Recent history offers plenty of examples of politicians exaggerating their accomplishments, using embellishments to advance their ambitions. In 2012, Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) exaggerations were pretty embarrassing for the far-right congressman, and two years earlier, Mark Kirk’s (R-Ill.) exaggerations very nearly ended his career.
It is a rare and welcome treat, then, to see a congressional candidate exaggerate in the opposite direction. The Boston Globe reported over the weekend on Seth Moulton, whose military heroism is even more impressive than he’s been willing to admit.
The American political graveyard has more than a few monuments to politicians and public officials who embellished details of their military service, in some cases laying claim to medals for heroism or other military honors they never received.And then, uniquely, there is Seth W. Moulton, the Democratic nominee for Congress in the Sixth Congressional District, a former Marine who saw fierce combat for months and months in Iraq. But Moulton chose not to publicly disclose that he was twice decorated for heroism until pressed by the Globe.In 2003 and 2004, during weeks-long battles with Iraqi insurgents, then-Lieutenant Moulton “fearlessly exposed himself to enemy fire” while leading his platoon during pitched battles for control of Nasiriyah and Najaf south of Baghdad, according to citations for the medals that the Globe requested from the campaign.
The Globe apparently did extensive research into Moulton’s career, and noticed some omissions – the Democratic candidate hadn’t bragged nearly enough. Moulton earned the Bronze Star medal for valor and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation medal for valor, but hadn’t even told his staff – or his parents.
After covering this campaign cycle closely all year, this might be my favorite story of them all – the candidate who thinks it’s inappropriate to talk about the amazing feats of bravery he performed for his country.
Indeed, the easy move would be a congressional candidate who puts stories like these on his home page:
Moulton won the Bronze Star medal for valor, the nation’s fourth-highest award for heroism under fire, for his actions over two consecutive days during an August 2004 battle for control of the strategic city of Najaf, one of Islam’s holiest cities. According to the citation and accompanying documentation, his platoon was attacked and pinned down by intense mortar, rocket, sniper, and machine-gun fire. With four of his Marines wounded, Moulton “fearlessly exposed himself to enemy fire,” moving among his men while ignoring incoming mortar rounds and sniper fire, and directing supporting fire that repelled the attack. The platoon again came under heavy fire the following day when Marines expelled soldiers from the Mahdi Army from another section of Najaf.
The Globe’s ended piece with this:
In the interview, Moulton asked that the Globe not describe him as a hero. “Look,” he said, “we served our country, and we served the guys next to us. And it’s not something to brag about.’The greatest honor, he said, his voice choked with emotion, had nothing to do with the medals. “The greatest honor of my life was to lead these men in my platoon, even though it was a war that I and they disagreed with.”
Let’s just say this attitude isn’t common among politicians.