The Campaign Spot

Then Again, Maybe Gunfire Is the Traditional Greeting of the Bekaa Valley

There’s been a bit of rumbling in California’s Senate race that Republican Chuck DeVore has a problem comparable to Richard Blumenthal (D., Fantasyland). I think that’s an unfair comparison. At issue is whether DeVore has described his past experiences and service in a way that makes them sound more dramatic than they are.

The Los Angeles Times raised the issue:

Throughout the campaign, DeVore has emphasized his service as a military officer and a young Reagan White House appointee at the Pentagon as experiences that helped make him the most qualified candidate. But at times he appears to have overstated those accomplishments, particularly his experience under fire and his role in the development of a U.S.-Israeli anti-ballistic-missile defense program. He also has faced criticism for acting on behalf of a group with ties to political contributors. A cornerstone of DeVore’s Senate bid is his 24 years in the California National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve . . .

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.

DeVore said in a later interview that he was a credentialed reporter for the Orange County Register when the shooting occurred. He said he had called the Israeli military requesting to see the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon – identifying himself as an American student studying in Egypt, a reporter and member of the U.S. Army Reserve – and was included in a media tour. “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,” said DeVore, adding that he and the Israeli soldiers immediately took cover.

Jen Rubin of Commentary wrote a tough post on DeVore, and he and his campaign reached out to her to offer counterarguments.

Both DeVore and his press aide contacted me, quite exercised about my post regarding his military service. I imagine the Los Angeles Times is getting the same treatment. DeVore e-mails:

I actually have the micro-cassette recording of Lebanon. You can hear multiple bursts of automatic weapons fire with the Israeli officer finally saying “OK, we are done” and then ordering the press off the hill. Zelnick stayed to complete his report, BTW, much to the discomfort of his cameraman.

But the issue of proximity, of course, is what is in question.

His press aide complains: “But it’s a he-said, she-said exercise – not even close to ‘Hillary Clinton’s Bosnian gun fire fantasy.’ It’s a shame you’d participate in tearing down the only pro-Israel candidate in this race or [in] either party.”

First, Clinton chose to confess her erroneous recollection, or that too would have been a she-said, they-said incident. Second, a candidate’s pro- or anti-Israel leanings are irrelevant to an issue of character. I frankly don’t care whether Richard Blumenthal is the next John Bolton; he’s unfit to serve. Third, Carly Fiorina is solidly pro-Israel and has repeatedly criticized Obama’s Israel policy and his approach to Iran. She is warmly received and embraced by California Jewish Republicans. Readers will assess just how credible the DeVore team is.

A reservist running for office ought to call himself a reservist, and a guy who had potentially dangerous events in Lebanon – let’s presume that the gunfire was close enough to get DeVore to feel threatened – ought to emphasize that it occurred in his civilian days, not while he was wearing the uniform. But this is a different order of magnitude than Blumenthal (implying he fought in a war that he didn’t) or Hillary’s Tuzla Dash.

“Unfit to serve” strikes me as unduly harsh* . . . and considering how the polls are going, perhaps moot.

* I now see Jen meant Blumenthal was unfit to serve, not DeVore, which makes a lot more sense. My apologies.

UPDATE: Team DeVore offers a transcript:

DEVORE:  Well, I think the most important thing in this discussion is what is best served for the United States’ national security interest. Clearly, we have allies in the region, and clearly Israel is one of those allies. And, I think perhaps more Israel is a friend of the United States. I support moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem when the Israelis say that it is safe and appropriate to do so. Furthermore, I’m skeptical of a two state solution. I am also skeptical that there is anything intrinsically appropriate about the current boundaries between Israel and the territories of Judea and Samaria. Because, all that is a cease fire line from the 1948 conflict where the combined Arab armies tried to erase Israel from the map. And, of course, Israel took over what’s now known as the West Bank in the 1967 war. interestingly enough, prior to 1967, when Jordan had administration over that part of the soil, they administered it, it was part of Jordan, Jordan was called  Trans-Jordan at that time as a result. And, Jordan actually tried to erase every last bit of Jewish presence in the Jewish quarter in Jerusalem during the period 1948-1967. These are things that I know personally. I have been to that region four times. I have been shot at in Lebanon. I’m quite familiar with the history of this region, and I believe that American national interest are served when we support Israel, because generally speaking, generally speaking, Israel’s’ foes are our foes.

Notice that comment isn’t anywhere near any references to his military service.

The second is perhaps a bit more problematic, but still isn’t that bad:

Well, as I mentioned before, I am the sole candidate on either side of the aisle with military experience. I’m a lieutenant colonel of military intelligence within the U.S. army. This is something that I am proud to have served my nation since 1983, I also worked for Caspar Weinberger in the Pentagon where as a special assistant for foreign affairs and in that capacity traveled on official business to Morocco, Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan. I have been to Israel 4 times, I’ve studied in Egypt, I’ve been shot at in Lebanon, I’ve experienced the gritty reality of the Middle East. This has, I think, given me good insight into the present conflict in the Middle East. I studied Islamic political thought in Cairo, Egypt. And at one time I was relatively proficient in Arabic. I understand some of these concepts that the jihadis hold, like the concept of Darralislam or Darralharb or the wordlist [indecipherable] sphere Islamic peace or the wordlist [indecipherable] sphere of Islamic > infidels and how that can be externalized to justify jihad. And I think that in today’s present environment, I’m the candidate that understands the stakes in the region. I do stand behind Israel and the right to defend themselves. In fact, if Iran fires a missile at Israel, the system that Israel will use to defend itself, the aero anti-tactical ballistic missile, I helped create the funding mechanism that made that a reality back in 1987.

But again, he’s rattling off a variety of his experiences, been to Israel, studied in Egypt, etc. The Times is stretching to suggest that DeVore implied this was during his military service.

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