Political Capitol

Brian Lockhart covers the Connecticut General Assembly in Hartford

Who’s worse: A candidate who fudges military service or one who gloats about the story?

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And this is why people are so cynical about politics and politicians.

Just a few hours after the New York Times made waves in the Connecticut Senate race with a potentially devastating piece questioning whether Democratic contender Richard Blumenthal has mislead the public on his military service, Republican opponent Linda McMahon’s campaign shot out the following e-mail TAKING CREDIT FOR IT.

It’s a first, at least in my limited history of covering politics. Usually campaigns feed ideas to the media and then try to take advantage of the fall out without actually having a story traced back to them.

But McMahon’s e-mail advertises Hartford Courant columnist Kevin Rennie’s “Daily Ructions” blog in which Rennie explains her self-funded campaign delivered the story to the Times on a platter.

Yay. So we have one candidate who might have intentionally puffed up his military record in order to score points with voters, and another who has baggage of her own (World Wrestling Entertainment, sex and steroids, anyone?) taking a public victory lap over the part her campaign played in the Times’ piece.

It’s a clear signal to all those Republican insiders who will be at the nominating convention this weekend that they don’t have to worry about the WWE maven’s ability to wage war against the popular Blumenthal.

But McMahon’s like a private detective who hands Connecticut an incriminating file on the state’s husband of over 20 years and then asks: “Sooooo, Connecticut. Now that I’ve told you the truth about Dick and you’re falling out of love, are you busy Friday night?”

Connecticut voters must feel so blessed these are two of their leading candidates …

Here’s the McMahon e-mail:

  

 

In Case You Missed It: McMahon Strikes Blumenthal In NYT Article

 

“The Blumenthal Bombshell Comes At The End Of More Than 2 Months Of Deep, Persistent Research By Republican Linda McMahon’s Senate Campaign.  It Gave The Explosive Norwalk Video Recording To The Times.  This Is What Comes Of  $16 Million, A Crack Opposition Research Operation And An Opponent Who, In The Words Of The President Blumenthal Worked For On A Draft Deferment, Who Gave Them The Sword.”

Daily Ructions   McMahon Strikes. Turns Blumenthal into Bruce Caputo.Daily Ructions BlogBy Kevin RennieMonday, May 17, 2010
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s campaign for the United States Senate has been holed below the waterline by a devastating New York Times expose of Blumenthal’s false claims to have served in Vietnam.  The piece, fed to the paper by the Linda McMahon Senate campaign, is accompanied by a chilling 2008 video of Blumenthal blithely making the false claim.  The “brilliant” Blumenthal provides a stunningly inadequate response, with the universal weasel word “misspoken” appearing in the piece.  It’s followed by a non-sequitur quote: “’My intention has always been to be completely clear and accurate and straightforward, out of respect to the veterans who served in Vietnam,’ he said.”Somewhere, Tim Russert is smirking.  In 1981, Russert was working for New York Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who was facing a challenge from rising freshman Republican Congressman Bruce Caputo.  Caputo had made claims of army service during the Vietnam War that were nearly as false as Blumenthal’s.  He was forced to withdraw from the race with dispatch.The Blumenthal Bombshell comes at the end of more than 2 months of deep, persistent research by Republican Linda McMahon’s Senate campaign.  It gave the explosive Norwalk video recording to The Times.  This is what comes of  $16 million, a crack opposition research operation and an opponent who, in the words of the president Blumenthal worked for on a draft deferment, who gave them the sword.Panicked Connecticut Democrats will crash cellphone networks between tonight and Friday trying to decide if they can jettison Blumenthal and have a chance to hold the Democratic seat in November.
Categories: General
Brian Lockhart

21 Responses

  1. billy wilson says:

    Dear lord Mohammed:

    Brian L, Sean, and Small town dad,
    Get your heads OUT OF THE SAND! It is just unbelieveable that each of you would defend this character. OBVIOUSLY, your political biases get the better of you and prevent you from thinking clearly on an extremely clear-cut matter.

    FACT: Tricky Dick LIED about going to Vietnam. He did it repeatedly and with intent to deceive. He did it to veterans, who actually DID go to Vietnam, because he wanted to identify with them and win their votes. Try and defend it all you want, but clear-thinking folks know this is abhorrent. The voters know it as well.

    If you want to keep peddling your biases, be my guest. Just don’t pretend that’s not what’s happening.

  2. Jake says:

    Was this supposed to be a serious headline? I mean, are you actually posing this question in a serious manner?

    The candidate who lies about being in a war he never went to is worse. By far. Trying to criticize the other side for bringing attention to it just sounds like desperate whining.

  3. Ben says:

    Just trying to get the message out. I live in CT as well so I’m entitled. Anyway, just thought I’d mention that I am in no way affiliated with Schiff’s campaign, I’m only someone who wants to spread his name and message.

  4. Paul says:

    Brian – The simple fact is you never tried to investigate Dick’s military record. You must have heard the same gossip as the NYT reporters says he heard – but it appears you or any of your Hearst peers never looked into it.
    I want to know why? CT voters and readers count on you asking hard questions and always double checking peoples answers.

