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Vietnam something imagined

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Vietnam something imagined
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With their usual talent for towing icebergs into the path of their own Titanic, the Democrats have a problem.

In Connecticut, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, a candidate for U.S. Senate who has long taken pride in his Vietnam service, is now revealed as a person who forgot to make clear that he wasn't there.


In fact, according to a story in The New York Times Tuesday, he received at least five military deferments from service at the time. (As knowledgeable readers will note, this impressively tied Dick Cheney's personal record.) Only when his deferment was reportedly in jeopardy did Blumenthal enlist in the Marine Reserve, managing to get himself into a Washington unit whose members rarely damaged their teeth on grenade pins. In fact, this unit is reported to have focused on projects like fixing a campground and organizing a Toys for Tots program.

Certainly, tots can be very fierce and facing them down as they fought over Erector Sets is more than Dick Cheney ever did in uniform.

But it is fair to wonder if Connecticut voters will think he is now the best person to replace Democrat Christopher Dodd, who has decided to beat a retreat from the Senate in the face of an implacable foe (the public).

The problem for Blumenthal and his party is that, while all military duty is a service to the nation, "The Few, the Proud, the Children's Aides" may not work for him as a slogan on the campaign trail.

This is the sort of thing that shakes public faith in politicians. In a different vein, eight-term Indiana Rep. Mark Souder, a Republican, admitted to an affair with a staffer Tuesday and unexpectedly resigned.

"I sinned against God, my wife and my family by having a mutual relationship with a part-time member of my staff," Souder said, making an important distinction.

Yes, thank goodness she was only part-time. Fellow conservatives will breathe a sigh of relief, because part-time status suggests that the chance of taxpayer dollars being used to subsidize hanky-panky is much reduced. With any luck, only the hanky was dubiously funded.

What is it with conservative politicians anyway? Today Rep. Souder, yesterday South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

While Democrats are no strangers to being de-trousered, a la Bill Clinton and Eliot Spitzer, only the Republican Party makes a fetish of condemning illicit sex under the banner of family values. It appears the more they talk about it, the hotter they become. Still, it is good to know that when these fellows condemn sexual misbehavior, they do so as experts.

What other public figure will next disappoint us? Did Elena Kagan, President Barack Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court, really play softball or was it whiffle ball? We look to the Republicans at her confirmation hearing to ask the hard questions, if only they can stop thinking about their part-time staff members as steam rises from their ears.

In this world without certainty, there is just one person in the public limelight you can trust. Yes, ahem (pause to blush modestly), me.

Laugh as you will, but I am not a politician, which makes me presumptively honest. Of course, I am a journalist, which immediately cancels out that advantage. Still, I can be trusted not to have any affairs -- not because I fear moral condemnation, but because Mrs. Henry would kill me. Thankfully, my Vietnam service is not in doubt. I was there.

The Third Armored Typewriter Public Relations Platoon (Motto: "Last to the Battle, First to the Bar") of the Australian Army (Motto: "Backing the Yanks All the Way So Long as They Buy the Drinks") was my unit back in old Saigon in 1970.

About that decoration for gallantry you may have heard me speak about: Actually, I misspoke slightly, I meant to say that I was very gallant to a young lady in a bar on the famous Tu Do Street. That was the time I stood on a stool to praise her virtue, not realizing that the overhead fan was only inches from my head.

This incident has also become garbled into a story about my head almost being cut off by the blades of a helicopter at a landing strip under enemy fire. Nothing could be closer to the truth. It was highly dangerous working for The Third Armored Typewriters; I got a paper cut once.

Of course, I regret that my military career has been sometimes misconstrued. But if you were there, you don't have to make up stories, you only need to embellish them.

No need to thank me for my service, ladies, unless of course you are irresistibly part-time.

-- Henry is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. E-mail