Opinion: Bombshell in Connecticut: Once a shoo-in, Blumenthal is in trouble over Vietnam -- will Democrats switch horses?

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With one week to go before the filing deadline for Senate candidates in Connecticut, the New York Times has landed with a bombshell, charging that Democratic favorite Atty. Gen. Richard Blumenthal distorted his record of service during the Vietnam War in a speech he made to a veterans’ support group.

Speaking to the group in Norwalk, Ct., Blumenthal said:

We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam. And you exemplify it. Whatever we think about the war, whatever we call it — Afghanistan or Iraq — we owe our military men and women unconditional support.


But the N.Y. Times said Blumenthal served in the Marine Reserve and never actually fought in Vietnam. The paper said, he signed up for the Reserve only after he received five deferments, from 1965 to 1970, that allowed him to finish college at Harvard, pursue a graduate fellowship in England and do stints in Washington for both Post Editor Katharine Graham and President Richard Nixon.

In subsequent appearances, Blumenthal has been careful to make clear that he did not actually serve in a war zone where 58,000 fellow Americans lost their lives. But as the Times notes, he sometimes leaves that impression. Like at a veterans’ memorial service in Shelton, Ct., in 2008 when he said, “I served during the Vietnam era. I remember the taunts, the insults, sometimes even physical abuse.”

Blumenthal has scheduled a 2 p.m. Eastern presser to explain himself in what could be a turning point in the race.

How he handles this tricky situation could determine Democratic strategy in keeping the seat being vacated by Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd. Waiting in the wings: the Republican Party’s outsider candidate, Linda McMahon, former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment and a woman who knows something about how to take advantage of tactical openings.

In fact, McMahon is already up with a choice excerpt from one of the Blumenthal exaggerations. Take a look.

And aides are not exactly discouraging talk that they might have, um, facilitated the scoop. ‘As we researched Dick Blumenthal’s record, we’ve discovered some very troubling disparities between what he’s said and the facts,’ McMahon spokesman Shawn McCoy told Politico. ‘This is a serious blow to his credibility.”


-- Johanna Neuman

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