I think I am changing my mind again, and I think this is the piece that really explains what has happened with Blumenthal:
Mr. Shays, a 10-term incumbent who lost a re-election bid in November 2008, was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War. He said he and Mr. Blumenthal began their careers in politics at roughly the same time and frequently addressed the same groups. He recalled that early on, Mr. Blumenthal spoke humbly about his military record, rarely discussing it and always making clear that he had held only desk jobs and had not been in the line of fire, though he remained proud of having been a Marine.
“But as time went on, he would mention it more often, and Vietnam would show up,” even when Mr. Blumenthal was not speaking to veterans, Mr. Shays said.
Eventually, Mr. Shays said, he began hearing Mr. Blumenthal refer to having served in Vietnam. Mr. Shays said he assumed, wrongly, that Mr. Blumenthal had perhaps been a military lawyer there. That alone, he said, was enough for him to have had the impulse to advise Blumenthal to be careful, that people could interpret his remarks as a claim to have seen action there.
“I felt inclined to go to him and say, ‘Dick, in your service in Vietnam, you weren’t on the firing line, you don’t want to overstate that,’ ” Mr. Shays said. “I just felt like he was raising the stakes in a way that was inconsistent with what he’d said in the past. I was actually going to go up and speak to him. And I wish I had.”
Mr. Shays said the change occurred gradually in statements made over time.
“More and more it kept creeping in,” he said. “And it was very different than when he first described his service. I’m not surprised, because he just kept adding to the story, the more he told it. I think what happens in a case like this, it’s a tiny increment of change, but when you haven’t heard him in years you say, that’s a big difference.”
He added: “I understand how these things, over 30 years, you keep adding a little bit to it. And you’re on very thin ice. And obviously he’s on very thin ice right now. He walked too far out on the lake. It’s really too bad, because he’s a very good person.”
I think it is clear now what happened: Blumenthal allowed other people’s faulty ideas about his service to persist, until the legend got to the point where he himself stepped over the line. Even though he has stated point blank that he never served in Viet Nam, he was more than happy to lie by omission and to allow people to have mistaken ideas about his service.