It seems like a fairly simple observation to conclude that Ryan Zinke is hiding his military records from Montana voters. His campaign, in the latest version of their refusal to release his complete military records, claims now to have finally requested the materials on September 1, 2014, months after allegations about his records finally reached the Montana press.
It’s possible, and even likely, that Zinke is lying about having requested the records even on that late date. As Charles Johnson reports, the Navy said there was no such request:
She said she called the Navy Personnel Command shortly after submitting Zinke’s request and someone told her the office likely hadn’t received it yet. DeMars said she was told the second time she called that it often takes 60 days or longer to process and release an entire record.
A Navy customer service agent initially told the Gazette State Bureau on Wednesday she couldn’t find a request for the records from Zinke and later said it was a “controlled record.”
Despite this apparent contradiction, the Zinke campaign doubled down on its increasingly shrill assertions that there’s nothing to hide in Zinke’s record:
“We have put in a request for the records, but there is nothing in the records from 1999 — or during any other period of Ryan’s service — that is anything but extraordinary,” Zinke campaign spokeswoman Shelby DeMars said.
How Ms. DeMars could possibly know that about Mr. Zinke’s records, despite never having seen them, is certainly hard to understand, and her claim illustrates the strategy has used for months to deflect criticisms about his record: to claim it was “exemplary” throughout his career without providing the easily accessible evidence that would prove or disprove his assertion.
With his characteristic modesty, Zinke has repeatedly claimed that he had an exemplary career in the SEALs, a claim could very well be true, but which is seriously undermined by his repeated deceptions and distractions about his complete record.
Consider this: back in August, Zinke claimed that he had already provided “his entire military record” to the press, telling David Parker that he had shown it to Charles Johnson:
You know, I sat down with Chuck Johnson of the AP (sic)and I brought my entire military record. As long as people are legitimate, you know, uh, journalists, I have no problem. My record speaks for itself.
That, of course, was a lie then, and it’s a lie today.
Another problem is that Zinke’s record “can’t speak for itself” because he won’t release the records. Today’s story in the Indepdent Record also finally includes the claims of one of Zinke’s former commanders, Captain Larry Bailey, who said that Zinke’s 1999 fitness report contained damaging claims “designed not to get him promoted.” You might remember reading about that here back in May.
And as the Montana Cowgirl blog reported in August, Zinke even redacted information from his military separation document.
Another aspect of the story that I speculated about back in August was that there’s clearly something in the records that hurt Zinke’s military advancement. Back then, I wrote:
Zinke went through his records and selected a few more positive evaluations and citations for release, skipping over the period of time he was punished by the Navy for a series of charges about the misuse of funds.
Ironically, I think the positive reports Zinke furnished the media actually make the case that there is something quite negative in his earlier record. At least three times between 1998 and 2004, his superior officer recommended that Zinke be promoted to Captain and considered for higher command. And yet he never was.
So, here we are, two weeks from the election for the U.S. House, and one candidate, a candidate whose sole discernible qualification for the office he seeks is his military service, has done everything in his power to prevent the public from seeing his full military record. If, as Zinke has claimed for months, his service record is the unimpeachable legend of a sailor without a blemish on it, why has he let conservative Republicans, liberal bloggers, and now, finally, reporters, raise so many questions about it? Why not show that we’re wrong?
There’s only one answer: the record contains something so damaging that Zinke isn’t willing to let us see it, and like his attacks on fellow Republicans, RIght to Life activists, and anyone else who has had the temerity to stand in the way of his ambition, he’s content to call us liars, while refusing to offer any proof.
It’s a shameful display, by a candidate who, from the outset of his political career, has shown himself to be remarkably shameless.