Connecticut Senate Race Serves Up Trio of Vietnam War Sanctimony

by Irvin Muchnick on May 21, 2010

While the political world focuses this week on the primary election results in several states, Connecticut is headed this weekend for the dated and possibly irrelevant institution of party conventions. Thanks to a revelation (which the New York Times exaggerated) that state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal – up until now the presumptive Democratic nominee to fill retiring Senator Chris Dodd’s seat – made misleading statements about his military record in public speeches, both parties confront intricate scenarios. Lest anyone accuse me of having a partisan rooting interest, rather than using this Senate race as a platform to expose the postmodernist death trap of pro wrestling, let’s dispose first of Blumenthal.

In a devastating profile some weeks before the current hit piece, the Times provided an echo chamber for speculation that he was “Martha Coakley in pants” – a snide reference to the Democrat who got defenestrated by Scott Brown in the special election to fill Ted Kennedy’s Massachusetts Senate seat. But to me, Blumenthal is coming off more like Eliot Spitzer’s kid brother: a self-righteous prosecutor with a closet skeleton or two of his own.

For 20 years Blumenthal has had the softball soapbox of the Connecticut AG office, and now the question is whether he can take it as easily as he dishes it out. I wouldn’t argue for a second against the legitimate starting point of his five-deferment stint in the Marine Reserves during the Vietnam era, which he has artfully elided, in at least a handful of public appearances, into the suggestion that he did active combat duty.

The Blumenthal story was so huge that it reduced to a footnote the simultaneous banana-peel pratfall of another Nutmeg State opportunist, Susan Bysiewicz. Secretary of State Bysiewicz was the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for governor before Dodd announced his retirement, Blumenthal jumped into the Senate fray, and Bysiewicz calculated that the attorney general’s job would be a safer harbor for her long-term political ambitions than the systematic budget-slashing that governors in California have had to spearhead for years, and that the rest of the country is now learning as a way of life.

The problem – originally spotted by an obscure blogger – was that Bysiewicz did not qualify for attorney general, whose requirements include the active practice of law for at least 10 years. A lower court, after viewing a comical videotaped deposition in which Bysiewicz said she had once appeared in small claims court, agreed that her work as secretary of state constituted the active practice of law. But this week the state Supreme Court unanimously disagreed, siding with the interpretation of the blogger. Bye-bye Bysiewicz.

Meanwhile, as I have been reporting serially to Beyond Chron readers, the leader in the polls for the Republican nomination for the Senate seat is World Wrestling Entertainment honcho Linda McMahon, who has launched a Meg Whitmanesque orgy of media spending to paint herself as a political outsider and cover up the voluminous scandals in her own big-business past.

Tasteless as well as shameless, McMahon crowed on her website that she had been the source of the Times hit on Blumenthal.

The Republican frontrunner before McMahon started throwing her centimillions around, former Congressman Rob Simmons, will be arguing at this weekend’s party convention that he is the better candidate to go mano a mano with the wounded Blumenthal, or whoever the Democrats put up. Simmons is an actual Vietnam vet, whose long experience in government at many levels also included a stint as a CIA agent. Without disrespecting Simmons’ sacrifices, I observe that we’re all in sorry shape when the candidate with the best character references seems to be an ex-spy.

If McMahon gets the endorsement of party conventioneers, Simmons has pledged not to wage a primary fight against her, even if he garners the 15 percent delegate threshold that he will certainly attain. McMahon has not made a similar pledge and will surely continue, at least through the summer, to pollute the airwaves with her inane and saccharine commercials.

As for McMahon, Blumenthal, and Vietnam, how odd – perhaps oddly appropriate – that the candidate least touched by real war is the co-founder of a company that produces Bob Hope-style wrestling specials for NBC every holiday season to entertain the troops now quagmired in Asia. President Obama, media whore par excellence, even lent his mug to last December’s WWE “Tribute to the Troops.” And why not – Linda McMahon and her husband Vince have given money to past Congressional campaigns of his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel.

(A bipartisan money grubber, Linda also contributed to campaigns of the now-disgraced Susan Bysiewicz – who returned the favor by endorsing McMahon for the state Board of Education last year, based in part on a resume that lied about her academic credentials and on a disclosure statement representing that she had no known controversies in her background. With or without abusing steroids, you could pull a muscle tracking the incestuousness of Connecticut politics.)

As the reporting on my own obscure blog has revealed, Linda and Vince McMahon, along with a Rudy Giuliani crony who was the husband of their defense lawyer, may well have obstructed justice while they were under federal investigation and, ultimately, indictment in the 1990s.

If Teflon Linda becomes Exhibit B of the Scott Brown phenomenon in New England Senate races involving open seats previously held by iconic Democrats, there will be plenty of stupidity to spread around.

Irvin Muchnick, author of CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death, blogs at and tweets at

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