  5. Brian Lockhart says:

    Ben,

    We’d gone 15 posts without someone chiming in for Peter Schiff and I was starting to get worried ;)

  6. Ben says:

    I agree with SmallTownDad that McMahon’s political record is unclear. We know she has donated to the Democratic Party and candidates from it in the past; yet, she somehow claims to be a conservative.
    In no way is Blumenthal any better. He lied/misspoke about military service which is unacceptable. Fighting for the average citizen? Taking on the big guys? Blumenthal sues large corporations and helps levy regulations on the economy that harm the average citizen. His job description (Conn. General Statute Section 3-125) does not grant him the authority to file suits in the manner he has throughout his career as Attorney General. If he can’t stay within his jurisdiction now, what makes you think he will when given office at the national level. The big guys are in Washington; the archetypal career politicians exemplified by Dodd and Simmons that act for themselves, for rather than the country, are the “big guys.” We should “take them on” by voting for people who do not aim to be career politicians. Peter Schiff doesn’t aim to be a career politician, and he’s running for the CT Senate Election also. The media may neglect to mention him throughout all of this, but you can learn more about Peter here: http://www.Schiffforsenate.com

  7. KingofThreeLakes says:

    Wow. I feel like most of my fellow Nutmeggers are missing the big picture. We’ve got a liar and, well, a liar as our Democratic and Republican frontrunners, respectively. So please excuse me for prematurely mourning the fact that we will replace Minnesotans as the nation’s laughingstock. First Jesse “The Body” Ventura, then AL Franken?!

    Oh, and shame on Rob Simmons for needlessly pointing out WWE’s tasteless storylines over, and over, and over. Hey Rob, we’re not idiots. We know it’s fake. Maybe you can point out the fact that Linda talks about job creation… but she laid off 10% of WWE HQ staff in January 2009, and then dumped some expensive executives early summer 2009. Come on Rob, it’s not too late.

  8. SmallTownDad says:

    This blog post is fair and newsworthy.

    1) A politician ‘misspeaking,’ lying, playing fast and loose with the facts, etc. is not news. Dick Blumenthal doing it is news because we the American news consumer, are always looking to tear down the front runner, the guy/gal on the pedestal.
    2) The shocker here is exactly as Brian states, that a campaign would do the research, feed it to a reporter and then take credit. The reason to feed a story to a reporter is to get a perceived third-party, disinterested party to substantiate the claims that otherwise would seem like pure negative campaigning or a hit job if it came from a campaign – and make it look like their own journalistic wonders led to the story. That didn’t happen here. Why? And why did the McMahon campaign feel it didn’t have the credibility to disseminate this info themselves? God knows they’ve spent millions on their TV ads and mailers – they could have dropped this in their communications strategy and the outcry would have been deafening for reporters to dig up the story on their own.

    This is all interesting, but there is no one who should ever doubt Blumenthal’s commitment to seniors, to fighting for the average citizen, to taking on the big guys whenever he is needed. THAT has not changed one bit and it is a public record that no one can ever diminish and clearly one to which McMahon cannot hold a candle. Seriously, what do we know about Linda McMahon? At the end of the day, if elected to a SIX YEAR TERM, will she still be making it out to the town committees and asking folks at diners what they think or will she be asking the guy sitting next to her in first class or gathering opinions as her Bentley pulls up to a Rolls Royce for a little Grey Poupon.
    Don’t lose sight of the big picture here folks. Dick is and always has been a fighter for the people of CT and will continue to do so as our Senator. If you want to gamble away your future on an unknown, go to the Casinos.

  9. David says:

    There is still time for Rob Simmons to score some points for himself if he can prove both McMahon and Blumenthal had a “Zoe Baird problem”.

  10. Patriot says:

    I think Blumenthal really made a big mistake here and will pay for it. Just how much is yet to be determined. But I believe he did a diservice to his brothers and sisters in the corp. Semper Fi!

  11. Brian Lockhart says:

    Hey Paul,

    Tell you what. Launch a self-funded Senate campaign, sink a couple million into hiring some opposition researchers who can comb through anything and everything on Blumenthal and come up with a two-year old video of an obscure event in Norwalk, CT, then give me a call.

  12. Braemar says:

    We’ll have ot wait and see hwo this plays at th convention FridaySaturday.

    Maybe they’ll move Joe over to sEnate seat…
    either way it’ll be amuch bigger deal than peopel give this credit for. I do not beleive that McMahon will be the beneficiary in the end, but some more conservative candidate should be.

    Change for November is in the eye of each voter,there are many visions.

  13. Ed says:

    Easy answer. A candidate who fudges military service.

  14. Paul says:

    I think the other issue here is why didn’t Lockhart – he bills himself as an investigative reporter – uncover this news. You’ve got Neil and Ken with good political sourcing and no one at Hearst CT News gets this story? Or did you get the tip and choose to pass on outing Blumenthal.
    There is also the news that Christopher Fountain broke on his Greenwich blog about Dick lying about his Harvard swim captain record. The NYT picked up the news but we don’t see any mention of this in the local papers.

