Kirk’s try­ing to dodge blame for false claims

Chicago Sun-Times - - We Think Commentary - CAROL MARIN

If you’re a politician who pumps up your mil­i­tary record, you should ad­mit it, beg for for­give­ness and move on as best you can.

But, please, don’t in­sult the pub­lic by pre­tend­ing your ex­ag­ger­a­tions were all hon­est er­rors. Once — maybe. More than once — not a chance. This, un­for­tu­nately, is a les­son Repub­li­can Se­nate can­di­date Mark Kirk has not learned.

Kirk, who has served 21 years in the Naval Re­serve, is get­ting ham­mered — de­servedly so — for mak­ing him­self out to be the com­bat vet and James Bond he never was.

But rather than tak­ing full re­spon­si­bil­ity for sev­eral false claims, he’s blam­ing ev­ery­thing and ev­ery- award for 1999 was given to Kirk’s unit — not to him per­son­ally.

Kirk’s spokesman said, “We found the award was misiden­ti­fied and cor­rected the name,” but the Post said the web­site was cor­rected only af­ter the news­pa­per be­gan in­quiries.

† Kirk fur­ther said on a video, “I com­mand the war room of the Pen­tagon.”

He does? As part of his Naval Re­serve duty, Kirk works week­ends as a deputy in­tel­li­gence di­rec­tor at the war room — of­fi­cially known as the Na­tional Mil­i­tary Com­mand Cen­ter — but the com­man­der usu­ally is a one-star gen­eral.

† Kirk’s con­gres­sional web­site bragged, un­til last week, of his “com­bat ser­vice in Kosovo.”

Re­tracted. The word ‘‘com­bat’’ has been re­moved from his web­site.

† Kirk claimed on his web­site in 2005 to be “the only mem­ber of Congress to serve in Op­er­a­tion Iraqi Free­dom,” ac­cord­ing to the blog Nit­picker.

An ex­ag­ger­a­tion. Kirk served dur­ing Op­er­a­tion Iraqi Free­dom, as his cor­rected web­site now says.

As some­one who was ac­cused of em­bel­lish­ing his cre­den­tials as early as 2000, Kirk should know that all such claims can, will and should be checked out. In Amer­i­can pol­i­tics, mil­i­tary ser­vice is like a plat­inum credit card.

Just two weeks ago, Con­necti­cut’s Demo­cratic Se­nate can­di­date, Richard Blu­men­thal, got caught claim­ing he had served in Viet­nam. Blu­men­thal had served in the Ma­rine Re­serves dur­ing the war, but never left the United States.

Blu­men­thal, pre­dictably, ad­mit­ted guilt to only “to­tally un­in­ten­tional” er­rors.

Why is it that ev­ery time a politician makes an “un­in­ten­tion­ally” false claim about his mil­i­tary record he stum­bles up — not down — the lad­der? No­body who was a colonel ever says he was a cor­po­ral.

Mark Kirk likes to present him­self as a mod­er­ate Repub­li­can who, if elected to the Se­nate, would be adept at reach­ing across the aisle to work with Democrats.

But to do so, his word must be his bond.

The vot­ers of Illi­nois have rea­son to doubt.

Repub­li­can Con­gress­man Mark Kirk is hav­ing an Alexan­der Haig moment. He’ll prob­a­bly re­cover from it. But it isn’t pretty — or over yet. Haig was sec­re­tary of state in 1981 when Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan was shot in an as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempt.

Haig, who had his own pres­i­den­tial am­bi­tions, took to the mi­cro­phones to tell re­porters that with Rea­gan se­ri­ously wounded, he was in charge.

“As of now, I am in con­trol here at the White House,” he de­clared.

If that was sup­posed to as­sure a wor­ried nation, it missed the mark.

It looked in­stead — for all the world to see — like a dis­play of un­bri­dled ego and op­por­tunism.

It was also, by the way, not ex­actly ac­cu­rate, given that a trans­fer of power had not been made and there was the small con­sti­tu­tional mat­ter of the vice pres­i­dent be­ing ahead of Haig in the line of suc­ces­sion.

That Haig moment has been re­peated, par­o­died and made a per­ma­nent part of his bi­og­ra­phy.

Which takes us back to Kirk’s prob­lem of re­peated dec­la­ra­tions

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