Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

Stop being surprised when candidates lie about their military experience

The latest politician-moron to get into hot water over military claims is Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who told the world that her father died fighting the Germans in World War II.

Except he didn’t die in World War II. He died in 1955, a decade after the war ended. Well, she said, he was “a civilian supervisor for a naval munitions depot in Nevada,” according to Talking Points Memo and the Arizona Guardian. But he inhaled toxic fumes, and was on full medical disability when he died. Surely, one of the those munitions was at some point hurled at a target in Occupied Europe, and there must have been some Germans around who were affected.

Ergo, her father fought the Germans. Or someone who was an enemy. Thus, he was fighting in the war and died because of it.

That’s the kind of logic today’s American political candidate uses when trying to curry favor with veterans and those active in the military. Steal someone else’s war story, invent your own or just exaggerate to your heart’s content.

I remember a fellow who was running for the Democratic nomination for a congressional seat in the late 1990s who ran on his brother’s war record. His brother had been badly wounded and taken prisoner in Germany during World War II, and his campaign materials included an article from the mid-1970s on his brother, with the addition that just as his brother fought for freedom, the candidate would, too.

This candidate had a few problems, not the least of which that he was a serial party-switcher, and he was running against two guys who had themselves exaggerated their own resumes. One fellow, who lost the primary, declared that his three months working as an assistant district attorney was “years putting away bad guys.” The other made some exaggeration I don’t remember now. He won the primary and the general against inept Republican candidates, won re-election several times and was in Congress for a while before he left to run a pro-Israel think tank of some kind.

The “my brother’s a war hero candidate” also favored total privatization of Social Security, pointing to the then-booming stock market. Sadly, he suffered a stroke before the primary and had to drop out.

The thing is that elites do not like to lose elections to people whom they pretty much consider to be non-persons (read: anyone who’s not an elite.) Thus, there is a continuous effort to one-up the non-elite, a sort of “anything (s)he did, I did, and better.”

California Rep. Darrell Issa exaggerated his own service, according to the archives of Talking Points Memo. He claimed to be part of an elite bomb unit that protected President Richard Nixon at the 1971 World Series, the article says, but in fact Nixon did not attend the games. He was accused but later cleared of an accusation of stealing a car, but a former sergeant in Issa’s unit said Issa took his car, but returned it after being reamed.

In fact, Issa was assigned to the supply depot, which I remember as the place screw-ups got sent to. I was sent there a couple of times myself.

The main point, which you hoped I’d get to someday, is that it seems that people running for public office must have been in a different part of the military from me, because I remember few occasions for derring-do or special assignments. Military service is mostly drudgery, dull jobs, cleaning floors and toilets, looking busy and biting your tongue to keep from wising off.

True, I was trained in a job and did it passably, but there were also the occasions for the “shit” details, like mess duty or battalion guard, and those two blew major chunks.

You never hear candidates talking about going on mess duty or walking around with a 12-gauge shotgun and guarding some armory. No, they were out guarding the president or making coffee for the general, and getting commendations and medals for inspired photocopying.

A big part of Issa’s claims to military success is an evaluation of his actions during an inspection, which took place over 2½ weeks. Capt. Issa apparently impressed then-Lt. Col. Wesley Clark. OK, let’s elect Issa pope. He got a commendation. He’s our hero. Our nation is safe.

Look, people and politicians, there’s nothing wrong with an ordinary and dull military career. I had four years in the Marines, and did nothing on the recruiting posters. If I did, the posters would have to show someone picking up cigarette butts, sponging toilets and operating a floor buffer.

Not everyone can be a decorated hero, so deal with it and stop profaning the memories of people who served our country by acting like you did the same.

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June 3, 2010 - Posted by | Living in the modern age, Politics | , , , , , , ,

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