Opinion L.A.

Observations and provocations
from The Times' Opinion staff

« Previous Post | Opinion L.A. Home | Next Post »

Ten hut! Richard Blumenthal and the Semper Fib syndrome

Connecticut’s Democratic attorney general is not the first person to fall in love with a man in uniform – himself. And he won’t be the last.

Richard Blumenthal admitted to misstating his military record when he referred to his service in the Vietnam War. In fact, he was in uniform during the Vietnam War era but as a Marine Corps reservist who didn’t see any action beyond the Potomac River and, by some accounts, only signed up when his number was up – a low draft lottery number – and his five draft deferments had played out.

The deep unpopularity of the Vietnam War, coupled with Bill Clinton’s and Dick Cheney’s own records on the matter, have made it more tolerable, if not acceptable, to have dodged military service.

It's hard to know whether this impostor syndrome -- which is probably as old as the Iliad -- was more pronounced during the years when the nation had a draft, and most young men were required to perform some kind of military service, or came into flower with a voluntary military, when anyone in uniform was there by choice and lauded all the more for it.

But Blumenthal’s putting his stateside service on a par with Vietnam combat steps into muddier waters, where others have gone before.

Almost 15 years ago, a decorated Navy admiral named Jeremy M. Boorda committed suicide when he learned that a news report would reveal that he had embellished his Vietnam conflict ribbon with two small Vs, combat decorations he had not earned.

Duke Tully, once the publisher of Phoenix's two biggest newspapers, used to show up at speeches and veterans' events in the uniform of an Air Force colonel, a style and rank to which he had no claim. He resigned his job and presumably mothballed the uniform just as the local DA was reportedly looking into Tully's fraudulent ''record.''

Tim Johnson, who in 1999 was managing the Toronto Blue Jays, was pink-slipped for his Vietnam War fabrications.

Winners of the Medal of Honor would hear of impostors laying claim to that most venerable of honors. One such World War II Marine spent years tracking down and exposing hundreds of Medal of Honor frauds, and a Vietnam veteran named B.G. Burkett assembled his own "Stolen Valor" files of fake claimants to Vietnam War glory.

One bona fide member of the Tuskegee Airmen once told me how weary he and his comrades had grown of hearing so many men lay claim to that distinction – enough to populate 10 such squadrons.

Some of these frauds carefully built a web of credibility, sometimes with forged documents and pawn-shop medals, sometimes just by counting on the prestige of their claims and the comradeship of arms to immunize them from scrutiny. Who, really, challenges a man, or a woman, in uniform?

What motivates someone to join these ranks of fraudsters? As a clinical psychologist told The Times in 1999, they could be "losers, pathological types, guys trying to impress women. What they all have in common is this internal need to impress themselves and a feeling of power that they can pull it off."

What’s only slightly more astonishing is when real veterans sometimes close ranks to protect the impostor, as happened about 10 years back in the case of an Ohio police chief who faked an Army career. A real Army sergeant who befriended him insisted that his pal was really a covert agent, and the military wouldn’t acknowledge "the real story." As the clinical psychologist explained, that old undercover story "gives them complete deniability."

The converse, tearing down the bona fide combat veteran, is so rare as to be historic: the vicious and cynical "Swift Boat" campaign during the 2004 presidential campaign to discredit Sen. John Kerry’s very real Vietnam service and injury.

As long as this country honors its military men and women, as it should, those who haven’t earned the acclaim will be desperate to lay claim to it – and even in the age of Google and Facebook, Semper Fi can be Semper Fib.

-- Patt Morrison




Comments () | Archives (13)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Runaway Serfer

Sorry to say this, but tearing down a real combat hero isn't all that rare. Anyone who served in combat in Vietnam but returned to speak out against the war was vilified - as was Kerry decades before 2004, as was Ron Kovic who returned in a wheelchair yet was attacked physically for his antiwar statements, as was Oliver Stone who made a few anti-Vietnam-War movies and is criticized even today.

