Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lives of Our Leaders: The Secret Life of Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal

“Then, with that faint, fleeting smile playing about his lips, he faced the firing squad; erect and motionless, proud and disdainful, Walter Mitty the Undefeated, inscrutable to the last.”—James Thurber, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
“As it turned out, Mr. Blumenthal never served in Vietnam, but over time, his identification with veterans of war became so strong that some of those around him … just assumed he had.” (“Vietnam Claims Grew in Time, Colleague Says,” The New York Times, May 18, 2010)   
Richard Blumenthal led a secret life, but it was nothing like that of Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who patronized the Emperor’s Club VIP escort service, arranging the infamous assignation with client #9 in room 871 of Washington DC’s Mayflower Hotel. Blumenthal, a Harvard Graduate, was far more imaginative. According to what he told the Times, he didn’t use any connections to achieve his valor, he simply picked up the phone book (remember those fat objects, now relics of the Vietnam era?), found the number of the Marine Corps Reserve, and got himself shipped off to Paris Island for training. The rest, as they say, is history. Though he never actually set foot in Vietnam, the verdant, dangerous Mekong Delta unfurled itself in Blumenthal’s imagination. Khe Sanh and Danang were only a few of his destinations. Following his fancy, he parachuted into increasingly treacherous territory and immediately found himself under fire. Though he was afraid, his first thought was of saving his platoon. He came out with his AK-47 blazing, dropped some grenades, and watched with a grin as Charlie retreated. He was a legend in his own mind, saving the lives of many good men, who would return the favor by electing him Senator after he described his long, imaginary journey at VFW posts across his great state. One thing we can say about Blumenthal: he’s a real Harvard man, unlike Adam Wheeler, who weaved a far more complex tale to get away with his particular lie (“Campuses Ensnared by ‘Life of Deception,’” NYT, 5/19/10).

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