* Roll Call’s executive editor Morton Kondracke has written a super-strong defense of Mark Kirk on all points, including a somewhat uncomfortable topic. The Kirk campaign sent it around last night and posted it on their campaign’s website today. Here’s the beginning, but you should really read the whole thing…
I confess upfront that I’m not neutral in this year’s Illinois Senate race. For numerous reasons I’ll stipulate, I’m rooting for GOP Rep. Mark Kirk over Democratic State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias.
That said, the flap over Kirk’s misstatements about his military service is reaching ridiculous proportions — exaggerated into a mini-scandal by Democrats and both local and national media.
And now, the left is peddling sleazy allegations that Kirk is gay as payback for his vote — cast for defensible reasons — against repeal of the Pentagon’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
I’ve known Kirk for nearly 10 years, since his first term in Congress, and in 42 years in Washington, I’ve rarely encountered a Member with a greater range of expertise or better judgment.
* The FrumForum, which has been unabashedly pro Kirk, is not pleased with the way the candidate has been handling the military story and offers up some advice…
There is just no way around it: Mark Kirk screwed up. He misstated his military record. He admitted this and apologized for it in a blog post but in that same blog post, Kirk did not come totally clean, and now the story continues to linger in both the blogosphere and mainstream media. Now his military record, which should be a strong point, is turning into a liability. Going into the Blagojevich trial, which should be huge positive for Kirk, the Kirk campaign must come all the way clean and stop the bleeding. This story is distracting and it should not be an issue. While some Republican strategists expressed reservations about Kirk’s staffing, the reality is that Mark Kirk is a professional politician and he should know better. The Kirk campaign needs to come completely clean, all at once, and move on. It is time to stop the bleeding.
* But instead of taking that advice, Kirk is sticking to his story, which isn’t wholly satisfying…
Kirk also released a statement from retired Navy Capt. Clay Fearnow, who said he nominated Kirk for the Rufus Taylor award and thought it was “more specific to Mark and not his team.”
“The reality is, there would have been no team without Mark’s leadership and there certainly would have been no award,” Fearnow wrote. “I can certainly understand why he would have referred to his award over the years as intelligence officer of the year – it’s how I viewed the award.”
Kirk said the award was given in 2000.
“The skipper called me up and said, ‘Hey, get back to Washington, accept this award. It’s a big deal.’” There were “a lot of speeches – ‘Great work, Mark. It was your team,’” Kirk said.
The award clearly states what it is. Kirk is an intelligence officer, for crying out loud. His job is to deal with tiny details. But he got some very big details wrong for about a decade about something that pertained to himself and he ought to just admit it and move the heck along. To be dragging this thing out over semantics rather than putting it to rest and moving on is a little difficult to understand. All he’s doing by keeping this story alive on his downstate fly-around is prompting ledes like this one from WSIL…
“If a man has to lie about his service record, he’s gonna lie to you about everything else,” [said Army veteran Marshall Freeman.]
It would also help if he would’ve made sure that his campaign website was scrubbed of all “Intelligence Officer of the Year” references. It wasn’t as of early this morning.
* And you can’t be an attack dog and legitimately claim you’re above the fray. Kirk looks ridiculous in Bernie’s piece today….
The Kirk campaign also issued a “fact check” on its website titled “‘Mob Banker’ Who Never Served Attacks Decorated Naval Officer’s Distinguished Service Record.”
In one of his radio interviews in Springfield Wednesday, Kirk referred to people digging to find out bad things from his record as “high-powered opposition-research goons.” To his credit, WMAY-AM host JIM LEACH asked if Kirk’s own oppo-research folks should also be called “goons”?
“I would say that our team, since they don’t come from Chicago, tend to be a little bit more by the Marquis of Queensbury rules,” Kirk said, referring to a traditional code of fair play. […]
Still, Kirk doesn’t help his claim of civility when he says he hasn’t used a certain characterization against Giannoulias, yet the same characterization is employed both on Kirk’s own website and by the party supporting him. The Marquis would not be happy.
* But he’s darned lucky that the media has decided not to count his “I command the War Room” comment as the first instance of Kirk’s exaggerations. Instead, they started with the “Intelligence Officer of the Year” award and moved on to “in” rather than “during”…
Senate candidate Mark Kirk faced new questions Wednesday about inaccurate descriptions of his military service, this time over wrongly saying that the congressman served “in” Operation Iraqi Freedom.
It is the second time in less than a week that Kirk, the Republican nominee for President Barack Obama’s former Senate seat, has had to explain inaccurate descriptions of his record of service in the military.
Usually, three strikes and you’re out, figuratively speaking. The media is only giving him two strikes now. Like I said, he’s darned lucky.