Attorney General Richard Blumenthal marched softly Thursday toward Memorial Day, an awkward holiday for a politician struggling to live down a controversy over misrepresenting his Vietnam-era military record.
He is skipping public observances over the weekend, a tacit admission that his presence could disrupt memorials and generate fresh headlines by drawing hecklers. But he is not hiding, either.
On Thursday, Blumenthal spoke at a ceremony hosted by conservative radio host Brad Davis, who has pummeled the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate ever since the controversy erupted last week. The two men shook hands on stage.
The occasion was the addition of five photographs to Connecticut’s Wall of Honor, a memorial to Connecticut military personnel who died in Iraq and Afghanistan. The wall was created by Comptroller Nancy S. Wyman, assisted by Davis.
“I want to thank Nancy Wyman and Brad Davis for the immense, enduring contribution they have made through this Wall of Honor,” Blumenthal said in his brief remarks.
Davis began the ceremony at the Legislative Office Building by asking all veterans to rise and be recognized. Seated a few feet to his right was Blumenthal, a stateside Marine Reservist during the Vietnam war.
Earlier, Quinnipiac University gave Blumenthal good news: Its latest poll found that a majority of residents believed he misspoke, not lied, when referring to service in Vietnam. He leads Republican Linda McMahon by 19 percentage points among military households and 25 points overall.
His audience included the family of Connecticut’s war dead.
“Your being here reflects a sense of solidarity and sharing that I think is boundless and profound in its meaning,” he told them. “We are one family in saluting and caring for you and your loved ones.”
“For all the people who are cynical and doubting and pessimistic about our nation, I wish I had this picture to take with me and show it across the state. The picture is worth a thousand words,” Blumenthal said.
It was at events commemorating the service of veterans that Blumenthal occasionally referred to time in Vietnam. On Veterans’ Day in 2008, he said, “I wore the uniform in Vietnam.”
Blumenthal, who had made clear in his official biography and in previous speeches that he was a stateside Reservist, attributed the misstatements to slips of the tongue, not efforts to deceive.
He was applauded Thursday.
“This holiday has a special meaning for me, because my son will be coming home from Quantico,” Blumenthal said, referring to a son in the Marines. “We haven’t seen him in a number of months and we are not sure when his next leave will be.”
Blumenthal declined to talk about his political situation.
“All I’m going to say is I’m here to honor American heroes whose service and sacrifice are models of patriotism to me and countless other citizens,” he said.
Before the ceremony, Blumenthal moved through the audience, seeming to converse easily with people who lost sons and brothers.
“I know most of these families personally. I’ve been to the funerals. I have very strong feels about the heroism and sacrifice and commitment to country that we celebrate,” he said. “Memorial Day is about our heroes and honoring them.”
“I wanted to be here.”