  15. Sean says:

    Let’s be careful, boys. Blumenthal did serve in the Marine Corps Reserve for six years. His website states that he served as a sergeant in the Marine Corps Reserves. Wikipedia states that he was in the reserves. That’s fact.

    Hearst reporters write in their article that Blumenthal, “repeatedly exaggerated his military service in Vietnam.” First, only one instance was mentioned in this article in which he claims to have served there, not “repeatedly”. And the NYT article never suggested that he served in Vietnam, so that “exaggerating his service” there was not alleged. Let’s be accurate.

    And Linda McMahon is going to go after Blumenthal for serving in the Marine Corps Reserves? And where did Linda McMahon serve? In a fake wrestling ring? Give me a break!

    And why did Hearst never scrutinize Joe Lieberman’s military deferments during Vietnam when he was a major supporter of sending other people’s sons and daughters to Iraq? Yet now Blumenthal, who did serve in the reserves, is being excoriated for one speech? Where is the balance there?

    Why are these reporters so interested in Blumenthal’s military record when not a single one of them ever took the time to look into Chris Shays’ blatantly false claim over two decades that he served in the Peace Corps instead of going into the military. In fact, Peace Corps service was never considered a basis for a draft deferment or a draft exemption. Even as late as a month ago, Shays was telling Fairfield County Weekly that the reason he wasn’t drafted when he received a low lottery number in 1969 was that he was serving in the Peace Corps. That was false, but no reporter has ever called him on it.

    Why is it that no reporter, Not Brian Lockhart, not Ken Dixon, not Neil Vigdor, ever once highlighted the hypocrisy of Chris Shays’ claiming conscientious objector status while pushing for war in Iraq? Why didn’t anyone in Hearst or elsewhere in the Connecticut media ever once demand that Chris Shays make public his draft records and demand to see how he got out of going to Vietnam in 1969 at the height of the war? Yet now Hearst is all over Dick Blumenthal? Who did serve six years in the Marine Corps Reserves? Whose son was just commissioned as a Marine officer who will ship out to Afghanistan this summer? Where is the objectivity there?

    Blumenthal did serve in the Marine Corps Reserves. Fact. His son is going to war this summer. A little balance, if you please.

  16. billy wilson says:

    Dude,
    What a stupid post. Do you “cover” the CT General Assembly or do you try to “cover up” any offense that your beloved liberal demmies commit rather than actually report objectively.

    Blumy is GOING DOWN, second Democrat Senate candidate to go down in flames because of their lies and corruption. Can you say Republican Senate takeover anyone? Can’t wait till November!!

  17. David McMahon says:

    Headnote: I am not related to Linda McMahon. Credit goes to McMahon for not planting the story and running away from it. This is rough and tough politics. This is just what we need in Washington, rough, tough, unafraid and uncompromised. David McMahon

  18. Denbo says:

    Sorry but I am a cynic. Blumenthal will spin this and will be elected. In one week no one will care about this. Blumenthal could have collaborated with Roman Polanski and no one would care.

  19. independent soul says:

    let’s boil it all down to the basics……… the NYTimes did it’s job, print a story. Let’s leave them out of it. If Blumie will “misspeak” (love that political word for lie) about something personal to endear himself, to what extent will he go to make him the best at his job? And as for Linda’s bunch, riding herd on a story that might help your candidate win isn’t exactly something new in the world of politics. So Brian, get over it, politics as usual and expected.

  20. Brian Lockhart says:

    1. It’s not fair for me to say what the Times should/shouldn’t do ’cause I don’t know their side of this. I do find it unusual that McMahon is publicly taking credit for it, which is why I blogged about it. I do think that the point was to show any Republican delegates who like her money but are worried about her baggage that she has the resources to take on Blumenthal and can dig up the dirt.
    2. It’s all about calculation. The campaigns are always shopping stories, playing reporters off one another, threatening to take an idea to another newspaper, and figuring out how to plant a story with the greatest impact.
    I think what it says about local journalism is that the New York Times is still the New York Times, know what I’m saying?

  21. Fuzzy Dunlop says:

    Brian,
    A few quick questions that may seem beside the point, but hey, you responded to my last post…

    1) Was it ethical, journalistically, for the New York Times not to attribute any of the information or sourcing to McMahon’s campaign. McMahon’s victory lap makes it fairly clear that they didn’t provide the information on background or with any desire for anonymity. With the caveat that I think the piece is, deservedly, unbelievably damaging to Blumenthal, I think that it is somewhat dishonest of the Times not to at least mention the impetus for the story. (all that being said, is it also possible that McMahon is lying about feeding the story)

    2) Assuming that a local paper would have run with it, what does it say about the state of local journalism that McMahon went to the New York Times with something like this and not the Courant or a Hearst paper? Is it simply a calculation that it was best to start off by getting national coverage and allow it to trickle down?