Some people are lucky in their friends while some, like Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, are even luckier in their enemies.
No one could be luckier than Blumenthal to have President Trump as an enemy. For in denouncing Blumenthal the other day for the senator’s opposition to Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, the president managed to change the subject from Blumenthal’s posturing and hypocrisy to his own recklessness.
Blumenthal, the president said, lied about serving with the Marines in Vietnam. Not only that, the president said, but the senator had described himself as a war hero who had distinguished himself at Da Nang.
Huh? Yes, many years ago Blumenthal sometimes falsely asserted or implied that he had served in Vietnam. He actually spent the war years stateside in the Marine Reserves and the only campaign he participated in was for Toys for Tots. But he does not seem ever to have claimed any heroism. Trump made that part up as much as Blumenthal made up his service in Vietnam.
Confronted with documentation of his false claims of Vietnam service as he ran for the Senate in 2010, Blumenthal acknowledged that he repeatedly had “misspoken” - Democratese for “lied.” He apologized and got away with it, in part because his Republican opponent wasn’t a war hero either but just a rich dilettante who had made her money from what was more or less pornography.
So with his wild exaggeration about Blumenthal, Trump, whose only Vietnam-era campaign was against the bone spurs that got him out of the draft, neutered what otherwise might have been fair comment about the senator.
Trump is Trump and criticism of his character can get tedious. Anyone who is not already distressed by it probably never will be.
But Blumenthal remains largely respected, especially in Connecticut, so there still may be value in evaluating his character. His participation in the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing on Kavanaugh last week suggested that Blumenthal might benefit from more self-awareness and less self-regard.
Piling on Kavanaugh with the other Democratic senators trying to undermine the nominee’s credibility, Blumenthal seemed to forget his own shortcomings. He asked if Kavanaugh knew a legal maxim in Latin, “Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus,” or “False in one thing, false in everything.” Kavanaugh was not yet as riled up as he would become under questioning about his partiality for beer, so he let Blumenthal’s Latinized insult pass.
But some people watching the hearing on television grasped the irony of Blumenthal’s questioning anyone else’s honesty. Soon someone produced a photograph of U.S. soldiers plodding through a rice paddy in Vietnam, with Blumenthal’s face superimposed on the soldier in front. The caption: “False in one thing, false in everything.”
Of course Connecticut’s news organizations took Blumenthal’s side against Trump’s mockery, as if there aren’t always plenty of news organizations reminding the country of the president’s indifference to truth. Once again Blumenthal is getting off easy back home.
So if only Kavanaugh had taken a little less law (and beer) and a little more Latin at Yale. Then he might have responded to Blumenthal’s “Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus” with a telling rejoinder: Respice quis loquentes suus.
That is: Look who’s talking.
Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Connecticut.