Posted by | July 23, 2010 17:24 | Filed under: Contributors News Behaving Badly Opinion Politics Sandi Behrns Top Stories

by Sandi Behrns

The Republican candidate running to fill President Obama’s former Senate seat has endured a rough few months. A respected and accomplished Naval Reserve officer,  he has nonetheless racked up a long list of falsehoods and/or embellishments of his record. Now the Chicago Tribune reports on yet another.

…Mark Kirk for a decade has told the story of how he nearly drowned when he was 16 while sailboating on Lake Michigan and how his rescue by the Coast Guard inspired him to pursue a career in public service.

The story is sprinkled with attention-grabbing details, but there are inconsistencies in Kirk’s statements that suggest parts of his real-life drama have been embellished, a Tribune review has found.

In the most recent instance, the 50-year-old North Shore congressman told a boating magazine that he stood on his overturned sailboat and watched the sun set, when in fact he was rescued in midafternoon on June 15, 1976.

Kirk also has said he swam up to a mile in 42-degree water and that he was rescued with his body temperature hovering two degrees from death. Those declarations are questionable, based on interviews with an eyewitness and medical experts.

Basic elements of Kirk’s story are not in dispute. He did capsize his boat, was pulled from the water by the Coast Guard and was taken by ambulance to a hospital. He said any inconsistencies in news accounts or his own words are minor and do not diminish the significance of the traumatic, life-changing experience.

…The Tribune examined the boating story in light of Kirk’s acknowledgment that he overstated his military career.

The inconsistencies in the rescue story may not have the same galvanizing impact of inflating a military resume, but they raise a new set of questions about whether Kirk has added details to his true-life stories that make a better storyline.

When the Tribune says above that Kirk has “overstated his military career,” that’s putting it mildly.

Kirk (1) falsely claimed he served “in” Operation Iraqi Freedom; (2) falsely claimed to “command the war room in the Pentagon”; (3) falsely claimed to have won the U.S. Navy’s Intelligence Officer of the Year award; (4) falsely claimed to have been shot at by the Iraqi Air Defense network; (5) falsely claimed to be a veteran of Desert Storm; (6) falsely claimed to be the only lawmaker to serve during Operation Iraqi Freedom; (7) falsely claimed to have been shot at in Kosovo; (8) falsely claimed to have been shot at in Kandahar; (9) falsely claimed to have been repeatedly “deployed” to Afghanistan; and (10) falsely claimed not to have violated Defense Department rules on mingling politics with his military service. [Steve Benen, Washington Monthly]

Kirk has even been found to have “overstated” his position at an Ithaca, NY church, claiming to have been a nursery school teacher. The Church has told the New York Times that he was in fact, a part-time helper while a student at Cornell.  At this point, it is fair to say Mark Kirk has a problem. In a race against a Democrat suffering his own election year hiccups, Kirk simply cannot capitalize on those openings due to his own lack of veracity. The candidate simply doesn’t seem to feel that the true circumstances of his life and his military service are good enough.

I hesitate to mention this, but Kirk has also suffered the indignation of an attempt to forcibly “out” him as a homosexual by the same blogger who outed Senator Larry Craig. While I offer no comment on the validity of those claims, it feeds into the speculation that Mark Kirk at the most basic level, is hiding from who he really is.

Psychology aside, the people of Illinois cannot possibly be well-served by a representative so devoid of integrity. A few months ago, Democrats were faced with the very real proposition that Barack Obama’s seat would be lost to Republican control. Today, while the race remains close, Mark Kirk’s own personal foibles have given the Democrats plenty of room for hope.

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Copyright 2010 Liberaland
By: Sandi Behrns

Sandi Behrns is a noted policy nerd, new media & web developer, and consultant to progressive organizations and campaigns. She is a senior contributor to Liberaland, and the Executive Editor of Progressive Congress News.