Thursday, June 10, 2010

Whom do you believe?

During the 2004 election, it became clear that Republican activists were gathering a pile of money to attack John Kerry's military record through a group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. It didn't matter that, time after time, the claims of the the group were discredited, were proven to conflict with statements the members had given at the time of the incidents they described or were just simply proven to be bullshit.

For some reason, Kerry's team couldn't figure out how to counter even these easily discredited falsehoods.

I was in Afghanistan at the time and out of the political loop, but the response seemed very simple to me. Slather t-shirts, bumper stickers, refrigerator magnets, posters and every other type of campaign paraphernalia with a very simple message:
Republicans would have had the difficult task of explaining how the Navy--not Kerry--was full of crap. Because everything Kerry had said and done was backed up explicitly in his records. He had earned his three purple hearts and his bronze star. His fitness reports showed he was rated as "the acknowledged leader in his peer group" by one of the same people who tried to claim he was a slacker in 2004. At every turn, all one had to do was look at the record and compare it to Kerry's statements and those of his detractors and you saw that Kerry was supported by the facts.

I bring up this depressing subject because it's time for us to apply the same simple logic to the Mark Kirk story about which I have done so much reporting. At the end of the day, I still believe the Navy. And, in this case, the DoD.

That means that, as I've said before, I do believe Mark Kirk's fitness reports, which describe him as a stellar Reserve intelligence officer. It's all there in black and white and I have no reason to doubt those descriptions.

However, when it comes to the most recent revelations, we must weigh a DoD memo's claim that Kirk conducted "partisan political activities of active duty" against the Kirk campaign's assertion the memo is "off the mark." It has come down once again to the documented record and the word of a service member, but, this time, the record and the man are in disagreement. Whom do you believe? Look at the history before you decide.
  • Mark Kirk repeatedly claimed over a number of years to have won the Navy Intelligence Officer of the Year Award. The record showed this was false and Kirk admitted as much. Kirk claimed the award was "misidentified."

  • Also, the award was for Kirk's unit, not Kirk individually.

  • In belatedly correcting the record, Kirk claimed his staff had caught it while scrubbing his record, but the Navy said they tipped the Congressman to the fact reporters were researching his background.

  • In 2005, Kirk's web site claimed he was "the only member of Congress to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom." The Navy said Kirk's claim was false.

  • Kirk claims his staff meant to say "during" rather than "in," but records show he wasn't "the only Congressman to serve during Iraqi Freedom" either.

  • Kirk claims he "deployed" to Afghanistan, but he only spent Annual Training periods there, which do not meet the definition of a deployment.

  • Kirk claimed he was fired upon while in a plane over Iraq, but Kirk himself withdrew that claim, telling the Chicago Tribune editorial board it might not have been true because there was no record of whether his aircraft was being fired upon.

  • Kirk also claimed to have served in Desert Storm, but he did not.

  • When a blogger pointed out that Kirk had been placing tweets on his campaign account while on duty in the Pentagon, the Congressman first claimed a staffer, not he, had posted a preapproved tweet, but later said, "It's something that I will not do again."

  • On a non-military note, Kirk also appears to have invented anecdotes he used to illustrate his foreign policy beliefs.
So, time and time again, Kirk's grandiose claims about his military background have proven to be false when compared to the record. In this most recent case, Kirk's campaign admitted the memo in question was part of his "confidential record," but claims that it's just not true he conducted "partisan political activities of active duty."

Look at the list of Kirk's claims above and decide for yourself who's telling the truth.


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