,” Blumenthal said.

    This is hypocrisy. Yes, you can parse the statement in such a way as to argue it represents a legitimate change of heart, but anyone who has a functioning brain understands it’s not that at all. If there was actually a duty to fill the position when Garland was the nominee, there’s no way that duty ceased to exist in under 12 months. Doubtless, the Court can function with eight because it has, but that can’t affect the duty Blumenthal insisted the Senate has.

    But the signatories to this “open letter” didn’t take on the merits of Blumenthal’s position on Gorsuch. As you pointed out, they just engaged in an ad hominem attack, and the reason they did it is because they have special credibility in the case of Blumenthal’s fictional Viet Nam service.

    That’s actually more of an indictment against them, because they misused that credibility. Would anyone have cared if they pointed out Blumenthal’s actual hypocrisy as I did above? Probably not, because they are laymen like me when it comes to that subject, and lack the special credibility that gives their comments on Blumenthal’s “stolen valor” such force.

    • Dwayne N. Zechman

      Also, there’s nothing at all about in the Constitution about the Supreme Court having to have exactly nine members. The actual number has varied over the years.

      –Dwayne

  3. Wayne

    Mixed feelings about this one. I was an Army Reservist serving in a medical unit in the late 60s and 70s. I was never deployed overseas and never claimed I was. I did have friends who were though and knew guys that eventually lost their lives in Vietnam. So I’m on the Marine Vietnam Vets side who dislike this guy. Still, he deserves to be attacked for the extreme vetting statement rather than puffing up his resume.

  4. Ash

    > However, Blumenthal was not engaging in hypocrisy by calling for extreme the judge’s vetting. It would have been hypocrisy if he proclaimed that no public official who has inflated his biography or faked credentials is worthy of public office. That’s not what he said, however. Indeed, if there is anyone qualified to testify to the importance of vetting the qualifications of apparently qualified nominees, it’s Sen. Blumenthal.

    Wasn’t that the argument for putting Joseph Kennedy in charge of the SEC because as a rum runner he was perfectly well suited to seeing corruption?

    Wiki says of FDR:

    > After Franklin Roosevelt called Joe to Washington, D.C. to clean up the securities industry, somebody asked FDR why he had tapped such a crook. “Takes one to catch one,” replied Roosevelt

    And yet Joe’s reforms of the SEC were widely praised.

    Regardless, in the narrowest sense, the senator is not hypocritical for he is not engaging in X while telling others not to engage in X.

    In a wider sense, yes, isn’t he being hypocritical, buy having profited from unethical behavior Y while demanding others be held to the same ethical standards Y he dismissed for himself!?

    On Gorsuch, let the extreme vetting begin. If all they can come up with is his wisecracks in high school (or was it college?) then he should be fine. And if they make a big deal of those comments, it just shows what a bunch of turkeys they are.

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