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Editorial Foolish battles in a Washington war

October 3, 2018

The issue: President Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal have a few things in common.

They are the same age (72), born in 1946.

Both have lived in Greenwich.

They are native New Yorkers.

Both received five deferments from the military draft during the Vietnam War.

Blumenthal ultimately enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserves. During his senate campaign against former WWE president Linda McMahon in 2010, Blumenthal came under fire for identifying himself as serving in Vietnam. The most common example was a video sound bite from an event for Norwalk seniors. Hearst Connecticut Newspapers reviewed the complete footage at the time and found he identified himself early in the speech as “someone who served in the military during the Vietnam era in the Marine Corps.” Later slips were sloppy, particularly given Blumenthal’s knack for precision.

At the time, we criticized former Connecticut Gov. Lowell Weicker making a rare public comment to attack Blumenthal. Our issue was that Weicker was serving on the board of Blumenthal’s opponent, McMahon, which he did not reveal.

These days, McMahon is on Trump’s team as administrator of the Small Business Administration, so maybe it shouldn’t be too surprising the president is parroting her 8-year-old attacks.

What we wrote: “We believe the uproar over Blumenthal’s statements about his military service was over-baked, the charges against him pretty thin.” Editorial, July 6, 2010

“We certainly don’t agree with those who say all he has done is wiped out by a few occasions when he said he served in Vietnam. Not when on so many more occasions he made his military record perfectly clear. And definitely not when he has been a tireless fighter for veterans in the state.” Editorial, Oct. 29, 2010

What @realDonaldTrump tweeted: “... for 12 years he told the people of Connecticut, as their Attorney General, that he was a great Marine War Hero. Talked about his many battles of near death, but was never in Vietnam. Total Phony!” Sept. 29, 2018

“He cried like a baby and begged for forgiveness like a child. Now he judges collusion?” Aug. 7, 2018

What’s new: Trump, who was granted a deferment because of bad feet, keeps putting them in his mouth, manufacturing fictional Blumenthal boasts. Blumenthal was wrong and apologized. We’ve learned there are no apologies in this White House.

The timing of Trump’s comments suggests he is challenging Blumenthal’s legitimacy in criticizing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s honesty.

But there is an important subtext here. Blumenthal is making progress in his lawsuit against Trump, claiming the president accepted cash from foreign governments, a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

What should happen next: Considering the stakes, this misdirection should cease. The weight on one scale of justice involves all Americans, given the power of a member of the Supreme Court. On the other scale is an accusation of the most personal of violations, which carries equal weight.

Human dignity, though, must always outweigh bullying.

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