Nothing but the Truth

Remember the old courtroom dramas? A witness would be sworn in and promise to tell “the Truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” Words to live by, especially if you’re Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut’s attorney general and Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate.

As you may know, Blumenthal has an amazing track record of success. He’s a Harvard man, did graduate studies in England, was a special assistant to the publisher of the Washington Post, Katherine Graham, and worked for Daniel Patrick Moynihan in the Nixon White House. And, he’s been one heck of a successful attorney general for Connecticut, often arguing cases in court — something an awful lot of AGs never do.

But . . .  there’s always a “but” and this one is pretty large . . . the New York Times has quoted him as having said, “We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam.” Only one problem with that statement: It’s not true. Blumenthal never served in Vietnam.

He did serve in the U.S. Marines as a reserve in Washington, DC, but never in Vietnam. And there is no possible way that a man as smart as Blumenthal, a man with his incredible education and experience, could have confused serving during the time of the Vietnam War with having served in Vietnam itself.

I was at a dinner the other night for the Gregorian University Foundation (the Greg is a Jesuit university in Rome) and my dinner partner was the head of litigation for a very large law firm in New York. He’s a Connecticut resident, lifelong Republican, and knows Blumenthal both personally and professionally. He’s also a Vietnam vet — the kind who actually served “in country.”

My dinner partner felt that there was no way Blumenthal lied. He “misspoke.” And, even though my partner was a Republican, he wants Blumenthal for the Senate. My dinner partner pointed out that Blumenthal has often spoken on the record very accurately about his military service and that the couple of instances the Times reported were innocent slips.

Really? Slips of the tongue from a man who’s made a career out of slicing and dicing what other people said, how other people represented themselves?

In mitigating Blumenthal’s mistake, my dinner partner also pointed out that this misstatement was to a very small group. So . . . it was wrong, but it was only wrong to a few people until the Times got into the mix.

I had the pleasure of hearing Blumenthal speak at a luncheon once, and he is incredibly impressive. I think he probably would make a terrific senator, and if the people of Connecticut want to overlook his slip of the tongue, they should go ahead and vote him in.

But when a guy as sharp as this makes a couple of misstatements about his time in Vietnam, it’s not an innocent slip. It’s a politician maneuvering for advantage. Kind of like First Lady Hillary Clinton rushing across the tarmac under sniper fire.

What’s the takeaway from these misadventures of the spoken word?

The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Or, as someone else once put it: “The truth shall set ye free.”

Did Bill Clinton help himself with his ridiculousness statement: “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is”?

Has Toyota’s lack of forthright behavior regarding the safety of their vehicles helped their customers (some of whom may be their victims)?

And is anyone out there rushing to their local BP station to fill the tank? Or calling their broker to buy more BP stock?

It doesn’t matter whether it’s politics or business or personal lives — stick with nothing but the truth. Honesty really is the best policy.

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