Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Thu May 20 20:22:04 UTC 2010

>In Reagan's case, it was non-existent.

Not true. Reagan joined the Army reserves in 1937 as a private and was
ordered to active duty in April 1942. He was discharged in December 1945
with the rank of captain, after having spent most of the war in military
service. He was, however, restricted to service in the States due to his
poor vision. The majority of his service was spent making training films,
which was actually a very astute use of his talents by the Army. I'm not
aware that Reagan ever distorted his military service to claim that he did
anything other than make films for the Army.

Reagan was hardly alone in being so used. Joe DiMaggio spent the war
stateside playing exhibition baseball on an Army team to entertain other
troops. Musician Dave Brubeck was shipped overseas and served in Patton's
3rd Army, but he played in a jazz band and did not see ground combat, but he
did undergo an artillery attack on at least one occasion. In contrast, Ted
Williams was a USMC instructor pilot; he also remained stateside and did not
see combat in WWII, although he did fly 39 combat missions in Korea, and
actor Jimmy Stewart was a bomber pilot who flew 20 combat missions.

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of
Victor Steinbok
Sent: Thursday, May 20, 2010 11:46 AM
Subject: Re: Vietnam

Interspersed below:

On 5/20/2010 1:24 PM, Bill Palmer wrote:
> There are numerous examples of individuals masquerading as  combat
> war heroes, etc.

In fact, Lindsey Graham, while campaigning for the Senate seat in 1998,
repeatedly and blatantly referred to himself as a "Gulf War veteran" in
speeches and interviews. While this may sound more ambiguous than the
single Blumenthal clip, the intent was quite obvious and damning. Graham
never left the East coast of the US during the Gulf War, even though he
did wear the uniform during that time. Graham was elected and is still
in the Senate. And Dick Cheney asked for five deferments before deciding
that he did not even need to ask any more--and he went on to serve as a
Defense Secretary and a Vice President.

We've also had at least two now-former presidents making an issue of
their "service". In George W. Bush's case, the "service" was laughable.
In Reagan's case, it was non-existent.

> Isn't it obvious that Blumenthal is trading on the sacrifices of others?
> it possible that he could have just made an honest misstatement crediting
> himself with combat duty, when actually he could have avoided such a
> misrepresentation by not speaking extemporaneously?  Why bend over
> to find some circumstance which allows the possibility that he's not a
> This thing walks like a duck and talks like a duck.

I guess, the whole point is that it /isn't/ obvious. I raised the issue
initially not to defend Blumenthal but to understand if there was any
linguistic evidence to support his claim, simply trying to understand
the issue. Following the discussion here, I am convinced that there is
no evidence of any kind of ambiguity in what he said--"in Vietnam" does
not have a secondary meaning, no matter how much anyone tries to spin
it. Since I have no direct experience or expertise in the area, I was
trying not to prejudge either the story or its target.

However, there is exactly zero evidence beyond this single incident that
suggests that he was deliberately trying to mislead the audience
concerning his record. Other alleged citations are suggestive /only/ if
you are looking for this interpretation already. In ordinary reading,
they are perfectly consistent with his actual record--a point I did try
to make when I first posted it.

But, more importantly, there is obvious doubt about intent /in the same
speech/. Unlike NYT, which appears to have uncritically adopted the
claim from one of the opposing campaigns, within 24 hours, AP posted
another clip, slightly earlier in the /same speech/, that identifies his
service record correctly. If anything, Ron undersold this point--not
only did Blumenthal correctly explained his service record, but he did
so in the very same speech that is now being claimed as evidence of his
attempt to mislead.

I suppose, I should have known the risk of turning this into a political
discussion when I brought it up. But I tried to focus on the main point
and it was a question of language. But now that we started talking about
ducks, it seems necessary to point out another datum: Blumenthal had one
of the highest statewide favorability rating of any politician in the
country at the time he made the statement. There was no objective reason
for him to inflate his record. One has to be monstrously stupid to
deliberately risk his 78% approval rating to get it up to maybe 80%,
when anything over 60% is close to a guarantee of election victory. If
Blumenthal were this stupid would he not repeat the claim more than once??

Sometimes, when it looks like a duck, it's merely a head of a
platypus--or, perhaps, even a wooden decoy. The NYT story appears to be
only slightly more legitimate than the one sold to Dan Rather. Sure,
they could have posed the question concerning Blumenthal's potential fib
without risking their reputation. But to do so without giving a full
account of even the one supposedly controversial speech is journalistic
malpractice. NYT has become the paper of spotty record.


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