Tim Bowman

As this is a problem that will never go away, the press should do a better job of exposing these charlatans and subjecting them to the same scorn you reserve Arizona politicians and the like.


to Tim Bowman:

I give my hearty "semper fi" for hitting the nail on the head.

Valerie Young

It is doubtful any of us will ever know why Mr. Blumenthal misstated the truth. Perhaps serving during a war where he may have felt vulnerable to being called up to serve overseas at any time made him identify on some level with the soldiers who were actually on the ground. Then again perhaps he simply knew it would sound better to voters.

What I do know is that his behavior is not, as cited, an example of the impostor syndrome. The "impostor phenomenon" as psychologists refer to it, is not at all the same as posing or pretending to be someone or something you are not.

Rather, the impostor syndrome refers to the fact that a lot of high achieving or otherwise bright, capable individuals (Kate Winslet, Maya Angelo, Mike Meyers, to name a few) have difficultly internalizing or owning their success. Instead they attribute their accomplishments to things like luck, timing, personality, connections, even computer error.

The impostor phenomenon is phenomenally common. It affects both men and women, although generally speaking is more prevalent among women.

To the point of your article, there are at least ten perfectly good reasons why a smart, successful person might feel like a fraud - none of which involve cheating. In fact students who identify with the impostor syndrome have been found to be LESS likely to cheat in school than those who do not.

Mr. Blumenthal may indeed suffer from a very different phenomenon, one that strikes a lot of mostly powerful men -- irrational self-confidence syndrome.

Valerie Young, Ed.D.

Eagle II

not only did the puke knowingly lie about his service, he was
also caught lying about Harvard ( most ignore that fact ).

Deferred, deferred, deferred, deferred, deferred, reserves.. sounds like a John Kerry Itinerary, save Kerry went, scratched himself 3 times claimed 3 purple hearts and got out of nam for free ( based on the purple hearts). This wannabe never went InCountry and attempted to steal the HONOR from those combat grunts or even REMFs that did. And also note, those are only TWO items that were discovered. Be assured as I type this there are some reporters with nuts and guts who will expose more.

A friend if mine who died in 1999 has a message for you from the grave. His name is Col. Ted W, Guy, USAF (Ret) Former PoW/SRO NVN:

To the code of conduct, Ted added his own personal code that consisted of two points. The first point was to resist until unable to resist any longer before doing anything to embarrass his family or country. The second point was to accept death before losing his honor.

Ted once said "honor is something that once you lose it you become like an insect in the jungle. You prey upon others and others prey upon you until there is nothing left. Once you lose your honor, all the gold in the world is useless in your attempt to regain it."

The later is where Blumenthal is,

Eagle II

ps: In your list of notable WANNABE's busted, you forgot the Mayor of Atlanic City, New Jersey, who, like Blumenthal thought he was "untouchable" and claimed he was a Green Beret.

Google: Speculation is rampant that Atlantic City Mayor Robert Levy will re-emerge from hiding and resign this week over allegations he lied about his military service and illegally collected veterans' benefits.

I worked with Author and real deal Green Beret Don Bendell ( Google Don Bendell) on that bust, and Levy dissed Don. Don gave him a chance to apologize, but the Mayor thought his position insulated him. WRONG.

It kinda mirrors Blumenthal

"Levy called in sick to work a week and half ago and has since disappeared. With his resignation, "this circus will come to an end," the city official said.

Levy is rumored to have been staying at a psychiatric treatment facility in Burlington County, N.J., since he suddenly vanished, though that could not immediately be confirmed.

The strange case of the missing mayor began when information was revealed suggesting Levy lied about his military service in the U.S. Special Forces and has been falsely collecting military benefits.

The official said a federal investigation is close to concluding that Levy illegally took military benefits he wasn't entitled to receive, and a plea deal is being worked out with prosecutors.

