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Column

Why some politicians embellish their records

Baseless claims don't reflect well on their character

Scott Reeder
Scott Reeder

SPRINGFIELD – State Sen. Sam McCann, the wannabe Marine, now wants to be governor.

This past Monday, his campaign filed petitions with 60,000 names to put his name on the ballot as a third-party candidate.

Several years ago, McCann claimed to be a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. The problem is, he never went to boot camp or spent a day in uniform.

When pressed by a reporter with the State Journal-Register, at the time, he claimed he signed up but got hurt in a construction accident before he was supposed to show up for boot camp.

But he hasn’t produced any evidence that he did that much.

Regardless, Sam, good intentions don’t equate to actual service.

This sort of macho make-believe is disappointing but hardly surprising.

After all, former U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk claimed to have fought in Iraq, when he didn’t. He claimed to receive a military award that doesn’t even exist.

And the sad thing is that Kirk served stateside in the Navy Reserves during the Iraq War. His service was honorable if not remarkable. But he felt the need to embellish his record.

Last week, Democratic legislative candidate Dillon Clark claimed in a campaign video that, as a volunteer firefighter, he saw how the state budget impasse was tearing small towns apart.

But here is the problem: Clark was not a volunteer firefighter during the budget crisis or at any time in Illinois.

He told WCIA-TV that he had spent a year in that role in Missouri, but the department where he volunteered said he only spent seven weeks in the department and only went on one emergency call.

Clark said in a statement he “frequented” the firehouse a lot and did “most everything a volunteer firefighter could do.”

Apparently, everything but, you know, fight fires.

Will this make a difference in his race against incumbent state Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Raymond? Who knows? Kirk got elected to the U.S. Senate, and McCann made it into the states Senate despite their martial fibs.

But it sure doesn’t reflect well on them as human beings. It makes you wonder whether they are comfortable with who they really are.

Think about it: firefighter, Marine, naval hero.

Are these fellows compensating for something?

Perhaps it’s those inadequacies that make them want to be elected to public office in the first place.

But I sure hope not.

Note to readers: Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse journalist. He works as a freelance reporter in the Springfield area and produces the podcast Suspect Convictions.

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