Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Whose infraction is worse: Dick Blumenthal's or Mark Kirk's?

No sooner do the Democrats wrap up their problems with a candidate who embellishes their military records than do the Republicans get one too.
Kirk, a U.S. Naval Reserve officer, really has served honorably, but he's also made several claims about his service record that proved to be false. First, Kirk claimed to be "the only member of Congress to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom." That turned out to be untrue -- Kirk served during the conflict, not in it. Second, Kirk claimed to "command the war room in the Pentagon," which also turned out to be untrue. Over the weekend we learned that Kirk repeatedly claimed to have received the U.S. Navy's Intelligence Officer of the Year award, which was also wildly misleading.

Some of the errors appeared in official bios and related printed materials, but there are also instances in which Kirk personally and publicly exaggerated his record. As of this morning, there are now two videos of Kirk misleading the public.
So, the initial infractions were the same for both men: Blumenthal said he served in Vietnam a few times, Kirk said he served in the Iraq War, and both of them were wrong. But it sure looks like Kirk went further than Blumenthal did. I'm not sure I really believe Blumenthal's errors were just innocent mistakes, but he is an older man who only made his mistake less than a handful of times. It is, I suppose, plausible that he's right about it, though it simply makes too much sense that he willfully exaggerated because voters like veterans. But, then again, Blumenthal didn't talk about getting the Silver Star or the Distinguished Service Cross while in Vietnam, and didn't talk about leading patrols against the VC, either.

So, I think it's hard to see how Kirk's embellishments aren't worse than Blumenthal's, and Kirk doesn't even have the excuse that decades have passed since then. Frankly, I'm not too crazy about either of them. I never served in the military, but I have respect for those who did, and while I realize that these sorts of competitive situations naturally encourage some padding of records, I cannot help but agree with Steve Benen in wondering why either of these guys felt the need to exaggerate at all.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.