The Times and the attorney general

In my latest for the Guardian, I argue that the New York Times was on to a legitimate story about Connecticut Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal’s idiotic distortions* about his military service — but that it so botched the job that the paper can no longer be considered a reliable guide on what Blumenthal has and hasn’t claimed about himself.

12 thoughts on “The Times and the attorney general

  1. I heard one of the blathering heads on “Morning Joe” gravely state that it was nearly impossible to come back from distorting one’s military record, and I had to wonder what Dan Rather thinks of that notion.

    In both cases, the record supports the essential allegations. In the Bush case, the secretary who typed the memos confirmed the content but not the actual document; Blumenthal is on tape claiming to have been “in Viet Nam” (though in the CT AG’s case he apparently told the truth before distorting it). Flaws in reporting in both cases seemed to have overwhelmed the original allegations.

    1. Dan Kennedy

      @John: Bush’s military service was a miserable joke, and it was fully exposed during the 2000 campaign by Walter Robinson. That said, how did Bush ever try to distort it?

  2. Dan asks:
    “Bush’s military service was a miserable joke, and it was fully exposed during the 2000 campaign by Walter Robinson. That said, how did Bush ever try to distort it?”

    Didn’t he repeatedly claim to have finished his guard duty in Alabama when the record contradicts that pretty conclusively?

    IIRC, his CO says he did not.

  3. BP Myers

    @Dan said: Bush’s military service was a miserable joke

    Err . . . correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t he learn how to fly jets?

    Yes, there was very little danger he’d ever see action. But flying jets is more than I can do.

    1. Dan Kennedy

      @BP: It was the not-flying-jets part of Bush’s service that I was referring to, as discussed by @John Doherty above.

  4. BP Myers

    @Dan Kennedy says: It was the not-flying-jets part of Bush’s service that I was referring to, as discussed by @John Doherty above.

    Meh. Still confused, but if he is referring to the Rather story (even if true), I always thought it less despicable than a young Bill Clinton avoiding the draft entirely but wanting to retain his “political viability.”

    At least Bush served long enough to learn how to fly jets.

    1. Dan Kennedy

      @BP: Rather gave us an untrue and unnecessary embellishment of a true story from the 2000 campaign.

  5. BP Myers

    @Dan said: Rather gave us an untrue and unnecessary embellishment of a true story from the 2000 campaign.

    If you’re referring to the 60 Minutes story with the forged documents, I recollect it was from the 2004 campaign, and aside from Bush saying he “served honorably” and not much else on the subject, I don’t remember him distorting his own record.

    Don’t think Fernandez had the same motivations as Rather either. I recall Rather saying something like, “It had the feel of being true . . . I wanted it to be true.”

    But it looks like Fernandez was just lazy.

    (There seems no doubt, however, that Bush never showed up in Alabama.)

  6. BP Myers

    @Dan said: Here’s one example.

    Strikes me that it’s the same example and nothing new, but I do remember this also. I also remember Bob Kerrey not being completely truthful about his own military service, the facts of which he only came clean on after the example you cite.

    Bush did not cover himself in glory during the Vietnam era. He has all but admitted as much.

    Anyway, no sense arguing about any of this. Just wouldn’t have used the words “miserable joke” to describe his service, is all. I’ll concede those words for the way it ended.

  7. BP Meyers says:
    ‘Still confused, but if he is referring to the Rather story (even if true), I always thought it less despicable than a young Bill Clinton avoiding the draft entirely but wanting to retain his “political viability.”

    At least Bush served long enough to learn how to fly jets.’

    It’s comforting to know the skies over Oklahoma were safe from Viet Cong attack;-)

    Bill Clinton was on record politically as being against the Viet Nam War. It makes moral sense to try to avoid fighting in a war you think is morally wrong, no? Clinton also had no connections beyond his own intelligence and ability.

    Bush, OTOH supported the Viet Nam War but benefited form efforts by politically connected friends to avoid serving in the war he supported.

    You think Bush is more principled in that? Clinton’s position is morally consistent, even if you lean to personal cowardice as motive rather than moral opposition. Bush’s position is despicable by contrast.

  8. BP Myers

    @John Doherty says: It’s comforting to know the skies over Oklahoma were safe from Viet Cong attack;-)

    Nice that you can joke about it. Reminds me of my friends who joined the National Guard to earn money for college and ended up in Desert Shield / Desert Storm. So there’s always the chance, isn’t there?

    Clinton (apparently) had enough connections to keep his “political viability” intact.

    Whatever you think of the way his service ended, Bush served his country. End of story.

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