Let’s imagine for a moment that I wrote my Yale admissions essay on the topic of “a defining life experience” — but claimed untruthfully that I, at enormous personal risk, had leapt into a road packed with traffic to rescue a small child from a fast-moving car.
There’s no doubt that such an essay would have been extraordinarily compelling, but the thought of writing it never crossed my mind. It would have been an act entirely devoid of integrity, and had it been discovered, my application would immediately have been sent to the “reject” pile. If a current Yale student was uncovered acting in a similar way, chances are they’d be on the first train home, and rightly so.
Now let’s imagine a candidate for Senate who referred, on numerous occasions, to his military service in Vietnam. In one speech, this candidate even claimed, in front of Marines, that he “wore the uniform” there. Such words would no doubt help win voters over to a man of evident valour and experience. But this candidate wasn’t being honest; he had never served. Every time he claimed that he had served in Vietnam, he was insulting the bravery of those who genuinely had, simply for the sake of political gain.
Such a candidate, we would all surely agree, represents much of what is wrong with politics nowadays. It is hard to suggest that somebody willing to distort and manipulate the facts could ever represent the electorate of a state in good faith. How could his constituents ever fully trust him?
This candidate isn’t hypothetical. He exists, he’s standing for Senate in Connecticut, and his name is Richard Blumenthal.
The facts concerning Mr. Blumenthal’s military service speak for themselves. He never set foot in Vietnam. According to the New York Times, he obtained at least five military deferments to avoid having to do so. There is no shame in that. What is shameful is that someone who did not serve has attempted to claim that he did. It distorts the genuine honor of those who risked everything for the sake of their nation.
There will be those who suggest that everyone makes mistakes, and that Mr. Blumenthal should be forgiven for what he has admitted was an error in judgment. If he was applying for an ordinary job, I would accept the point. But he isn’t. He’s standing for election to one of the most important offices in the hands of Connecticut voters.
Election to the Senate is a national and personal honor, and those who join its ranks should, first and foremost, have an unquestionable history of decency and honor. It is indisputable that false claims concerning military service are extraordinarily dishonorable. The message that the election of Richard Blumenthal would send is that honor isn’t important to us, as citizens, any more.
If we send that message, we accept that political integrity itself is of no significance. We step onto a dangerous path; our destination will be a government filled only with career politicians, prepared to say whatever is necessary to win elections, regardless of its veracity.
Connecticut and its people deserve better than that. Mr. Blumenthal has spoken repeatedly about his desire to keep fighting for the state. The question voters need to answer is whether he aims to serve the State of Connecticut — or his own reputation and electoral ambitions.
On Tuesday, Connecticut has its chance to send a clear message: that its people demand integrity and honor from its politicians. To send that message, voters need only reject Richard Blumenthal — a candidate who has shown that he is willing to distort these values for the sake of a more compelling and sellable life story.
Alex Fisher is a freshman in Morse College.