When The New York Times’ last week reported Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal has inaccurately described his military service during the Vietnam War and also received deferments, Merrick Alpert was one of his harshest critics.
Alpert, a Mystic Democrat, entered the race for his party’s Senate nomination a year ago, when long-time Democratic U.S. Senator Chris Dodd was facing plenty of political heat of his own.
When Dodd announced this winter that after 30 years he would not seek re-election and the popular Blumenthal immediately announced his candidacy after serving for 20 years as Connecticut’s Attorney General, Alpert remained in the running.
But at this past Saturday’s Democratic nominating convention in Hartford, when it was clear Blumenthal continued to enjoy major support from delegates, Merrick dropped out and said he looks forward to voting for Blumenthal.
I’ve said Alpert deserves an Oscar for either acting as if he thought Blumenthal was unworthy of serving in Congress or for sucking up his negative feelings and endorsing the guy.
But Alpert, who today wrapped up his campaign with an e-mail thank you note to supporters, said in a contest between Blumenthal and Republican U.S. Senate nominee Linda McMahon, the choice is clear.
“Here’s my message, and I’m going to be out there campaigning for (Blumenthal) over the next few months,” Alpert said. “An election is comparative. You have to look at candidate A and candidate B. If you look at the sum total of their lives’ work and where their parties are aligned and the policies they embrace, there’s no question Richard Blumenthal is a better choice than Linda. Yeah, we saw the negative (Times) story on Richard Blumenthal, but at the end of the day Linda McMahon … is a phony … She’s a terrible choice.”
But wait a minute, I said to Alpert. What about some of the things you told me and other reporters after The Times story, like this gem: “What you have here is someone who simultaneously went out and used their family’s money and political connections to avoid actual military service in Vietnam. So the real fact is the guy is not a fighter. This guy was a coward and used every connection and all the money the family had to avoid service. So that’s one issue. But that issue is compounded exponentially by the fact for some time he has apparently been traveling around telling people he served in Vietnam … Clearly there’s a pathology there (and) he believes he was getting political benefit from it and never intended to get caught doing it.”
Alpert today told me: “At the end of the day I can forgive him because he apologized.”
He would not say whether he still believes Blumenthal intentionally mis-represented his service, as Republicans and other critics maintain, or whether he accepts Blumenthal’s excuse that he has misspoke on occasion but never wanted to mislead anyone.
Alpert said he is waiting for an apology from McMahon for controversies related to her family business, Stamford-based World Wrestling Entertainment, such as the deaths of wrestlers and questions about whether the company has done enough to prevent talent from using/abusing steroids.
“I just cringe when I look at her. I just cringe,” Alpert said.
He concluded despite his campaign against Blumenthal, he knows the candidate and “at the end of the day I endorse him without reservation.”
I look forward to the joint Blumenthal/Alpert campaign appearance.
Here’s the e-mail Alpert sent supporters today:
I want to thank you for your support and friendship over the past year. It has been an amazing journey and I am grateful for the trust you placed in me. I have always viewed politics as a process and not an event, and I look forward to working with you in the future to improve the democratic process.
Many of you have asked what the next chapter holds. I am returning to the private sector. Along with my investors, I am looking for a distressed company to purchase. My intent is to buy it, build it, and save American jobs. Over the past year I have become convinced that, contrary to conventional wisdom, we can rebuild our manufacturing base in America. I plan to be part of that effort.
On every campaign stop I said that my goal is to elect a Democratic Senator from Connecticut in 2010. Let us continue to work together to achieve that goal.
Alex, Jaxon, Emilia, Wyatt and I are grateful to be part of your life. And we look forward to continuing the journey with you.
Best Wishes and Godspeed,