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The State of the State of Connecticut

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I don’t know how many of you reading this have been paying attention to the US 24 hour cable news channels, but those of you who have probably know that the Attorney General of the State of Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal, is in career freefall.

I’ve mentioned Dick Blumenthal on this blog before.  I don’t share his politics–he’s far to the left of me on certain kinds of issues–but I do think, from experience with his office, that he’s a very decent human being, and that office was of considerably help to me while I fought off insurance companies when Bill was dying.

Blumenthal could probably have gone on forever as AG of the state, but he decided to run for Senate for the seat Chris Dodd is vacating this year in order to become President of the University of Connecticut, and that’s where things got sticky.  One of his opponents decided to put her staff to the task of checking his record, and right there out in front they found a big problem.

Bios of Blumenthal in the Connecticut media over the past decade or more have consistently referred to him as serving in the Marine Corps in Vietnam, when it turns out he only served in the Marine Corps during the war in Vietnam, without ever actually getting over there or seeing combat.  On top of that, before serving, between 1964 and 1970, he took a total of five deferrments. 

Although, interesting enough, for somebody as completely left-liberal as he is, he did spend some time working in the Nixon White House.


Blumenthal was virtually a shoo-in for the Senate seat before this, and now it’s not even clear he’ll still be running by next week.  The Republicans have the first shot they’ve had at a Senate seat in Connecticut since Weicker retired.  And there’s talk of getting Dodd to change his mind and stay put.

Then, to make matters worse, Susan Bysiewicz, now Secretary of the State, who has been trying to run for AG since Blumenthal is supposedly going to run for Senate, has been told by our State Supreme Court that she isn’t eligible. 

There’s a law in the state of Connecticut that says that anybody who runs for AG must have ten years experience practicing law, and although Bysiewicz is a lawyer, she spent only a couple in regular practice and after that held a series of political positions, including her present one, which the SSC says doesn’t count as “practicing.” 

So now the Republicans have the first decent shot at state AG they’ve had since Blumenthal first started running.

I suppose it’s some kind of consolation that Bysiewicz didn’t pad her resume–but then, I’m continually flabbergasted by the extent to which so many truly and legitimately accomplished people do pad their resumes.  And often for reasons that make no real sense.

Blumenthal graduated from Harvard, got a law degree, studied in England and worked in the White House before he was thirty–for God’s sake, what was the point of that particular lie (or failure to correct a misstatement, which is how it seems to have started}?  This is Connecticut, not Nebraska.  Most of the people who vote for the man are going to have found a way not to serve in Vietnam or be the children of men with that particular, uh, distinction.

I’ve been telling myself all morning that maybe Blumenthal thought he would run for President some day, because that at least would make a certain amount of sense, but he’s never shown any sign of it.  I think I’m just trying to make the piece fit into some semblance of common sense.

And it brings me back to something I’ve talked about before, and that somebody once posted an article on some months ago–that is, wondering if meritocracy is really good for us.

The problem is that meritocracy does not only say that the rich and powerful earned their positions and have a natural right to them, it also says that anybody who does not end up rich and powerful deserves his failure–failure becomes a judgment on the worth of the person in a way it is not in a world which assumes that other things besides “merit” go into making for success.

Ack.  I’m doing this badly.  I did it badly the last time. 

But right now I’m mostly just depressed about the situation here.  It’s going to be a long haul to November.

Written by janeh

May 19th, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses to 'The State of the State of Connecticut'

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  1. First things. My own service in the “Vietnam Era” was similar–a student deferment while I could keep one, followed by enlistment in the Air National Guard. The best I can say for myself is that I don’t believe anyone ever had the impression I did more.

    Salon is running an article pointing out that as AG Mr. Blumenthal has prosecuted for exactly what he himself has done–“misspeaking” now and then, shading the truth and leaving a false impression uncorrected. Whether this should be true as a matter or law might be subject to debate, but I think morally the Attorney General has the advantage of the senatorial candidate.

    Some years ago our prospective Ambassador to Switzerland, who spent WWII in school in Chicago, had his secretary look up Merchant Marine sinkings in the North Atlantic during a portion of WWII, and calmly claimed to have been on one of the sunken ships as a member of the Merchant Marine. He died and was buried in Arlington on the strength of his “service.” And when the story came out, soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Regiment had the unalloyed pleasure of digging up his sorry remains and throwing them out of the place. No one showed him any sympathy whatever.

    Mr. Blumenthal didn’t start out to commit fraud. He told the truth initially, and even at the end when pressed. But he wanted a little more credit than he deserved, and while only lying once in a great while, he went to some lengths to give a false impression, and not to correct it. That seems at the end to have taken him to the same place.

    When you know that when you speak, people believe something which is not true, and you do not correct that impression, the word in “liar.” Thinking it’s OK, because you’re cleverer or better educated than the people you fooled, or because the perjury charge won’t stick doesn’t change the word. It just adds a few others.

    It will be a long haul to November a lot of places. I’d recommend giving up on broadcast TV.


    19 May 10 at 5:42 pm

  2. I wouldn’t know Blumenthal from Adam, but having read the story I can understand the fuss that’s being made about it. If that’s the worst lie he’s told (by omission or commission) in his political career, I’d be happy to walk backwards, stark naked, from the Battery to Times Square. In the depths of winter. But it ought to be seen as bad enough to disqualify him from high public office.

    Here in Oz, it’s not a crime to claim to have served in any particular war, but it certainly is a crime to seek to gain any benefit by misrepresenting one’s military service, eg improperly wearing medals one is not entitled to, or by wearing military uniform with intent to impersonate.

    But all that said, it never ceases to surprise me how we expect higher standards from our politicians when all the evidence tends to support the view that, as a class, they are inveterate liars and need to be to survive in the modern political environment. Indeed, re-reading Trollope’s Phineas Finn books (thank you, Jane!), it’s clear that there’s nothing new about that political trait. I think it’s beyond all shadow of doubt that a large minority of modern politicians, and perhaps a majority of the most successful, are the sort of people that we would – if given the choice – travel miles out of our way to avoid.

    Blumenthal’s misfortune is that he’s not a Kennedy.


    19 May 10 at 9:56 pm

  3. I had been vaguely aware that there was another minor (from my point of view, ie not involving relations with Canada) political fuss in the US, but couldn’t have given you the name or the state of the target this year. It is important that one be honest in writing a resume, and for a politician to write ‘in’ instead of ‘during’ the Vietnam War is certainly, well, stupid. I think, all evidence to the contrary, we have to expect our politicians to be somewhat better than average. If they manage to be so conspicuously dishonest with that expectation, how bad would they be if we expected less of them?

    What sometimes still surprises me is that some of them seem to actually believe that it’s normal and totally acceptable to spice up your resume a bit; be promiscuous and cover it up (like a certain Toronto politician, among others) or spend government money in outright fraud (like certain local politicians and at least one local businessman in the latest local scandal). You’d almost think that they’d never encountered an honest person, but I think I’ve encountered lots of them, and even the ones who have minor difficulties with honesty in some parts of their lives (a) know that most other people are highly unlikely to think that they’re doing the right thing when they cheat on a spouse or lie about their qualifications and (b) aren’t really grossly dishonest. I mean, they might steal a pen from the office, but are unlikely to present their employer with fraudulant invoices for hundreds of thousands of dollars – and then insist that because their intentions were good and the money was spent on their consitutents, everything was morally OK.


    20 May 10 at 4:34 am

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