The Corner

In Instead of During

Blumenthal has steadfastly refused to directly apologize, stating only his passive “regret” at “misplaced words” and citing this seemingly innocent prepositional inversion as the source of all the controversy surrounding his statements on his military service.

Does anyone buy this? Once maybe, but Blumenthal’s elisions and insinuations about his service are plural, and have taken different forms.

Besides, the move from “during” to “in” is a move from ambiguity to clarity. I, for one, wouldn’t know whether a soldier had been in-country merely from his statement that he served “during Vietnam.” This tells me when he served, but leaves unclear where. A man who says he served “in Vietnam”, on the other hand, answers the second question definitively.

UPDATE: I don’t think there is any reason at all to believe Blumenthal “misspoke.” I think he lied, full stop. But to see why Blumenthal’s prepositional slip story doesn’t quite fit, allow me to keep on my grammarian’s hat and semanticist’s monocle for just a minute longer. Let’s take a look at Blumenthal’s allegedly “misplaced” words:

“We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam.”  

Simply subbing in “in” for “during” here makes the sentence sound a bit off. That’s because “in” is usually a spatial preposition, but both “during” and “since” are temporal prepositions. If he really meant to say “during Vietnam”, which fixes Blumenthal’s service temporally, then “since the days” would be redundant or vice versa. In other words, if he really meant “during Vietnam” and only “during Vietnam,” the whole sentence would have looked different. He would have said something like “We have learned something important since the Vietnam era, when I served.”

And how about this one:

“When we returned, we saw nothing like this,” Mr. Blumenthal said. “Let us do better by this generation of men and women.”

Again, if Blumenthal didn’t mean his “return” from service “in Vietnam” but rather his return from service “during Vietnam” then he was traveling through time.

A reader, and vet, makes a similar point:

Give me a break!  I served in the Marine Corps Reserve during the first Gulf War – never left the good ol’ USA.  I would never say that I served “in the Gulf”.  I’m proud of my service, and I certainly didn’t try to dodge going over there, but it just wouldn’t be right.  Even saying you served “in the Vietnam War”, although maybe lame, might not be quite so bad, since I guess you could have served in support of the war, but he definitely said he served “in Vietnam”.  Even if I tell someone I served “during the first Gulf War”, I quickly follow that up with “not over in the Gulf” – it’s just the honest thing to do, and I think people appreciate the honesty.

 Someone who served in Louisiana all during WWII could certainly say he served “in the Second World War”, but he wouldn’t say he served “in France” or “on Iwo Jima”.  I suspect the vast majority of such veterans would make it plain that they stayed in the US – it’s just the way most vets are.

UPDATE II: I told (or rather tweeted at) Jim Geraghty earlier today that, dollars for doughnuts, I’d bet Blumenthal survives this. Lefty Greg Sargent, who to his credit seems to see Blumenthal’s prevarications for what they are, agrees that Blumenthal will be the candidate:

The examples of him misleading voters that have surfaced so far are damning indeed. At best, they display startling lapses of competence that seem unlikely in a well accomplished attorney who clearly knows how to wield language to great effect. If the worst is true, that he was consciously trying to mislead voters, it would have been borderline pathological for him to imagine he could get away with it.

Whatever the truth, he insisted with a great deal of conviction that his lapses weren’t intentional. And the evidence so far suggests that in other settings, he didn’t intend to mislead. Perhaps most important, no Dems are cutting and running right now. They seem to have closed ranks behind him.

UPDATE III: Cook Political Report has also become more bearish on Blumenthal, downgrading the Connecticut Senate race to “Toss Up.”

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