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Trump tweets outdo Blumenthal aggrandizing

Since Sen. Richard Blumenthal represents Connecticut rather than Wyoming or West Virginia, his denouncing President Donald Trump and being denounced by the president in turn can only build support for him in his home state, where the president is poorly regarded.

Indeed, it is a disaster for the country that Trump contaminates everything and everyone he endorses and ennobles everything and everyone he condemns. For the president’s hysteria, recklessness and vulgarity don’t make every policy position he takes wrong, nor do they make every policy position taken by his adversaries right. That hysteria, recklessness and vulgarity merely change the subject and make it nearly impossible to have an intelligent discussion of policy.

The president’s latest exchanges with the senator were prompted this week by Blumenthal’s advocacy of bipartisan legislation to prevent Attorney General Jeff Sessions from firing Robert Mueller, the Justice Department’s special counsel investigating the Trump presidential campaign for connections with Russia. The legislation would empower a three-judge court to review and reverse any such firing by the attorney general. Thus the legislation’s constitutionality is doubtful on separation-of-powers grounds. Further, the legislation resembles the old Tenure of Office Act, which Congress used to hobble the administration of President Andrew Johnson in the late 1860s and which the U.S. Supreme Court eventually found unconstitutional.

But this week’s Trump-Blumenthal exchange did not involve anything as intellectual as constitutional law. No, the president, offended by Congress’ continuing interest in the Russia business, lashed out at the senator personally over Blumenthal’s old dissembling about his military service.

“Never in U.S. history has anyone lied or defrauded voters like Sen. Richard Blumenthal,” Trump tweeted, as if he had never heard of Richard Nixon and Connecticut’s own John Rowland and Joe Ganim. Blumenthal, the president continued, “told stories about his Vietnam battles and conquests, how brave he was, and it was all a lie. He cried like a baby and begged for forgiveness like a child.”

Huh? 

Yes, back in 2010 when he became a candidate for the U.S. Senate, Blumenthal’s speeches and presentations during his already long political career as a state legislator and then state attorney general were scrutinized, and he was found to have said or implied a few times that he had served in Vietnam when he served only stateside in the Marine Corps Reserve. 

But there is no record of Blumenthal telling “stories about his Vietnam battles and conquests” and “how brave he was.” Nor when challenged about his Vietnam remarks had Blumenthal “cried like a baby and begged for forgiveness.” Instead he said plainly that he had misspoken, and he apologized in a normal tone of voice, not by “crying” and “begging.” Having gone on to elect him to the Senate twice, his constituents seem to have accepted his apology.

Of course people are free to revive the Vietnam issue, but following the president’s tweets, Blumenthal seemed afraid to revisit it, saying only that the president was using “slurs” to try to “bully” him out of supporting the special counsel legislation. The senator might have been braver to recall his admission of error and apology. A little humility and candor in that respect might have served to emphasize that the president was the one trying to change the subject.

But maybe humility and candor can wait for another day. Presumably there will be more exchanges between the president and the senator, and they will distract just as well from whatever matters much more.

 

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.