By Don Klein
"Liar, liar, pants on fire." That is what a knowing secretary would whisper to me whenever the bosses at the Maryland Department of Transportation would promise us lowly workers something we all knew they couldn’t deliver. We would chuckle and then go about our daily routines.
It was funny to us, but what is happening these days with our prominent
politicians in no joke. We are witnessing an imposing list of prevaricating notables. The number swells with congressmen, governors, mayors and even presidents – and to my chagrin, journalists – on the list. Ah for the good old days when you could depend on a man’s word.
Even idolized sports figures like Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palermo, O.J. Simpson and, God forgive us, the man-child of a drooling golf crowd, his worshipful Tiger Woods, can no longer be trusted.
Now comes Richard Blumenthal, the golden boy of New England politics. He tops them all. Forget Eliot Spitzer for attacking corruption in public while toying with a prostitute in private. No need to remember Hillary Clinton’s fairy tale about dogging bullets that never where fired upon her arrival in Bosnia years ago. We can even forget about John Edward for denying out-of-wedlock intimacies and an illegitimate paternity.
Ex-Governor Rod Blagoyevich’s exploits in denying he tried to sell a senatorial nomination while chief executive of Illinois, pales in comparison. Blumenthal, the attorney general of Connecticut, an odds on favorite as the successor to retiring Sen. Christopher Dodd, had the effrontery not only to lie about his military service in Vietnam, but almost as bad, he said he was once captain of the Harvard swim team, a team of which he never was even a member.
A phoney war hero and fake Harvard letter man. A man of double duplicity. How could anyone in public office who is about to ascend to an even higher level of public service expect to get away with that?
"I misspoke," he explained when caught in this fraud by The New York Times. That excuse would not be believed even if he hadn’t sought draft deferments five times during the war. Misspoke? That’s almost as bad as blaming the dog for eating your homework.
When he eventually decided to do "his duty" he took the cowardly George W. Bush route. He joined the reserves and worked on the dangerous domestic mission known as "toys for tots."
Nevertheless endless newspaper references to his background mentioned his combat duty in Vietnam and how badly he was treated as a war veteran. People even spat on him upon his return to the States, he told tearing gullible followers from time to time. He never picked up a phone to correct stories about his falsely-reported combat duty which actually amounted to pristine service as a Marine Corps Reservist.
Can you imagine what he would have done if some news stories had referred to him as a bronco-busting Texas rodeo star in his younger days. Or worse, as having served 18 months in prison for beating his grandmother. In either case the phone would instantly be in his hand demanding an immediate correction. Not so when he was being described as a war hero.
Blumenthal was considered a certainty in the upcoming general election. I doubt if that is any longer the case. As Don Meredith, the former Monday night sportscaster and football wit used to say, "Stick a fork in him, he’s done."
There is nothing more disgusting that a liar and nothing more unpardonable than being lied to. Blumenthal can make all the speeches he wants about his misspoken remarks and he can publicly embrace as many veterans he chooses to make amends, but he will never be believed again. He should never hold public office.
He has joined the ever-expanding pantheon of the mendacious along with such well know public figures – past and present -- as Mark Sanford, Kwame Kilpatrick, Newt Gingrich, Alberto Gonzales, Dick Cheney, Larry Craig, Donald Rumsfeld, Jesse Jackson, Oliver North, Carl Rowan, Richard Packwood, Henry Cisneros, Duke Cunningham and Mark Foley.
All are members of the national Hall of Shame.
To some there might be a comparison between the lying Blumenthal and former president, Bill Clinton. But there is really no similarity. Clinton’s misstatement was the natural act of a man caught in an embarrassing extra-marital situation and telling what amounted to a big fib to cover-up his philandering. It is not unusual for a man to lie about his sex exploits, especially if he is notable and wedded.
Clinton’s lies were an effort to hide his very personal misbehavior and had no effect on government operations nor the public good. Also it was a subject that many believed was none of the business of an outrageously partisan Congress.
Blumenthal’s is very different . His lies were to magnify his image to the voters and to make him more attractive as a political entity. Clinton lied to coverup his own private sexual foibles with a White House intern. Bad as it was, it was excusable and the Senate exonerated him. Blumenthal’s lies were a deliberate attempt to broaden his appeal among the body politic for his personal ill-deserved gain.
In the end both held the belief that they were important enough to ignore normal rules and scorn the accepted morality of the nation. Both were wrong, but there is a difference. Clinton harmed no one but himself by acting like a tomcat in doing what he did with his doxy.
On the other hand, Blumenthal affronted everyone who was impressed by his dishonest resume and voted for him in the past and was thinking of voting for him again. He also insulted the millions of veterans who did serve.
Pants on fire, indeed.