It's time to put Dickiegate behind us. Richard Blumenthal is a politician. Period. Did we expect virtue? Did we expect him to be any different than all the other members of the political class who subscribe to the credo that spin is everything? Did we expect this Dick to be any different than all the other dicks wandering around Washington?
I enjoyed the spectacle this past week as much as anyone: Blumenthal lied about his Vietnam War record. Then he blamed others for pointing it out. His spin doctors went into overdrive, and a counter-offensive was launched. It felt like the moral equivalent of the Wall Street bailout: Expensive games played by folks who live inside a bubble where nothing matters so much as wealth, power and the perception of goodness.
Let's just vet it and say it loud and clear: Richard Blumenthal is a two-faced shit head, a trust fund baby lip-synching Bruce Springsteen and trying to be one of the guys. He's got the swagger of a well-kept momma's boy. Not an ounce of fat to spare, he works 24-7 at cultivating a flawless image of perfection. His compulsion to make himself daily into the epigone of some private version of virtue is a sure sign of a character flaw drawing its energy from some dark star. He's a prig, a man without qualities, a blue-blooded buffoon. He is all these things and more.
But he is still my candidate for the U.S. Senate.
I would have trusted Blumenthal more if he could simply admit that he exaggerated. We've all sinned and fallen short of the glory of whatever god or goddess we serve. In his great zeal to serve veterans he over-identified with them. I get that. It does not make him a moral criminal. It simply makes him weak. A simple "I'm sorry" would have sufficed. Can there really be an excess of love and regard for those who serve at risk of death and disfigurement?
But instead of honesty, we got the predictable behavior of a member of the political class: lies, spin, casting blame, silly posturing. Blumenthal looked like a clown this week. In this regard, he looked no different than his Republican candidate for the seat, Linda McMahon, the madonna of steroid swigging wrestlers in the Worldwide Wrestling Federation. And I would rather share a foxhole, even an imaginary foxhole, with Blumenthal than with Robert Simmons, the ex-CIA spy whose trade craft for a decade or more was lies, deception and a two-dimensional embrace of orders.
Who do you want casting votes on the larger issues of the day: A wealthy wrestling promoter with the moral sense of a drug-dealing pornographer? Or a man with decades of experience in public service who, despite his flawed character, has devoted a lifetime to understanding public policy issues and leadership?
We were reminded of a painful lesson last week. The folks who often seek office do so for reasons that most of us would regard as pathological. Harold Lasswell wrote a classic about those who seek powers in the 1930s, Psychopathology and Politics. He explored what quirks compelled a person to make the largely irrational choice to serve in office. Politicians, we know, but refuse to acknowledge, typically don't seek office because they are good people at peace with themselves. They seek office because inner demons drive them outside the comfort zones most of us accept as the norm. Blumenthal is a politician. Last week, he took his demon out for a walk. It wasn't pretty.
I did not vote for many years. The candidates seemed then all the same: Vainglorious nabobs squabbling over issues that rarely mattered. It seemed a continuation of the sort of games that the cool kids played in high school. Some of them really wanted to be president of the senior class. They worked at it. They went to the same school I attended, but their concerns were otherworldly. I happily let them waste their time seeking to sit atop a heap I could not wait to flee.
But public office is different, I learned. Refusing to vote doesn't mean that the office will go unfilled. The people who play the game get the spoils. Their voices are the ones that are heard. A few years back, and with reluctance, I started to vote again. I learned that selecting a candidate was a lot like buying a used car. I rarely love any of the models on the lot. I buy what I can afford and hope it will take me where I want to go.
It delights me that Blumenthal's imaginary moral engine blew this week. He's not the Porsche he thinks he is. It's fun to rant at him and remind him of his hypocrisy. But at the end of the day, we still will elect a Senator to replace Chris Dodd in November. I'd happily put Blumenthal in the Senate with my vote. He's the best candidate for the job. He's the most capable politician of the lot, whatever that says. So I will send him to the Senate without reservation.
I just won't invite the man to dinner.