Why Blumenthal but not Kirk?
In 2005, a political tussle in Ohio led to Rep. Jean Schmidt claiming that Rep. Mark Kirk (who's currently running for Barack Obama's former Senate seat) was a "veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom." It was news to me that any politician had served in Iraq by that time and, as it turned out, it wasn't true. Mark Kirk was claiming on his campaign site to be "the only member of Congress to serve stateside during Operation Iraqi Freedom," which was true, but on his official web site he claimed to be "the only member of Congress to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom." To say you have served in a campaign is precisely the sort of falsehood for which Richard Blumenthal has been castigated for the past few days.
Yet, whereas Blumenthal repeatedly pointed out in speeches that he had served "during" Vietnam--with that noteable slip-up--and then corrected the record when the mistake was pointed out, Kirk's office refused to address the falsehood on his web site for more than 50 days after I first contacted him, despite the fact the Navy's Office of Information agreed that, because Kirk had never served in Iraq during Iraqi Freedom, he had no right to claim to be an Iraqi Freedom veteran.
In the end, Kirk's staff simply changed the site without comment or apology.
As a veteran of the Afghanistan Campaign myself, I find it disgusting when people make claims to service they haven't earned. I do believe, having watched the debate over Blumenthal's claim unfold, that the Connecticut Attorney General said "in" when he meant "during." He had even correctly described his service earlier in the same speech. Kirk, on the other hand, made a false claim and then refused to correct it for more than a month after it was discovered, despite repeated contact on my part. That is conduct unbecoming an officer.
And yet, I have been making phone calls to members of the media today, including to producers of Chris Matthews, who have refused to speak to me about the issue. This despite the fact Matthews has been hammering Blumenthal for days now, including saying the following:
- "...don't (Democrats) have to drop this candidate and get another one?"
- "The reports were out there that he had served in Vietnam the Marine Corps, he never corrected the record."
- "He may be, uh, have a real problem with character and the truth, but anyone who helps him become a senator is to me beyond the pale at this point."
I am awaiting a statement by Hardball producers explaining their reluctance to cover this issue.
Update: It seems Kirk has been obfuscating about his military career for some time.
Update: I received an e-mail which pointed out that Kirk had "deployed" to Afghanistan while in office. Let me call bullshit on that, too. Kirk, it seems, found a way to perform his Annual Training periods in a war zone. Yes, I give him some credit for going over there in the first place, but, he is claiming he was on a "deployment" when he was merely performing his two-week-long bare minimum active duty requirement. The minimum deployment length for Sailors who aren't politically connected is 6-7 months and, for soldiers, a year. Kirk's service amounts to little more than padding his resume. (Update: More on this here.)
It is unlikely, also, that he received the Afghanistan Campaign Medal for his service, which, again, is something any "veteran" of the war should have.
I just spoke with Kirk's press secretary for answers to these questions as well as a copy of his Intelligence Officer of the Year citation. She promised a swift response.
Update: Still no word from Kirk's press secretary or Hardball producers.