Begala: Blumenthal's Vietnam Lie Like Condi Rice Calling Dubya 'Husband'?

CNN contributor and Democrat extraordinaire Paul Begala's Bush Derangement Syndrome got the better of him during a panel discussion on Tuesday's AC360 (as Mary Matalin correctly pointed out later in the segment) when he compared Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal's lie about serving in Vietnam to Condoleezza Rice's 2004 gaffe where she called former President Bush "my husband" [audio available here].

Thirty-one minutes into the 10 pm Eastern hour, anchor Anderson Cooper asked Begala about Blumenthal's statement earlier on Tuesday where he claimed he "misspoke" his false claim about serving during the Vietnam War: "I think only politicians use that word 'misspoke.' Other people call it a lie or just a mistake. But he says he accepts responsibility for misspeaking. What do you make of that?"

The CNN political contributor's answer started out in a reasonable manner, but soon descended into the bizarre, to use his own word. Cooper even expressed his utter surprise that Begala had somehow fit the Bush administration into his answer (the rest of the panel erupted in laughter at Cooper's retort, and obviously at Begala's expense).

It got even weirder when the Democratic wonk later fantasized out loud about a post-coital conversation with Pamela Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER: I want to go to Paul Begala, because Paul, we talked about Richard Blumenthal last night. Today, he says that he misspoke. I think only politicians use that word 'misspoke.' Other people call it a lie or just a mistake. (Mary Matalin laughs) But he says he accepts responsibility for misspeaking. What do you make of that?

PAUL BEGALA: You know, voters are going to have to sort through whether this is some fundamental character flaw, right, which I think many might think, or was this just a bizarre malaprop, a bizarre- you remember in 2004, Condoleezza Rice called George W. Bush 'my husband.' Now, that was really deeply creepy and weird, but- you know, it was just weird. It was one of those weird things, and sometimes people say things that are just-

COOPER: How were you able to bring the Bush administration into this conversation? (entire panel laughs)

BEGALA: Because it was so bizarre. No, I-

MARY MATALIN: (unintelligible) derangement syndrome.

BEGALA: People- people-

COOPER: 'Derangement syndrome,' Mary Matalin says.

BEGALA: No. But sometimes people make these mistakes and- you know, I was talking to my girlfriend, Pamela Anderson, about this just earlier. (Matalin laughs) We were having a cigarette, after a little fun, and she couldn't understand it either, Anderson, how people make these things up.

COOPER: But it's one thing to cite one example of saying- you know, 'my husband' or 'Pamela Anderson.' It's another thing to-

ALEX CASTELLANOS: Which no one would believe.

COOPER: Which no one would believe anyway, Paul, as Alex points out. But I mean, it's another thing to repeatedly say it in speeches.

BEGALA: Oh, it is. Don't ask me to defend it. What his- I talked to some of his campaign advisors today, and what they say is lots of other times he told the truth. Now- you know- look, to be a part-time truth teller is probably an aspiration for many politicians, but it's not good enough for me. I have to say, I'm really troubled by this as a Democrat, et cetera. It's not about being a Democrat. There are a lot of good people who fought and died and were wounded and served with great honor in Vietnam, and one ought never count himself in that number unless, in fact, he served in Vietnam, not in the Marine Corps back state-side, which is perfectly honorable. But he said he served in Vietnam, and I think voters are going to have a problem with this. We'll see if they just excuse it as the odd- you know, Pamela Anderson moment.

CASTELLANOS: Paul may have just invented the best political slogan ever: 'lots of times he tells the truth.' (panel laughs)

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan was a news analyst at Media Research Center