Political hara-kiri season officially open
Barely out of the starting gate, two important political candidates are already engaged in the process of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory – one by way of a lie, the other by speaking the truth as he sees it.
First up – the lie.
Just days ago, Democratic Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal held a commanding lead in the race for the senate seat being vacated by retiring Senator Chris Dodd. It was a lead unlikely to dissipate barring an unforeseen disaster.
That disaster arrived in the guise of a New York Times piece revealing that Blumenthal has been misleading Connecticut voters into believing that he had served in the Viet Nam war when he never set foot in the country as that battle raged.
Who does such a thing?
This is not a simple case of fudging the truth a bit in order to look more heroic a la Hillary Clinton’s fairy tale involving ducking bullets on a runway in Bosnia. No, Blumenthal’s behavior reveals something far more disturbing as he appears to have convinced himself that he actually was in Viet Nam.
To his credit, Attorney General Blumenthal has been a powerful supporter and spokesman for veterans’ rights since the 1980’s. In that role, he has effectively argued the plight of veterans who returned from Viet Nam only be treated poorly by Americans who detested the war and chose to take it out on the soldiers who were sent to fight. This is something Blumenthal does not want to see repeated in the treatment of veterans returning from our latest series of unpopular wars.
So empathetic is Blumenthal to the pain of abused veterans, it seems that he brainwashed himself into believing he really is one of them.
Evidence reveals that for most of years involved in Blumenthal’s effort to assist the vets, he was clear on the fact that he had been a Marine reservist who never served a day overseas. However, in recent years, he began to take on the mantle of a vet who had personally experienced Viet Nam and the bitter mistreatment that followed for the soldiers of that war.
Former Connecticut Congressman Christopher Shays, a long-time friend of Attorney General Blumenthal, reports that he found the metamorphosis to be puzzling.
Shays discussed the matter with the New York Times:
At first, in the 1980s, he was humble. He played it down, Mr. Shays recalled, characterizing it as humdrum desk work.
Over the last few years, however, more sweeping claims crept into Mr. Blumenthal’s descriptions, he said: that Mr. Blumenthal had served in Vietnam and had felt the sting of an ungrateful nation as he returned.
“He just kept adding to the story, the more he told it.”
Via New York Times
Mr. Blumenthal is neither a stupid man nor inexperienced in the ways of politics. Somewhere in his psyche, he had to know the inconsistencies would come back to bite him. So why engage in the lie and why not quickly correct the press reports feeding that lie to Connecticut voters?
The answer may rest in Blumenthal’s convincing himself that the lie was not a lie at all.
Whatever the reason for Blumenthal’s bizarre behavior, it is not likely to bail him out with the voters. His free falling poll numbers suggest that what had been considered a ’sure thing’ for a Democratic win in November has been moved to the ‘up for grabs’ column, if not worse.
Still, in a story twist that can only happen in politics, Blumenthal may receive a reprieve from the relentless press attention that comes with telling a serious lie in the middle of a political campaign thanks to the arrival of the next national politician to set himself on fire. Only this time, the match was struck not by a lie – but by a despicable perception of truth.
Not 48 hours ago, Rand Paul was the man of the hour. The outspoken, small government Libertarian had romped to victory in the Kentucky GOP primary to gain his party’s nomination to run for Senator. In the process, the Tea Party supported Paul defeated not only his opponent but the powerful political machine of GOP Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell. There seemed little question that Paul would pull out a win in November, delivering a seat not only for the GOP but for the Tea Party movement to whom Paul is pledged.
What a difference a day makes.
Yesterday, a video of an interview conducted with the Louisville Courier-Journal surfaced, revealing Rand Paul stammering out his belief that while he supports the Civil Rights Act as it applies to discrimination in public places, he does not support the government forcing private businesses to integrate.
In other words, if it were up to Dr. Paul, the lunch counter at Woolworth’s would still be for whites only.
Compounding the damage, Paul appeared on NPR’s “All Things Considered” to share his belief that he doesn’t believe private businesses should be forced to cater to the needs of disabled individuals- thus putting out the hit on the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Here’s what Dr. Paul had to say in his interview with NPR’s Robert Siegel-
I think a lot of things could be handled locally. For example, I think that we should try to do everything we can to allow for people with disabilities and handicaps…I think if you have a two-story office and you hire someone who’s handicapped, it might be reasonable to let him have an office on the first floor rather than the government saying you have to have a $100,000 elevator. And I think when you get to solutions like that, the more local the better, and the more common sense the decisions are, rather than having a federal government make those decisions.”
To complete the hat trick, Paul appeared last night on “The Rachel Maddow Show” to dig the hole even deeper on the whole civil rights thing.
While one could feel a certain admiration for Rand Paul’s speaking his mind where to do so is likely to make his election a far bigger question mark than previously thought, there is no denying that Mitch McConnell is handing out the “I told you so’s” like they were cigars after the birth of a baby. As for Rand Paul, he is spending today busily backtracking from his 24 hours of political insanity hoping to stomp out the fire that he has ignited.
Good luck with that. When you set yourself ablaze, the fire department rarely arrives in time to save you.
So, one likely winner committing an act of self-destruction with a horrendous lie, the other sticking the knife into his own belly with a proud admission that he would return the country to a time when African Americans were denied entry because of their race and a paraplegic was denied a job if he couldn’t walk up the stairs to reach his desk.
I think it’s going to be a long, hot summer.