Misspeaking Is The New Lying

Observatory


I don’t know how to break this to you, but I’ve just found out that politicians lie.
The New York Times revealed that would-be Democratic senator for Connecticut Richard Blumenthal obtained no fewer than five deferments of military service in Vietnam taking repeated steps that enabled him to avoid going to war, then told a group of veterans in March 2008: “We have learnt something important since the days that I served in Vietnam…” The closest Blumenthal came to Vietnam was the Marine Corps Reserve’s 4th Civil Affairs Group which distributed toys and games for the regular Toys for Tots drive.

After these revelations, the local Connecticut press duly plunged into its cuttings library and came up with many other examples of Blumenthal, currently the state’s attorney-general, claiming to have suffered along with other former Vietnam warriors. The following, from another tribute to veterans, is perhaps the most excruciating: “When we returned from Vietnam, I remember the taunts — the verbal and even physical abuse we encountered.”

Among the career moves pursued by Blumenthal during his military “deferments” was an internship at The Washington Post under Ben Bradlee, the editor whose pursuit of the Watergate story later brought down Nixon. With exquisite irony, the language used by Blumenthal to evade the charge of lying had been introduced into modern political discourse by Nixon’s men. Blumenthal declared that he had merely “misspoken” about his military record. It was Nixon’s press secretary, Ron Ziegler, who came up with: “The president misspoke.” Anyone can log onto YouTube and see amateur film from 2008 of Blumenthal misspeaking. So Blumenthal held a press conference designed to rebut the New York Times’ charges.

First, he packed the speakers’ platform with US Marine Corp Vietnam veterans. Several spoke on Blumenthal’s behalf, praising his work on behalf of veterans in the state, and denying that he had misrepresented himself as a Vietnam vet. Then a source actually quoted in the New York Times article pointedly spoke in praise of Blumenthal. Voila, the reinvention seems to have worked. Although Blumenthal’s defence – that he mistakenly said “in” instead of “during” – was fodder for much Twitter humour (“Q: What’s Blumenthal’s favourite Village People song? A: During The Navy.”)