Chuck DeVore's Lebanon Recording

by Benjamin Domenech on 12:21 pm May 21, 2010

[tweetmeme]

The LA Times tried to get in on the military fabulism angle yesterday in their own state, with a piece on Chuck DeVore — the conservative candidate in California’s Senate primary — accusing him of “fudging his war record”, as HotAir put it. But unlike Richard Blumenthal, I don’t think DeVore’s ever claimed to have a “war record” — he worked in the Pentagon and has a long National Guard career, and he’s now a military reservist. This passage in the LAT seems particularly unfair:

[DeVore] 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.

But this isn’t some Hillary Clinton moment — if you read the debate transcript, or if you saw the debate, DeVore never claimed that he was being shot at in some military capacity. He was just speaking about general experience within the foreign policy space and the Middle East. Check the script:

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.

He doesn’t even mention his military service in this segment. Yet the LA Times quotes “Frank Dowse, a Fiorina supporter and a retired 20-year Marine veteran … [who] said any attempt by DeVore — subtle or not — to imply that the Lebanon incident was related to his military service ‘is a bad move.’”

I don’t see where he does that at all. Indeed, the LA Times admits as much within the rest of the story:

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.

Regardless of what you think of his campaign, DeVore comes across as a very smart guy, clearly a brainiac, a tabulator of history and data points — and that seems to hold for his own life too. It turns out that he actually has the audio tape of the experience, which you can listen to at DeVore’s campaign website.

BACKGROUND NOISE: Syrian gunfire in multiple bursts, getting louder as it gets closer to the IDF observation post. The Syrian positions were 180 meters away, according to the Israel Defense Force officers.

IDF OFFICER: “Ahmed.”

IDF SOLDIER, YELLING: “Ahmed!”

UNKNOWN: “Pass the field glasses.”

DEVORE: “Ahmed.”

IDF SOLDIER: “Kifhaallak!” (Gunfire.)

BACKGROUND NOISE: Responses heard from the Israelis who ducked, as did DeVore.

BACKGROUND NOISE: More gunfire.

DEVORE, LAUGHING: “We had a little bit of fire in here after the guy yelled, ‘Ahmed.’ … I guess it’s just on the back of the mountain… They got down. [Referring to the IDF personnel.] After the firing, many of the Israeli soldiers instinctively ducked, and I with them.”

BACKGROUND NOISE: IDF soldiers speaking. More gunfire.

DEVORE: “It’s all being recorded… At 180 meters, we’re easy targets. If they wanted to pick off our heads it’d be no problem. These [flak vests] won’t do much good.”

UNKNOWN: “Right.”

DEVORE: “At this range.”

IDF SOLDIER: “Ahmed.”

DEVIORE: “The time is now 1159 hours. I think that the Syrians must think it amusing to fire in our general vicinity and watch us all duck like rabbits.”

BACKGROUND NOISE: More gunfire, a longer burst.

IDF SOLDIER: “OK.”

DEVORE: “I guess their commander doesn’t want to speak to us today.”

BACKGROUND NOISE: Finally, after a sustained burst of gunfire, everyone, soldiers and journalists alike, get very quiet.

IDF OFFICER-IN-CHARGE: “OK, we are through.”

BACKGROUND NOISE: The party starts to leave the hill. (DeVore recalls that Zelnick chose to stay behind, much to his cameraman’s dismay.)

DEVORE: “Did you ask him, do they usually test fire their weapons like that every day? It’s just…”

IDF OFFICER: “They’re not too happy about being photographed.”

DEVORE: “…it’s just their way of displaying their displeasure with us?”

IDF OFFICER: “I mean they don’t see you… don’t take it personally, OK?”

DEVORE: “Yeah, I know.”

IDF OFFICER: (Laughs)

DEVORE: “Because I noticed it happened after the guy yelled ‘Hey Ahmed!’”

TPM seems to be suggesting that DeVore was out of range at the time. But as anyone who’s shot one can tell you, 180 meters is well within effective range for any average AK.

I don’t see a single indication here that DeVore is “fudging” anything. He enlisted in the Army in 1983, was commissioned an officer in 1986 after working his way through college on a traditional ROTC scholarship, went the National Guard route and served in the reserves for 27 years. He got promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 2006 and is now a retired reservist. The reality is that his path, like many of those of friends of mine who went the military route in the mid-1980s, never put him in combat duty. But he’s never claimed otherwise!

This is the sort of strained accusation that just screams of being planted by an opposing campaign. Frankly, considering how closely it follows on the Twitter accusation from the campaign of one of his opponents, Carly Fiorina, I’d have to assume she’s behind the suggestion. Maybe she isn’t. But if she is, it’s just the kind of pathetic approach one of the worst CEOs in the history of Silicon Valley would have to winning an election. Of course, Fiorina doesn’t put that as her description. She’s a “business executive.” Of what, exactly?

Meanwhile, Tom Campbell’s just happy to stand back and wait for the primary to be over.

Update: A spokesperson for Fiorina’s campaign tells me this story isn’t from them. The tweet is just coincidental timing and refers to the specific issue of the title candidates get to put on California ballots.

Follow Ben Domenech on Twitter.

Previous post:

Next post: