• September 4, 2015

Richard Blumenthal, Liberal Guilt, and Vietnam

Richard Blumenthal, Liberal Guilt, and Vietnam 1

Spencer Platt, Getty Images

Richard Blumenthal at a news conference last week

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Spencer Platt, Getty Images

Richard Blumenthal at a news conference last week

Once thought to be a lock to take over the seat of retiring Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd, Richard Blumenthal, the liberal attorney general of Connecticut, is now on the defensive as a result of saying that he served in Vietnam when he did not. In Connecticut, where he faces a tough Republican opponent, Linda McMahon, as well as in the pages of The New York Times, Blumenthal is being called to account for telling voters, "We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam."

Blumenthal's case resembles that of the Mount Holyoke College professor and Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Joseph J. Ellis, who in 2001 was revealed to have lied to his students about serving in Vietnam. The Blumenthal and Ellis cases are about more than the personal failings of public figures. Their deceptions, in fact, raise an important question: Why do liberals who opposed the Vietnam War feel the need to claim they fought in Vietnam, while hawkish conservatives, like former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, remain untroubled by the deferments they received in those years?

The backgrounds of Blumenthal and Ellis do not provide much help in answering that question. On the surface, both seem to be ambitious straight arrows. Blumenthal, who took at least five military deferments from 1965 to 1970, used them to finish his studies at Harvard, take a graduate fellowship in England, and work at The Washington Post, before getting a job in the Nixon White House. Then, in 1970, Blumenthal enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve and completed six years of service with Reserve units in Washington and New Haven. This experience allowed Blumenthal to legitimately campaign with a picture of himself in a Marine uniform.

Ellis, who, until his falsehoods were uncovered by The Boston Globe, claimed he was a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne and had served on the staff of Vietnam commander Gen. William Westmoreland, had an equally circumspect military record. As a college student, he joined the ROTC at the College of William & Mary, then went on to graduate school at Yale University from 1965 through 1969, before teaching history at West Point until 1972, when he was discharged from the Army with the rank of captain. There is little more Ellis could have done to prepare himself for a career in academe. His subsequent best-selling biography of Thomas Jefferson, American Sphinx (Knopf, 1997), and his Revolutionary-era history, Founding Brothers (Knopf, 2000), did not require him to be a hero in order to draw readers.

However, with the passage of time, it was, as far as Blumenthal and Ellis were concerned, not possible to speak about the Vietnam War with credibility as middle-aged men when as young men they had taken care to avoid getting into harm's way. They seem to have believed that as noncombatants they were not in a position to comment on the tragedies of the war—Ellis made a point of telling students that he participated in operations just before the My Lai massacre, in 1968—without seeming to have been shirkers. In their own eyes, Blumenthal and Ellis did not feel entitled to speak out in a way that a veteran like Ron Kovic did in his 1976 Vietnam memoir, Born on the Fourth of July, or that Bob Kerrey, a former U.S. senator from Nebraska and now president of the New School, did in his memoir, When I Was a Young Man.

When Blumenthal and Ellis thought about Vietnam, they were, it is now clear, troubled—as conservatives like Cheney and Wolfowitz were not—by old-fashioned 1960s egalitarianism. Blumenthal and Ellis would have found it glib to say, as Cheney did when asked about his own draft deferments that got him out of a war he believed was a noble cause, "I had other priorities in the 60s than military service." Blumenthal's and Ellis's worries about fairness were not misplaced in this regard. Of the 27 million men who were draft-eligible between 1965 and 1973, only 11 million ever served in the military, and out of this group only 1.6 million, just 6 percent of the total, went to Vietnam.

For college students, taking advantage of Selective Service System rules was routine, and, in this regard, the best clue to Blumenthal's and Ellis's willingness to lie about Vietnam comes when we look back at two long-forgotten confessional essays on the Vietnam War draft, by writers who would later gain wide acclaim.

The first of the essays, "What Did You Do in the Class War, Daddy?", written by a future national correspondent for The Atlantic, James Fallows, appeared in the October 1975 issue of the Washington Monthly. It recounted how in 1969, during his senior year at Harvard, he went to the Boston Navy Yard to take his physical exam for the military. By getting his weight down to 120 pounds (he was over six feet tall) and claiming to be mentally unstable, he got the doctors to declare him "unqualified" for service, and he returned to Cambridge with a deferment.

Fallows offers no excuse for himself. He observes how the boys from Chelsea, a working-class neighborhood, who showed up at the Navy Yard on the same day he did, were given few deferments, and he concludes that the kind of trickery he and his Harvard classmates practiced prolonged the war by assuring that "our class of people would be spared the real cost of the war," while those with less influence and less education would pay with their lives.

Eight years later, in an essay called "Viet Guilt," Christopher Buckley, son of the National Review founder William F. Buckley and a 1975 graduate of Yale, provided a similar account of his draft experience in the September 1983 issue of Esquire. Buckley, who would move far enough from his family's conservative thinking to vote for Barack Obama in 2008, told how at age 19, armed with a letter from his family physician describing his asthma, he was rejected for military service and returned to the Yale campus to celebrate his achievement. Like Fallows, Buckley came to feel ashamed of himself and did not take comfort in the idea that a nonveteran "ought to feel vindicated by the conduct and results of the Vietnam War." He concludes his essay by noting that if his son asks him what he did during the Vietnam War, "I'll have to tell him that my war experience, unlike that of his grandfather, consisted of a hemorrhoid check."

The kind of remorse that Fallows and Buckley expressed has drawn little sympathy from Gen. Colin Powell, who served in Vietnam and then in the administrations of Republican presidents. "I am angry that so many of the sons of the powerful and well placed and so many professional athletes (who were probably healthier than many of us) managed to wrangle slots in Reserve or National Guard units," the normally restrained Powell wrote in his 1995 memoir, My American Journey (Random House). "Of the many tragedies of Vietnam, this raw class discrimination strikes me as the most damaging to the ideal that all Americans are created equal and owe equal allegiance to their country."

The irony is that Powell's resentment is particularly applicable to George W. Bush, the president who made him secretary of state, and to the latter's decision, as James Mann notes in Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet, to minimize the influence of the Vietnam veterans in his administration (Bush served in the Texas Air National Guard during the war). When it came to the war in Iraq, Bush and Cheney—whom Powell sardonically describes in My American Journey as a "man who had never spent a day in uniform, who, during the Vietnam War, had gotten a student deferment and later a parent deferment"—felt no qualms about going into battle without the number of troops Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff in 2003, correctly believed were necessary to complete the job.

In that context, the failure of a political liberal like Blumenthal and an academic liberal like Ellis—who has said the Vietnam War was wrong, condemned the Patriot Act, and in an interview with CBS observed that George W. Bush "might very well be the worst president in U.S. history"—to be truthful about their Vietnam records has proven especially damaging.

They have been neutralized as agents of change. We are no closer than we were during the Vietnam era of making sure the risk of military service in the United States is shared across the social spectrum. The commitment that the nation has made to continue the all-volunteer force, which President Nixon and Congress put in place in 1973 in order to weaken the antiwar movement, has perpetuated the inequities of the old Selective Service System that worked to the benefit of the rich and the well educated.

Vietnam ushered in a period in which, unlike World War II, America went to war without requiring broadly shared sacrifice on the battlefield or on the home front—and now we have, for all practical purposes, institutionalized that undemocratic arrangement. Military recruiting has closely followed the ups and down of the U.S. economy since the nation switched to an all-volunteer force, David R. Segal, a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, has noted, and the U.S. Army Accessions Command, which heads Army recruiting, agrees. The command has made television ads and enlistment bonuses of up to $40,000 the backbone of its appeal to the millennial generation, and recruiting has thrived, it acknowledges, during economic downturns.

In terms of the military, the result is that today there is no need for an Ivy Leaguer to engage in the kinds of draft deceptions that Fallows and Buckley employed during Vietnam. Worrying about fairness is over. As far as the law goes, we aren't all in this together.

Nicolaus Mills is a professor of American studies at Sarah Lawrence College. He is the author of Winning the Peace: The Marshall Plan and America's Coming of Age as a Superpower (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).


1. generally_academic - May 23, 2010 at 07:19 pm

In addition to being a sleezeball on the vietnam issue, this guy is also a *racist*. See below (hope the link works):


I've fact-checked the article. All the assertions of fact checked out through a LexisNexis search.

2. sbarnett - May 24, 2010 at 08:23 am

Whatever motivates the lies, nothing excuses nor justifies them. It may be that none of us are pure and all of us have something we'd rather not have come out in public, but that is different from public deception or, worse, self-deception. Does that taint the work that Ellis and Blumenthal did? Probably not. Does it make us wonder if they should continue as public figures? Ellis's case is different from Blumenthal's: The kind of trust Ellis's academic and popular work requires is of a different order than the kind of trust an elective representative requires. Explain it as they will, though, the fabrications are part of their personal, public records.

3. jffoster - May 24, 2010 at 08:51 am

Generally_academic (1),
I carry no brief for Blummenthal on the "served in Vietnam" issue -- it's an implied 'theft of valor', though probably not in the legal sense.

But on the matter of your allegation of his "racism", your URL worked with a paste in and I have read it. It deals with the matters of Indian Tribal Sovereignty. There is nothing racist about it.

4. johnga1949 - May 24, 2010 at 09:12 am

Human behavior continues to baffle me in many ways. This is another case where Blumenthal, in all likelihood, did not need to embellish his military record. But yet, he deliberately chose to do just that. And what did he gain from it? I'm not sure that he gained anything but rather exposed himself to considerable political risk. Further, in these days and times, it is rather naive of people in the public eye to believe that such things will not be discovered by someone. Just amazing. This demonstrates to me that he lacks the ability to make sound judgements.

5. swish - May 24, 2010 at 10:28 am

Reading the above, I felt the article was excessively forgiving. But then I thought about the fuzzy trace memory thing. I have actually seen this happen in small ways. Say I witness an encounter between two parties (let's say an argument), and later overhear one of the parties relating the encounter, changing his own words and responses from what he actually said to what he *wished* he'd said ... and apparently believing his own account. After replaying and rewriting the memory in his mind a number of times, he replaces the true memory with the desired one.

This is a far cry from actually believing that one was in Vietnam when one wasn't, but many cases have been documented in which witnesses believed they had witnessed a crime when in fact they were nowhere near when it happened and had only read about it. Etc. So who knows ...

Anyway, Blumenthal says now that "he unintentionally said he served 'in' Vietnam when he meant 'during' Vietnam" (see http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/politics/2011939874_apusblumenthalvietnam.html and elsewhere). Is that possible?

All right, call me naive, call me biased, pounce all over me. I just like to give the benefit of the doubt.

6. generally_academic - May 24, 2010 at 10:36 am

#3: Attacks on Native sovereignty are a historical continuation of Federal and state efforts to eliminate Native people. When genocide did not work, governments turned to placing them in concentration camps ("reservations," that aided the white South African government in planning and setting up "tribal homelands"). The governments then tried to eliminate the concentration camps by first breaking up the land holdings of the tribes, so whites could take over the land, and then by "terminating" the tribes altogether. All of this was based on *race*, Native people being portrayed as inferior to whites, and too "primitive" to be able to live on their own (despite a 40,000 year history of survival in this hemisphere).

Since all these efforts were and are race-based, action to continue these policies counts as racism. Taking away tribal land is a policy directly aimed at eliminating the Native "race," because that land base is central to Native identity, personal identity, and social and cultural cohesion. Eliminate the land base, eliminate the "race." That's been government policy for almost 200 years.

Blumie is just another white racist, intent on destroying the Native land base as a way to eliminate the Native "race," and take over their land for white exploitation. Been going on for a long time, still going on today. Blumie is the latest anti-Native racist in a long line of racists.

7. 11232247 - May 24, 2010 at 11:05 am

I am beginning to wonder if Richard Blumenthal represents just another case where loyal Democrats are called upon to defend the indefensible? I'm guessing that as long as we are only referring to lying about one's fabricated war record in a long forgotten and even then, unpopular war, it is all good.

Forget Blumenthal. People of Connecticut, have you no shame for tolerating such a deplorable man? Pathetic.

And so it goes...

8. jffoster - May 24, 2010 at 11:07 am

Generally_academic (whatever your academic field, race, ethnicity, and in the case of Indians and Eskimos tribal and band sovereignty are analytically distinct phenomena and unless you can learn to separate them, you will never understand the world you, or american Indians and Eskimos, live in.

9. prje8199 - May 24, 2010 at 11:44 am

Very interesting and well written article. I think Dr. Mills, while making a valuable contribution to the debate, is a bit off on his asumption that these men are driven by their liberal impulse to re-engage their egalitarian past.

People like Dick Cheney are somehow abe to draw their energy from those around them, especially those they direct. Thus, Cheney can take satisfication that as a former Secretary of Defense he did serve. I am quite sure he has an office full of the near countless nick-nacks that bear silent witness to a military persons career (plaques, coins, patches, pictures, models,...) Indeed, by surrounding himself with these things, he might even think himself the complete "Cold Warrior," the ultimate reenactor.

Both Blumenthal and Ellis, however, flew too close to the flame to get such satisfication. Both men served in uniform and did so during time of war. Even if that war only required a mere 6% of the total force and was unpopular - it was a national moment and as such merits a place in national history. Unlike Cheney these two men don't have the trappings of a combat veteran or even a career soldier (Marine, salior, airman) so they surround themselves in a lie. Bush was able to avoid this trap by applying to serve in Vietnam from the relative safty of the AFNG and actually flying jets around the peaceful skys of Texas - he got to be one of the 94% who did something else but he apparently takes some comfort that he filled out a form saying he would go if needed.

Blumenthal and Ellis did not avoid service but both put forward a persona of a "fighter" and thus needed Vietnam to complete their personal narrative. When Professor Ellis lectured about the hardships of campaigning during the American Revolution he did so by telling stories (lies) from his own imagined warrior tradition. Blumenthal was a man's man and as a former Marine had the "right stuff" to be hard on crime in CT. It is only natural that he felt he needed the combat narrative to complete his crime-fighter persona.

I am a veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq (actually there, enough badges and medals and trinkits to keep it alive in my mind for ever). I am a National Guard soldier called to serve in a war that, this time, is bigger than the army. When I am lucky enough to get an adjunct gig teaching history I do use my military experience to make the lecture something more than just a lecture. I know it makes other faculty members a bit jealous because their narrative is often little more than student-to-teacher. Many of the younger ones did not even have a civil rights or similar "fight" to test their beliefs and that, like it or not, is something all men (and I do mean men) fear.

There comes a time when men grow old and personal reflection is hard to bear. Moving from youth to student to academic or lawyer (a fine path by any logical measure) simply is not enough. we might consider it an immature impulse, but it is always there. In a time when we are bombarded with an imagined past (Greatest Generation) of guts and glory and a real present of young men and women returning from an all-to-real war it surely must be hard for men like Blumenthal and Ellis to know they took a safer path. I condem for lying but feel the sharp edge of sorrow that they found their lives so empty to craft such stories. As for me, I simply can't fathom how men like Cheney can even look in the mirror every morning claiming the title of hawk while doing little more than pointing the way to the battlefield.

10. 11272784 - May 24, 2010 at 11:57 am

There were many who volunteered for VietNam, and others who simpl waited for their number to come up. There were also many who gamed the system to stay out of the service. That's pretty much how it goes every time there's a war...and that's how it will be.

11. csuebgrad - May 24, 2010 at 04:54 pm

The article never really gets to the point; why did Blumenthal lie? The writer instead seeks to transfer Blumenthal's transgression to a convoluted, personal attack on the usual Republican suspects.

The fact is that Blumenthal has always played fast and loose with the truth, not just with the Vietnam assertions but also in the bullying, trial-by-media manner he uses as Attorney General.

12. mark900 - May 24, 2010 at 04:58 pm

I think everyone eligible for military service during the vietnam war has conflicted feelings about that time in their lives. In politics, the right wing expression of this dissonance is a muscular foreign policy. Republicans who didn't serve in vietnam are all too eager to send other americans off to other useless wars. More libs go out of their way to express support for our troops and engage in other forms of jingoism (generally verboten in other contexts for them) than lie about their service there. Both reactions are wrong. No one should gain political advantage by having served in vietnam. In fact, most vets of that vintage who have run for office have lost. All of us around during that period-whether we served, voted for leaders who escalated the conflict, or opposed it and now recant under a guise of faux patriotism-should be ashamed about having sent US troops over there. Ditto for iraq & afghanistan.

13. unabashedmale - May 25, 2010 at 03:12 pm

Forget all this Vietnam War rationalization bunk, because that's not the point.

The point is that the man is a liar in matters of small concern. What does that fortell in matters of public importance?
He has no character for public trust.

As for the war - NOBODY wanted to go, and for good reason.
We all knew this was Lyndon Johnson's pet project, and we citizens were the cannon fodder.

Decades later, why be ashamed of avoiding a disastrous war that wasn't going to be won? I mean it's like saying, "Aw shucks, missed that trench warfare of WW I."

14. francishamit - May 26, 2010 at 09:01 pm

I'm a lifelong Democrat, but Blumenthal would not get my vote after this episode. (I don't live there, so it's not really an issue.) My opinion of Dick Cheney cannot be adequately expressed in a family newspaper.

When I think of all the grief I got in 1971 at the University of Iowa, as a returning veteran, I'm both amazed and non-plussed when I see these supposedly very intelligent guys rushing to claim credit for having "seen the elephant". I'm saving the war stories about this for a memoir I'm writing entitled "Out of Step". I was an Army brat and might have been drafted, but instead I vounteered for four years in the Army Security Agency and later volunteered for service in Vietnam. Nothing very notable there; I was part of the other ninety percent you never hear about; the clerks and drivers and all the other jobs that go into a modern logistics train and are less dangerous than most factory jobs -- if you ignore the rockets and mortars.

I think the reason that men invent these myths for their resumes is simple: There was a cartoon in The New Yorker several years ago by Wlliam Hamilton which showed a bunch of stockbrokers sitting around a table drinking and one says "Should the portfolio of one's manhood have included combat?"

Well, the answer is yes, esepcially in a modern war where there are no safe "rear areas"and everyone is at some risk. And the class warfare and evasion of combat duty was common even within the military services. I went through Basic with a bunch of clowns from the Iowa National Guard who were very proud of themselves for finding a safe, legaL war to avoid the war. In the recent wars, the National Guard and Reserves get called up and the Iowa Guard was the subject of a "Sixty Minutes" segment that showed them seeing the elephant doing four million miles of convoy escorts. A few of them died. So the sons and grandsons paid for the fecklessness of the fathers.

Whether or not the war was, as "unabashedmale" says, was a disasterous war that wasn't going to be won can be debated endlessly. In geopolitcal terms it was a big success because supporting the Vietnamese Communists was one of the elements in the strategy that made the Soviet Union spend itself into oblivion. From a personal, on the ground, viewpoint it was a disaster but one where the war was not lost on the field but on the streets -- or rather the campuses-- of America.

And in that regard, we should take note of a book by Stanislave Lunev, a former GRU Colonel, entitled ""Throught the Eyes of the Enemy." GRU was the Soviet Military Intelligence service. The baby brother of the KGB. On the war in Vietnam, Lunev says "The Vietnam War was considered a major GRU success. In fact the GRU beleives it won the war. The GRU funded every major anti-war group. Any antiwar activists who claim otherwise are sadly naive. Of course the support often came through third parties orwas otherwise disguised but the Soviet Unon pumped more than twice as much money into the antiwar campaigns as they did into the North Vietnames military and economic support. The success for the GRU was not only did their influence help win the Vietnam War, but they tore apart the entire social fabric of the United States and made military service a mark of shame".

That was my problem as a returning veteran. I refused to admit my shame. I was and still am proud of my service. The Soviet Union is gone, but the dmage done by the strategy Lunev describes lingers on, most obviously in Academia. Phoney veterans quite simply disgust me. If you were there, you are my brother, If you weren't just shut the hell up.

15. jffoster - May 26, 2010 at 11:42 pm

Mr. francishamit (14), thank you for your service to our country.

16. generally_academic - May 28, 2010 at 04:17 am

A shame our troops haven't learned some of the other lessons of Vietnam. For example:
1. Monkey-wrench the transport. If you can't get to the battle, you may not get killed.
2. Make wrong turns. If the battle's to the left, turn right. (see also: jessica lynch)
3. Frag John Wayne/Jack Bauer. He wants to be a hero over your dead body.
(culled from real Vietnam veterans)
Just a start....

17. prje8199 - May 28, 2010 at 10:13 am

Nice, "generally_academic" (#16 above) advoctes cowardice (an act that does not harm the country but does harm your fellow soldiers) and murder in support of a liar. Of course I have come to expect such uninformed, poorly educated dribble from my more liberal undergrads. The really sad part is when I hear it from my grad students.

What has happened to higher education?

18. generally_academic - May 28, 2010 at 10:35 am

All those suggestions and more come from *Vietnam veterans* not me. Attack those ideas, and you're attacking *Vietnam veterans* For shame. Why do you hate our veterans?

19. supertatie - May 28, 2010 at 11:11 am

francishamit, thank you not only for your service, but for your steadfastly remaining true to yourself and unapologetic. How refreshing?

This article overcomplicates Blumenthal. Why did he lie about his service? Because the country has changed, understands that the way we treated the men (and women) who went to Vietnam was shameful, and we are now a people proud of our troops again. Blumenthal panders to those sentiments to get votes.

Everything else Nicolaus Mills tries to ascribe to Blumenthal is a load of crap.

20. generally_academic - May 28, 2010 at 11:42 am

# 19: Since you understand Blumie so well, could you also justify his *racism*? See the article I linked to above (#1), and explain why we should excuse Blumie for destroying at least one federally-recognized Native tribe, and engaging in a continuing land-grab of Native land, to benefit his rich white clients.

21. jffoster - May 28, 2010 at 05:24 pm

He didn't "destroy" any Indian tribes, generally_academic. The Iroquois in wiping the Huron out did more to destroy an Indian tribe than Blummenthal did. Not giving a people, or a faction of a people, everything they want is not racism.

22. generally_academic - May 29, 2010 at 12:16 am

Taking away what is rightfully theirs, and has been confirmed as rightfully theirs by Federal recognition, because they are Native people, and not whites, and giving it to whites, *is* racism. That's what Blumie did. Racist.

23. jffoster - May 29, 2010 at 12:09 pm

It's not necessarily racist -- it might be theft. But what about the Indians who drove other Indians out of lands they occupied? Or were you aware that not all Indians originally came over in one single migration. So if you want to play the "Native" versus "White" racism game, then some Indians are more "native" than others.

24. generally_academic - May 29, 2010 at 01:19 pm

When it takes place in the twenty-first century, in Amerikkka, and the intent or effect is to remove one "race" from a location to the benefit of another "race," it is racism.
Blumie has done these things.
Therefore, by his actions, he is a racist.

25. jffoster - May 29, 2010 at 09:29 pm

24, Generally_academic, when the Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne in the 1860s and 70s drove the Crow out of the Powder River country, and then the Sioux in the '70s pushed them West of the Big Horn into the upper Yellowstone, was that "racism"? Of course not. It wouldn't automatically have become racism had the Lakota and the Crow been of different races.

But this original post was about Blummenthal's Vietnam service misrepresentation and it's that that's probably going to torpedo his political progress, not your hobby-horse, or is it hobby-pony, of courting favor with Mr. Lo. (as in "Lo, the Poor Indian"). Indian Rights and Policy, conflicting sovereignties, and pervasive and persistent poverty on many reservations are complex enough matters even in their proper venue.

26. generally_academic - May 30, 2010 at 12:14 am

Blumie is a sc-mb-g re. Vietnam, but the most recent polling shows it has had almost no significant effect on his campaign. Why?
Because the whites in Conn love the way he has worked to drive out the "dirty indians" from their lovely white towns (ref.: LexisNexis search and paying attention to the news).

Here's a story about how things can go down here: An African-American family moves into a lilly-white neighborhood. The whites want the "nasty blacks" out, but their title is, clear. So the county DA pulls "eminent domain" out of his legal bag of tricks and condemns the property for "civic improvements," a tactic recently used successfully up in New England for simpler, greedier reasons. The townfolks love him for keeping their neighborhood "civilized," and despite his morally repugnant actions, he ends up a Congressional Representative. Nice.

The story is fiction, but the moral operation of Bubba is the equivalent of Blumie's. People did have their sovereignty taken away by judicial fiat, lost their land claim, and the racist thug who used his governmental power to do it is acclaimed and, perhaps, elected to the Senate.

Such is the foulness of Dick Blumenthal. We have too many flagrant liars and racists in Congress already. Lets reduce, not increase, their numbers.

This thread has gone on too long, and neither one of us is going to convince the other. So I'm moving on to other, more productive, matters. Oxford UP has deadlines that I don't want to stretch. Duty calls. Bye!

27. francishamit - May 31, 2010 at 03:21 pm

I'm not attacking Blumenthal per se and not much interested in these side issues. The fact that he became a Marine Reservist for six years speaks to a yawning gap in his psyche; a desire to be seen as a complete man. Marines are the bravest of the brave or so their legend has it. When it comes to military service, the oppotunity to actually be in the Hollywood version of combat was fairly rare. I've met retired soldiers who did their 20 years and never saw action, not out of a desire to evade it but simply because they were never placed in harm's way. It's a very large military and there are a lot of necessary jobs that must be done where you never get shot at. It's an industrial process, war, so there are many other opportunities to get killed if you are careless or unlucky. They also serve who stand and wait.

The sting of his claiming Vietnam service comes because of the disinformation about the impact of that service. The Vietnam Veteran has been castigated in popular culture as a "psycho". And that meme has rolled downhill to the current generation because it makes good copy. Disinformation is one of the tenets of Marxist-Leninist theory: lying for the good of the cause.

Well, the anti-war cause is over. They won. They can stop lying now, and people like Blumenthal can stop trying to steal a little cheap reflected glory from our pain. My most painful moments in 1971 came not from the anti-war radicals, who I view as seriously misled fools who were seduced into playing the enemy's cards for them, but from the mainstream, ordinary citizens who followed their lead. In Academia these attitudes persist 35 years after the war's end. So much for the primacy of independent thought and the life of the mind.

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