Candidates, military service, and tall tales

CANDIDATES, MILITARY SERVICE, AND TALL TALES…. This week, a New York Times report on Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal (D) put allegations of exaggerated military service back on the front burner. The NYT‘s reporting, inspired by Republican opposition research, hasn’t stood up especially well, but the ensuing coverage has raised a related question — has anyone else misstated their service?

We’ve talked about the examples of exaggerated rhetoric from George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) But the list is getting a little longer.

In California, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Chuck DeVore has gone to great lengths to tout his years in uniform, but the LA Times reports today that his rhetoric has pushed the accuracy envelope on the campaign trail. (via Taegan Goddard)

During a radio debate with them in early March, DeVore talked of being the sole candidate in the Senate race with military experience. “I’m a lieutenant colonel of military intelligence within the U.S. Army,” he said. His campaign material shows he’s a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army retired reserves.

DeVore said both references are accurate because the retired reserves are part of the Army: “My nameplate says U.S. Army.”

He spoke during the debate of being “shot at in Lebanon” but did not make clear that the shooting occurred in the 1980s while DeVore was a college student studying Arabic and other subjects in the Middle East. Nor did he note that while the shooting was in his vicinity, there was no indication he was a target or was in actual danger.

In a separate interview, DeVore pointed to the shooting incident he witnessed as part of a media tour, which he suggested was perilous. “The Syrians shot at us and kind of drove us off the hill, because they didn’t want press over there. It was like warning shots,” DeVore said.

The Republican noted that ABC News correspondent Bob Zelnick was there, but Zelnick said DeVore’s version of events is incorrect: “Nothing I saw or experienced could reasonably be interpreted as our having been driven off the hill by Syrian fire.”

In related news, Rep. Mark Kirk, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Illinois, claimed on his website to be “the only member of Congress to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom.” That isn’t true — Kirk served during Operation Iraqi Freedom, just as Blumenthal served during Vietnam, but the Republican Senate candidate did not serve in the war in Iraq.

In the meantime, a leading Connecticut broadcast journalist reported on the air last night, “I can tell you that I’ve covered Dick Blumenthal hundreds of times over the last 30 years, and that I have never, ever, heard him misrepresent his military service. Not even once.”