I interviewed Dick Blumenthal last night for this Sunday’s Face the State, and he was a very different Dick Blumenthal. It was the first real sit down interview in months and the first time I had spoken to him since before the New York Times story broke in May, which changed his senate campaign and changed the way some voters look at him, perhaps forever.
Blumenthal used to the be the most accessible public official in our land of steady habits, offering reporters his personal cell phone number and granting interviews at a moment’s notice. His eager willingness to go on camera was a running joke among his staff, journalists, columnists and radio disc jockeys…even himself. But the post NY Times article Blumenthal is a new type of politician. That cell phone number has been disconnected, and his twice, or thrice weekly appearances on local media outlets have been sharply reduced.
We talked about the perception we journalists now have that Blumenthal is tightly managed. He said that wasn’t the case, and he said I was wrong when I said he had turned down invitations to appear on “Face the State.” I told him I had to set the record straight, and yes, in fact the campaign had turned us down. In May, we put in a request to have Blumenthal on our show and it is now July. In the old days I used to call Blumenthal at 5PM and have him in front of a camera by 7PM.
Hey, I understand. To say Blumenthal had a rough May is a huge understatement. I don’t blame his people for holding him back from public appearances and interviews. They were probably hoping the military service controversy would die down, and it has somewhat.
I had no intention to ask Blumenthal specifically about the Vietnam comments. He’s already explained them, and I didn’t expect anything new to come out. I instead wanted to know what went on behind the scenes during those dark days in May when he was being criticized across the country. I wanted to know he handled the obvious stress and tension of a crisis situation. Blumenthal didn’t really answer the question and instead he brought up the Vietnam comments, apologizing to veterans, again.
Blumenthal seemed to avoid a few of my questions and instead delivered answers to something else that seemed rehearsed. It’s not my style to cut off guests, but I had to. I didn’t want precious time burned on lengthy talking points that had been said before.
Also to watch for this weekend: Blumenthal’s comments on Linda McMahon and the WWE. The attorney general said voters will have to decide for themselves about McMahon’s character. He also said there might be questions about whether McMahon’s WWE put profits above the safety of workers. I asked whether his office had ever investigated the WWE for those allegations.
His answer is very interesting, and I’d like to hear your take on it.
My sense is that the Vietnam comments controversy shook Blumenthal to his core. I don’t think the old Dick Blumenthal is ever coming back. He is now in a race that is probably tougher than he ever imagined and for the first time after decades of easy landslides he faces an opponent in a campaign that has everybody watching.
We also talked about immigration, the stimulus, and more.
Tune in this Sunday at 11AM for Face the State.
UPDATE: Here is the interview: