Democracy in America at The Economist:
SINCE May 29th, when the Washington Post reported that Mark Kirk had inaccurately claimed to have won a naval award, Mr Kirk has assumed a stance of righteous indignation. This response was to be expected. Righteousness is a defining feature of the Republican Senate candidate from Illinois. His service in the navy reserve has helped to establish this brand.
Mr Kirk admitted that he misstated. He was not the navy’s intelligence officer of the year (as he claimed before Congress and in campaign materials). Rather, his unit won the Admiral Rufus L. Taylor Award, given by the National Military Intelligence Association. But Mr Kirk quickly diverted attention to his opponent, Alexi Giannoulias. A “Fact Check” posted on his campaign website on May 30th read: “‘Mob Banker’ Who Never Served Attacks Decorated Naval Officer’s Distinguished Service Record”.
Illinois’s editorial boards had none of it. The Sun-Times listed further embellishments, including statements that Mr Kirk served in, not during, Operation Iraqi Freedom. “The voters of Illinois have reason to doubt” Mr Kirk’s word, the editorial concluded. The usually sympathetic board of the Chicago Tribune expressed consternation in an editorial entitled “Pants on Fire Award”. The suburban Daily Herald called Kirk’s mistake a “serious lapse, for which he has not apologized but lashed out at his opponent.”
Jim Geraghty at National Review Online:
Coming on the heels of the revelations about Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal, quite a few folks are arguing this is a case of moral equivalence. (In both cases, both men served honorably and yet somehow thought the record was insufficient.) The Kirk campaign’s initial response was a bothersome claim that his service is being denigrated. Sure, Kirk’s opponent is a slimy, gangster-connected crook, but that doesn’t make it okay to claim to have won awards that you didn’t.
Mark Kirk’s Senate campaign has now acknowledged a second misrepresentation of his service record, admitting to me that his Web site falsely claimed that he was “the only member of Congress to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom.”
This latest admission comes after Kirk, an Illinois Congressman, recently admitted that his official bio had falsely claimed he’d been named U.S. Navy’s Intelligence Officer of the Year award for his service during NATO’S war with Serbia in the 1990s.
Kirk actually served stateside in the Navy reserves during the Iraq War. The Kirk campaign, which had previously refused to publicly acknowledge the misrepresentation or respond to repeated requests about it, sent me a statement this morning admitting they corrected the false claim:
Kirk’s 2005 campaign Web site noted this correctly. Unfortunately, the official Web site listed the word “in” instead of “during” but was corrected in 2005.
The use of “in” rather than “during” is precisely what Richard Blumenthal claimed as his excuse for misrepresenting his own record, though Blumenthal seems to have misled a bit more frequently.
While the Kirk campaign is claiming to have corrected the falsehood five years ago, it’s likely to become an issue in the Senate race. Dems will argue it fits into a larger pattern that includes two more recent misstatements by Kirk: A campaign ad that repeated the false claim about the award, and Kirk’s claim that his staff discovered and fixed that falsehood when in fact the Navy tipped him off to it.
What’s more, the falsehood about Kirk serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom was echoed in the media, with no signs it was ever corrected.
The Washington Times printed a 2004 Op ed by Kirk and two others hammering Dems for questioning Bush, describing Kirk in a note as “the only member of Congress to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom.”
Though there’s no evidence Kirk knowingly allowed this falsehood to stand, this, again, is precisely what Blumenthal was pilloried for. And Kirk didn’t correct the record during a 2003 interview when Joe Scarborough described him as a man who “served Americans overseas in Operation Iraqi Freedom.”
The Kirk campaign declined to say whether he’d apologize for any of the misrepresentations, as Blumenthal was forced to do.
Streiff at Redstate on Sargent:
And then Sargent drives straight on to the direct, in-your-face lie.
Though there’s no evidence Kirk knowingly allowed this falsehood to stand, this, again, is precisely what Blumenthal was pilloried for.
First, we need to take a few minutes to compare and contrast Mr. Kirk’s actions with those of Connecticut’s Elliot Spitzer-wannabe, the aptly named Dick Blumenthal. Blumenthal is being “pilloried” for claiming in at least two speeches, I say “at least” because we have him on video tape in two instances but the five year separation between the instances indicates it was a part of his standard remarks to veterans groups, that he served in Vietnam. He didn’t. Then he compounded his integrity problem by issuing his denial in a VFW hall, a clear violation of that chapter’s 501(c)3 status, in the company of at least one man who had claimed combat awards he did not receive.
Kirk differs in just about every way possible. Kirk did not claim in speeches to have served in OIF. Rather that claim appeared on his web site. When the discrepancy was pointed out, in 2005, it was immediately corrected. The key difference between this incident and Blumenthal should be obvious to most anyone. In one instance the candidate has a five year history, minimum, of claiming combat service. In the other, the candidate’s website — written by whom we do not know — claims he served in OIF rather than specifying he was on active duty in support of OIF.
The second of the two allegations is that Kirk did not receive the National Military Intelligence Association’s Vice Admiral Rufus L. Taylor Award in 2000, rather that award went to the unit in which he served. That appears to be true and without excusing the statement to equate, as Sargent does, an award by a nonprofit organization with service in Vietnam simply demonstrates a stunning lack of integrity and commonsense on the part of Sargent.
