MARK KIRK APPEARS TO HAVE A PROBLEM…. It’s understandable when a public figure misstates his or her military service record once. It can be embarrassing, to be sure, but it’s easily forgivable. It’s far more problematic when a pattern of deception emerges, spanning many years.

In this sense, Rep. Mark Kirk, the Republican Senate hopeful in Illinois, has a real problem.

If you’re just joining us, Kirk, a U.S. Naval Reserve officer, really has served honorably, but he’s also made several claims about his service record that proved to be false. First, Kirk claimed to be “the only member of Congress to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom.” That turned out to be untrue — Kirk served during the conflict, not in it. Second, Kirk claimed to “command the war room in the Pentagon,” which also turned out to be untrue. Over the weekend we learned that Kirk repeatedly claimed to have received the U.S. Navy’s Intelligence Officer of the Year award, which was also wildly misleading.

Some of the errors appeared in official bios and related printed materials, but there are also instances in which Kirk personally and publicly exaggerated his record. As of this morning, there are now two videos of Kirk misleading the public.

Another video featuring Senate candidate Mark Kirk of Illinois making false claims of being the Navy’s intelligence officer of the year has surfaced as he campaigns for a seat once held by President Obama.

A Senate campaign Web video made the intelligence-officer-of-the-year assertion as an image of Kirk, 50, in a fighter jet is shown. Previously, the only reported video of Kirk making the claim was on C-SPAN during a 2002 congressional hearing.

Complicating matters, the Republican candidate told reporters over the weekend that one of his exaggerated claims had been discovered by his staff. That wasn’t true, either — Kirk was apparently alerted to the problem by the Navy.

Making matters even worse, the Chicago Sun-Times has found yet another exaggerated claim on Kirk’s website, which included a reference to Kirk’s “combat service” that never occurred. The claim has since been removed — without explanation.

What’s more, Brian Beutler pulled together a record of Kirk’s “embellishments,” and found a series of misstatements spanning years. The Senate hopeful even described his limited time in Afghanistan as having been “deployed” and having done a “tour” of duty — words with specific meaning in the military, and which Kirk misused as part of the larger series of exaggerations.

Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, Kirk’s Democratic opponent, said yesterday, “I think he’s got an honorable record. I don’t know why he feels the need to embellish the record and not tell the truth.”

And that’s the most mystifying angle to this. Kirk’s deceptions are so unnecessary — the truth is just as good. It’s why I find it so bizarre to learn that Kirk has felt compelled to repeatedly embellish a perfectly admirable record with years of misstatements.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.