Politicians Never Lie; They Merely ’Misspeak’

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, running as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate, admitted today at a news conference held at a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in West Hartford that he “misspoke” about his service in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.

The New York Times reported this morning that Blumenthal’s words spoken on numerous occasions do not represent his military service. The Times referenced Blumenthal’s speech to a group in Norwalk in March 2008 as primary: “We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam.” But the Attorney General never served in Vietnam, only during that era. He received numerous deferments between 1965 and 1970 to pursue higher education, then worked in the Nixon White House and eventually joined the Marine Reserve, but was never stationed in Vietnam.

When asked how he would address those who say he lied, Blumenthal repeated his talking points, that he “did misspeak on a few occasions”, that he “will not allow anyone to take a few misplaced words and impugn (his) record of service”, that he “regrets” that he misspoke, that he “takes full responsibility for it”, and that he” will continue to fight for Veterans.”

Yet when asked if taking full responsibility meant he should issue an apology to the people for having misspoken, Blumenthal simply repeated his talking points like a polished politician: “I regret that I misspoke and I take full responsibility.” Veteran supporters standing behind Blumenthal – both literally and figuratively – yelled a resounding “no” that he did not need to apologize.

When asked to define “misspeaking”, the journalist specifically inquired as to whether or not it was intentional misspeaking. To which he replied, “Absolutely unintentional. A few misplaced words: “in” instead of “during”. Totally unintentional.” Perhaps this is why he did not apologize for his misspeaking, because it was simply “unintentional”, and therefore acceptable to simply “regret”.

Blumenthal also said he was “unaware” that he had misspoken, or that anyone had taken note of his words, until this had been brought to his attention just recently.

Have I misspoken before? Absolutely, but typically I am aware of it when I do. If it is not an intentional falsehood, then it is an unintentional error that is caught by me as it exits my mouth or by someone who hears and questions me. Surely with the many advisors surrounding Blumenthal, someone caught his unintentionally misplaced words, if indeed that is what they were.

Each of us “misspeaks”, to borrow Blumenthal’s word for lying. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).

David wrote in Psalms 12:2, “Everyone utters lies to his neighbor; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.” As long as mankind continues to walk the earth, it will continue to lie from a heart divided between a bent to connect with the eternal, holy God and the opposing desire to satisfy self at all costs.

The only words that we can fully trust are those of God. Psalms 12:6 declares, “The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground.”

God’s pure words teach: “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

We should be careful not to judge Blumenthal more critically than ourselves. However, we are called to be discerning, responsible electorates in this country. Perhaps if Blumenthal were to have apologized, rather than simply “regretted”, the voters would be more inclined to forgive. But one cannot receive pardon for something he has not repented.

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