Entry from May 21, 2010

President Obama is of course still backing Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal in his candidacy for the Democratic nomination to succeed Christopher Dodd in the U.S. Senate, but I am still amazed that the latter’s shameless lie of claiming to have served in Vietnam when he hadn’t is not regarded by the rest of the world as an instant disqualification for the office he seeks. Or for any other. “There is nothing wrong with having received multiple military deferments during the Vietnam period, as Mr. Blumenthal did,” editorialized The New York Times, “and neither those deferments nor the details of his service in the reserve have any bearing on his fitness to become a senator. But his embellishments do. Mr. Blumenthal, who has an exemplary record as attorney general, has only a few months to demonstrate that they are an aberration and not a disqualifying character trait.”

As for his “exemplary record as attorney general,” The Wall Street Journal takes a different view, but let’s stipulate that. What then? If he can abstain from any similar lies for “only a few months” — or perhaps we can be really strict with him and say no lies at all for a few months — we can give him a pass? The Washington Post is more offended by his weaselly evasions, non-apology apologies, and pretense that his service in the Marine Corps reserve was motivated by nothing but his sense of duty to his country. These, though not the original lie, it thinks “unforgivable.” But even the Post stops short of saying he is not qualified to be a U.S. Senator — or Connecticut Attorney General. Perhaps, like General Blumenthal himself, the paper thinks he should simply “take responsibility” for his carelessness with the truth. By now, we know that this is just a form of words with no practical meaning or real-world consequences. Responsibility has never been easier or less onerous to take.

The story of misappropriated glory or “Stolen Valor” as B.G. Burkett and Glenna Whitley call it in their book of that name is by now a familiar one. Only a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned  the case of the historian Joseph Ellis, who also fabricated a Vietnam record for himself yet continues to be a respected academic historian, regularly turning out more of his books on the Founding Fathers. Yet I have not seen it noticed hitherto that, in many of these cases, including Mr Blumenthal’s, the more valuable item in the thief’s bag of swag turns out to be not the reputation for valor so much as the reputation for suffering. The Attorney General does not allude to his non-existent experiences in Vietnam but to his non-existent experiences stateside, on returning from Vietnam. “I served during the Vietnam era. . . I remember the taunts, the insults, sometimes even physical abuse.”

Of course he remembers nothing of the kind. But pretending that he does, and that he shared in the opprobrium directed at our servicemen, gives more cachet than one of John Kerry’s purple hearts. It allows him to claim — falsely, of course — what a middle-aged white guy could not otherwise claim, namely that he belongs to an oppressed and persecuted minority. The nature of his lies, therefore, suggests not only Democratic fondness for the politics of victimization — since the ‘70s Democratic electoral tactics have been dominated by an attempt to assemble a coalition of putative victims of things-as-they-are — but also the predisposition in the culture that we all share to deny honor to heroism or achievement and confer it instead on passive suffering. The real-life veterans who are now sticking up for Richard Blumenthal on the grounds that, as Attorney General, his “advocacy for veterans’ rights is unyielding,” should think about the price we all pay for knowing no heroes but victims.

Discover more from James Bowman

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.

Similar Posts