It’s always sad when one privileged Ivy Leaguer with five Vietnam deferments attacks another privileged Ivy Leaguer with five Vietnam deferments.
President Trump went after Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., this week with an absurd retelling of how the senator once fabricated stories about serving in Vietnam as a U.S. Marine.
To be clear, Trump isn’t wrong in calling Blumenthal a liar. The senator most absolutely embellished his record years ago, making it sound as if he served in Vietnam. Blumenthal never served overseas the entire time he was a reservist in the Marine Corps.
But the way Trump tells the story of how Blumenthal was outed for misleading voters is just total nonsense.
“The greatest is 'Da Nang Dick.' Right? You remember?” the president recalled in an exclusive interview this week with the Washington Examiner’s Salena Zito.
“I just can't believe, it's because of the media, they've taken so much of it all. But [Blumenthal] apologized like Jimmy Swaggart,” he added, referring to a televangelist who was once caught in a sex scandal involving a prostitute. “Crying, bawling, because he conned the public when he was attorney general of Connecticut for 15 years, talking about, ‘As I went to Da Nang, bullets left and right. My friends going down.’ Meaning being killed. ‘Bullets flying right by my face and over my shoulder.’ I thought he was a war hero for years. He's in Connecticut, I'm here. I say, ‘Hey, he's a great war hero.’ The guy was never in Vietnam. He was in the Reserves.”
“‘Da Nang Dick.’ We call him Da Nang because it was Da Nang province. He said, ‘When I was Da Nang province, going up the hill, my buddies falling left and right,’” Trump said.
He added: “By the way, that's why Connecticut is in the bad shape that they're in, because of guys like him. … You know, it's one thing, some guy said, ‘Hey, I was in the service.’ This guy was like we should look at him for the Congressional Medal of Honor, okay? He's a total fraud.”
Oh boy, wow. There’s a lot going on here.
First, Blumenthal did not weep when he held a news conference on May 18, 2010, to address a New York Times report showing he had misled voters about his record. He didn’t even really apologize (that came later in a written statement). Blumenthal only acknowledged that earlier remarks he made regarding his service record had fallen under scrutiny.
“On a few occasions, I have misspoken about my service, and I regret that, and I take full responsibility,” he said. “But I will not allow anyone to take a few misplaced words and impugn my record of service to our country. I served in the United States Marine Corps Reserve and I am proud of it.” He added in response to a question about whether he lied, “I did misspeak on a few occasions out of hundreds that I have attended, whether events or ceremonies.”
Second, Blumenthal did not temporarily drop out of the 2010 Connecticut Senate race (how would he go on to win if he dropped out?).
Lastly, I can’t find a single damn thing to corroborate Trump’s claim that the senator regularly told war stories about serving in the Da Nang province and rescuing platoon mates during the war. The best I could come up with is the same material that the Times reported on in 2010.
Blumenthal said in 2008: “We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam.” He also said in 2003: “When we returned from Vietnam, we saw nothing like this.” However, it’s also worth noting that he also said in March 2010 during his first campaign for the U.S. Senate, “Although I did not serve in Vietnam, I have seen firsthand the effects of military action.”
As far as I can tell, all this business about “bullets left and right,” “my friends going down,” and “bullets flying right by my face and over my shoulder” is of Trump’s own creation.
Blumenthal's reputation for misleading is well established. Reminding the public of it is fine, especially when the senator himself made "false in one thing, false in everything," his motto in the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. But falsifying Blumenthal's falsification does nobody any good.
If anyone can find a single example of Blumenthal saying any of the things Trump alleges, I’d be much obliged if you send it my way.