The Press of Atlantic City was first to check out Levy's accounts that he was a 20-year Army veteran with two Bronze stars and two tours of duties in Vietnam. The newspaper learned that Levy lied when he said he was a Green Beret and used the false claim to bump up his veterans' benefits payments by about $25,000.

The allegedly phony Special Forces soldier has said he should have corrected the record years ago.

"Just something that occurred, you know ... just something that occurred and I am sorry for having it done," Levy told reporters recently.

But on Sept. 26, Levy got into his city-issued Dodge Durango and drove off. A Levy spokesman issued a statement saying the mayor was going on indefinite medical leave, and an aide said he was in the hospital but few people seem to know where or for how long he has been seeking medical care."

Wannabes, I have a message for you: You can RUN but you'll just die tired.
Eventually you will be BUSTED. ( Google PoW Network and Phony )

Eagle II
Never Forget - Never Forgotten

Eagle II

Dang, I forgot the most humorous part:

One of those on stage from a local VFW who were claiming to support Blumenthanl, is also a KNOWN wannabe.

Thanks to Bill P. (Cav/NamVet/Grunt) for the heads up...

Man on TV in Pic backing up wannabe in question Richard Blumenthal is on the PoW Networks list of posers.

This isn't the first time we have seen them traveling in packs. Once we busted the head of a VVA chpater in FL.. then checked the shorts of those who stood up for him.. guess what, all 5 were wannabes backing each others stories.

On the Pic and the guy to the right of the head of Harvard's Swim Team (NOT)
is the wannabe.. would love to run them all.


you can also read at free republic where they are already on top of this one. Scroll down to the pic comparison.


Reporters who may want to contact the PoW Network on this can write them, call Mary Schantag or email here:

Box 68
Skidmore, MO 64487- 0068

Phone 660-928-3304
email: [email protected] "


And what's REALLY wierd about this is the DOJ ignoring that Blumental broke a Federal Law! Posing as a WAR Veteran in Public Interviews is a felony?
Why isn't Holder's folks prosecuting?
OH, I know!
1. Blumenthal is a Democrat.
2. Holder has even LESS respect for the Military than Kagen.
3. Not enough evidence, altho the crime has been documented 8 times since 2000 by MSM interviews. THAT matters no more to Holder than VIDEOS of the Black Panthers intimidating voters in Philly in 2008.

Vicky Woodhull

Ummm. . . Duke Wayne?? He never claimed falsely to have served, but he also never served during WWII when plenty of other actors did. Many of them blacklisted, such as Lionel Stander. But, Post-War, it was Duke who got to decide who was blacklisted or not along with his buddies in the MPA.

Paul Revere

Pull out the violins, a liar is a liar, and it surely should make the common man wonder if he lies about this what else has he or will he lie about. The problem today is that the media does all it can to put a good spin on any of the Democrats instead of being truthful. What a shame.


Politicians are so use to telling lies that when they speak to facts that can be verified they are put in a tough spot.

Honesty doesn't come naturally to them.

A retired person

As a Vietnam ERA vet stationed in Japan, I cared for patients who were part of the TET offensive. Although not in Vietnam, I was part of the recovery system. I got no riboon except the Armed Service ribbon that everyne got and a Districtive Unit ribbon. Anyone who lies about this service can easily lie about anything else. I wouldn't vote for him in life. He should be "drummed" out.


It should also be noted that Republican Mark Kirk of Illinois often misstated his military record for years. Unlike some who have apologized, Kirk lashes out at at his critics. I wonder if the Republican Senator who recently proposed to make it criminal to lie about one's military record is a proposal that would apply only to Dem's or also include those in his party.



In Case You Missed It...



Recent Posts
Reading Supreme Court tea leaves on 'Obamacare' |  March 27, 2012, 5:47 pm »
Candidates go PG-13 on the press |  March 27, 2012, 5:45 am »
Santorum's faulty premise on healthcare reform |  March 26, 2012, 5:20 pm »


About the Bloggers
The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

In Case You Missed It...