Military Service, Honesty, and Politics

Lately there have been a rash of stories about politicians embellishing military records -- it must be a Memorial Day theme. Most of the stories focused on Blumenthal, a Democrat from CT who is currently Attorney General and is running for US Senate. Blumenthal had given the impression that he served in Vietnam, when in fact he served stateside. The brunt of the story focused on a speech he had given where he said "in Vietnam". However, to his credit, earlier in the same speech, Blumenthal noted that he was stateside. Perhaps most importantly, he apologized for giving the wrong impression.

But two much more egregious embellishments have arisen in the wake of Blumenthal. Representative Mark Kirk, who is running for US Senate in Illinois, has made two outright lies in his resume. First he stated repeatedly he won an award which he never won -- U.S. Navy's Intelligence Officer of the Year. Indeed, he even had this fictitious award on his Congressional website. While the biography was corrected, it was done so only after the Navy told him to do so.
Last week, Kirk, a commander in the Naval Reserves, said his staff called the false claim to his attention as if they discovered it themselves. What actually happened was that after his staff got the heads-up from the Navy, Kirk's team scrambled a damage-control operation, putting a statement on his website correcting the record before a story came out.

To add to the Kirk story (like claiming a fake award isn't enough), apparently, Kirk also "falsely claimed that he was 'the only member of Congress to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom'" on his Congressional website. Well, he wasn't actually "in" Iraq. He too, served stateside. The latter error isn't as egregious as the former, but that was precisely the kind of error for which the Republicans went after Blumenthal.

Lots of politicians (especially Republicans) have padded their resumes. Today, we have a Republican who padded her dad's resume. Governor Brewer of Arizona (of anti-immigrant fame), recently told The Arizona Republic that comparisons to the immigrant bill and Nazis hurt her feelings:

The Nazi comments...they are awful," she told The Republic. "Knowing that my father died fighting the Nazi regime in Germany, that I lost him when I was 11 because of that...It hurts. It's ugliness beyond anything I've ever experienced."
The thing is, her dad was never in Germany -- or Europe for that matter. According to AZCentral, It turns out he worked at a munitions depot in Nevada and died in 1955 in California. Now Brewer is claiming she meant that he died because of the chemicals to which he was exposed in that munitions depot. That might be the case, but he didn't die fighting the Nazi regime.

I'm not sure what it is that makes these folks need to embellish their military careers. You don't need to get an award to serve valiantly. One needn't serve overseas to serve their country. But there is a difference between ducking bullets far from the comfort of home and family, and Brewer's father's service -- which was a service too. If Brewer's father did indeed die from working in unsafe factory conditions, I would hope she would be a champion for workers' rights and healthcare. Alas, that isn't the case.

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