From The Archives: Issa Snared In ’98 In His Own Military Exaggeration

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As several politicians have been snared thanks to fibbing about their military records, TPM took a trip down memory lane exploring others who exaggerated service. It turns out that 12 years ago when Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) was running for Senate, the San Francisco Examiner uncovered that his Army record was in doubt.

The Examiner published in May 1998 a devastating article detailing the conflicts between Issa’s public statements and public records. A focus in the story was Issa’s claim he protected then-President Richard Nixon as part of an “elite Army bomb unit” at the World Series in 1971. But it turns out Nixon didn’t even attend the games.

The Examiner scoured military records and concluded that Issa’s service on the squad “was marred by a bad conduct rating, a demotion and allegations that he had stolen a fellow soldier’s car.” It cited his 1998 campaign biography saying he served in the Army nine years, even though records showed he served just over five years. He was enlisted from 1970-1972 and was in a college Army ROTC program from 1972 through 1976, the Examiner reported. It also noted that an Issa press release said he was “detailed to the Army security team” which traveled with Nixon, and quoted from a 1990 San Diego Union story that said Issa “was on a bomb disposal unit for President Nixon and got to see the 1971 World Series because Nixon wanted to go and the stadiums had to be secured.”Here’s the key part:

The records show that Issa’s service on what he terms an “Army security team” amounted to less than six months on a bomb-disposal squad in 1971. That’s scant experience to qualify him for presidential security duty, former GI bomb experts say.

Issa couldn’t have guarded Nixon at the World Series because the president didn’t attend, according to the Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda.

The Examiner’s reporting left open the possibility that Issa had just gotten confused about the details, but he’s never cleared up the facts and an Issa spokesman today did not directly address the allegations.

The paper wrote that former soldiers “said it was impossible that Issa would have been involved if, as his service record indicates, he had been reassigned to the supply depot during the games.” Another source confirmed to the Examiner that Issa “had indeed served temporarily with a bomb detachment that had protected the president” in a “short-term” post.

The Examiner said in their investigation that Issa routinely cited his Army service while running for the GOP nomination to challenge Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA). The paper also reported that Issa denounced Boxer as “someone who ‘hates the military.'” Read the entire Examiner piece here.

The Examiner also interviewed a former GI who said Issa stole his car, and said their piece mentioned the auto charges following a Los Angeles Times report detailing the 1972 arrest of Issa and his brother on suspicion of auto theft. Those charges were dropped and Issa said at the time he was wrongly targeted. He also has blamed his brother for the incident.

“When people ask me why I got into the car alarm business, I tell them the truth. … It was because my brother was a car thief,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2003.

An Issa spokesman questioned the relevance of this story given that Issa is not on the ballot like Mark Kirk or Richard Blumenthal, and provided us with a commendation that then-Lt. Col. Wesley Clark bestowed upon Issa in 1980 for exemplary service.

You can read it in full here, but here’s a highlight:

“CPT Issa consistently demonstrated an unusually high standard of professional ethics. … This energetic, enthusiastic, and intelligent officer has the potential to be successful at any military job at any level. … This officer’s performance far exceeded that of any other reserve officer who has worked in the battalion. He demonstrated rare initiative, forcefulness, and competence in upgrading the unit’s administration prior to the Annual General Inspection. He would be an outstanding commander or staff officer at Battalion or Brigade level. Promote ahead of contemporaries. Unlimited potential.”

Spokesman Kurt Bardella also issued this statement when given an opportunity to comment: “Congressman Issa is very proud of his distinguished record of military service and that’s reflected by the fact that he was honorably discharged.” He said anyone “who wants to challenge or scrutinize his record of service” should read the Clark praise.

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