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Blumenthal's Vietnam comments distressing, perplexing

Reports that on occasion Attorney General Richard Blumenthal lied about having served in the Vietnam War, and at other times used ambiguous language that suggested such service, are both troubling and perplexing.

The reports are troubling because they run counter to Mr. Blumenthal's image as a man of character, a crusader who exposes dishonesty, not someone who perpetuates it. It insults combat veterans to ever lay claim fraudulently to the valor they earned through fighting and sometimes dying.

His conduct is perplexing because the attorney general, now a candidate for U.S. Senate, is a public official well known for choosing his words carefully and with great precision. How, then, could Mr. Blumenthal, in public settings, so carelessly leave the impression of Vietnam service? The Senate candidate contends he at times misspoke and until now was unaware of ever having claimed service in Vietnam. That explanation stretches credibility.

"We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam," Mr. Blumenthal told a gathering of veterans and senior citizens in Norwalk in March 2008. The ceremony honored those who sent presents to soldiers overseas.

The statement is unambiguous - "the days that I served in Vietnam" - and shocking given that Mr. Blumenthal did not serve in the war. Instead, he avoided it with numerous military deferments before joining the Marine Reserves and getting a plum assignment to a unit in Washington, D.C. That seemingly guaranteed the young Mr. Blumenthal would not be sent to Vietnam.

Mr. Blumenthal said at a news conference Tuesday he is proud of his military service. He should be. But why at times has he exaggerated his record? He did not give a good answer to that.

"When we returned, we saw nothing like this," said the attorney general at a 2003 event in Bridgeport, held to support American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Returned from where? Washington?

Yet on most occasions honoring servicemen and veterans, Mr. Blumenthal made no suggestion of Vietnam duty and sometimes clarified that, while he did serve in the Marine Reserves at the time of the conflict, he did not fight in the war. A review of The Day archives found no evidence of Mr. Blumenthal laying claim to service in Vietnam at events reported by this newspaper.

Few, if any, state officials have been more active than Mr. Blumenthal in attending events honoring military veterans, service people and the nation's war dead. He has been an outspoken defender of veterans' benefits and used his office to protect those benefits.

Yet the comments claiming Vietnam service, though seemingly isolated, are what they are and not easily explained away.

And why did Mr. Blumenthal not act quickly to correct inaccurate reports in state newspapers that described him as a Vietnam veteran? The candidate explains he can't track all news reports about him. Yet this newspaper knows from experience that Mr. Blumenthal is quick to correct unflattering statements published about him or to refute opinions with which he disagrees. One reporter got a call from the attorney general for inserting a middle initial in his name. He has none.

Every major campaign has its shocking revelations. This news certainly qualifies. It could prove to be a game-changer.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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