To make it worse, the reason he is doing it is transparent. The Democrats have lost Ted Kennedy’s seat in the Senate. If they lose Barrack Obama’s senate seat the message will be so loud even Sargent’s employer will have to notice. In serving the needs of his party, Sargent has decided to carry out a cheap hatchet job on Mark Kirk at the behest of the Giannoulias campaign. If that hatchet job requires Sargent to lie he has shown he’s perfect willing to do so.
Brian Beutler at Talking Points Memo:
Appearing on the now-defunct MSNBC show Scarborough Country in August 2003, Kirk, a decorated intelligence officer, put it this way “I think I’m the only member of Congress that served on active duty during Operation Iraqi Freedom, and serving with my comrades in arms, both reserve and active duty, we are not in it for the money.”
That left the host, former Rep. Joe Scarborough (R-FL) — who briefly overlapped with Kirk in the House GOP caucus in 2001 — with the wrong impression. “I want to ask you, if you’ll keep coming back on Scarborough Country as a man who not only serves Americans in Congress, but also who served Americans overseas in Operation Iraqi Freedom,” Scarborough said, closing out the segment uncorrected.
Kirk’s congressional spokesperson directed me to his campaign office, which did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Kirk also describes his service in Afghanistan in a way that can leave listeners with the wrong impression. For the record, Kirk, who is a Navy reservist, has been to assigned to Afghanistan twice for a total of 34 days. The first time was from Dec. 15, 2008, through Jan. 2, 2009, and then again from Dec. 19, 2009, through Jan. 4, 2010, according to the State Journal Register in Springfield, Il. But in describing those two short stints in Afghanistan, Kirk has referred to them as deployments or tours, a potentially misleading characterization that the State Journal Register tweaked him for in an editorial in January.
For example, a Kirk campaign flier read, “Last year, Mark deployed to Afghanistan, joining America’s fight against terrorism,” according to the State Journal Register. In the Fox segment below, Kirk said of his time in Afghanistan, “I’m the first member of Congress to deploy to an imminent danger area since 1942. Lindsey Graham in the Senate also did this.” But in his defense, Kirk went on to say in the same segment, “For my three week tour in Kandahar, I saw some of the roughest districts.”
David Dayen at Firedoglake:
I understand that the national media hasn’t found this to be catnip the way they did when it was a Democrat in trouble. But locally, Kirk is getting hammered. The Chicago Trib advances the story today:
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kirk says his staff discovered he was mistakenly claiming to be the U.S. Navy intelligence officer of the year, but a military spokesman said today the Navy alerted Kirk about the inaccuracy after media inquiries.
Cmdr. Danny Hernandez, a Navy spokesman, said the service notified Kirk’s office last Thursday that the Navy was releasing information to the media, including to the Chicago Tribune and the Washington Post.
“We just let him know that you, the media, were asking questions about who the Intelligence Officer of the Year was,” Hernandez said. “We let him know that there was an individual who was named reserve intelligence officer of the year.”
That person was not Kirk.
Kirk’s trying to squirm out of this by citing a different award, given to his entire intelligence unit while he was stationed in Italy in the late 1990s. That award is presented by a military-industrial complex organization; it’s practically an astroturf award.
Orrin Hatch did some fancy tap dancing on this to try and claim his punitive legislation for those who “lie about serving in active duty in the military for the purposes of career advancement” applies only to Blumenthal and not to Kirk. Of course, Kirk lied about that as well, saying he was “deployed” in Operation Iraqi Freedom when he wasn’t. So Hatch is being ridiculous, but in the tradition of IOKIYAR.
Blumenthal weathered his storm, but I don’t see Kirk handling it as well thus far. And the charges seem much more damning in his case.
UPDATE: Kirk fesses up to the Operation Iraqi Freedom mistake – it was an in/during problem! So that’s completely equal to what Blumenthal did, and then add on top of it the fake award.
Aaron Blake at Dave Weigel’s place:
So Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduces an amendment making it a crime to lie about your military service, and just days later, a Republican senate candidate is caught misrepresenting his service.
The question is: Does the bill apply to Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) in the same way it applied to the original target — Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (D)? Would Kirk have committed a crime?
The answer, according to Hatch’s office, is no.
“The amendment’s intent is clear – it would make lying about serving in active duty in the military for the purposes of career advancement a misdemeanor,” Hatch spokesman Antonia Ferrier said.
The language of the amendment, though, is pretty broad, and it seems it could be construed to apply to Kirk’s situation. It reads:
“Whoever knowingly makes a fraudulent statement or representation, verbally or in writing, regarding the person’s record of military service in the United States Armed Forces, including, but not limited to, participation in combat operations, for the purposes of gaining recognition, honorarium, official office, or other position of authority, employment or other benefit or object of value as a result of the statement, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than six months, or both.”The congressman, who like Blumenthal is running for Senate, misstated an award his unit received by stating that it was bestowed on him alone. He did it while serving in the Navy Reserves.
Basically, Kirk’s misstatement has to qualify as making “a fraudulent statement” regarding his “record of military service,” and it needs to have been intended to get him something – “official office” (i.e. running for Senate). The bill specifically mentions lying about having served in combat, but is broadly written to include other things as well.
In other words, it seems plausible that Kirk could have been fined or served jail time had the Hatch amendment been in place.
UPDATE: Markos Moulitsas at Daily Kos
UPDATE #2: Jeb Golinkin at FrumForum
UPDATE #3: Steve Benen
UPDATE #4: Shira Toeplitz at Politico
UPDATE #5: Steve Benen
Daniel Helper at The Weekly Standard