If you get past the shoddy journalism of the New York Times article that started it all, Richard Blumenthal was guilty of misspeaking once or twice among hundreds of times where he accurately described his service in the Marine reserves. I think that’s quantitatively and qualitatively different than Mark Kirk claiming to win a “Navy Intelligence Officer of the Year” award that he never received, part of a pattern of embellishing his service record on a number of fronts.

Like Blumenthal, there’s tape of Kirk saying this, but you cannot get away with a claim that he said “in” when he should have said “during.” At Congressional hearings, on his website, and in this campaign video, he affirmatively says “I was Intelligence Officer of the Year.” But it’s worse than that. The opening voice-over on the campaign video reads: “We’ve been let down too many times. Betrayed by politicians… We can reform Illinois… restore integrity.” And then he just makes shit up.

I understand that the national media hasn’t found this to be catnip the way they did when it was a Democrat in trouble. But locally, Kirk is getting hammered. The Chicago Trib advances the story today:

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kirk says his staff discovered he was mistakenly claiming to be the U.S. Navy intelligence officer of the year, but a military spokesman said today the Navy alerted Kirk about the inaccuracy after media inquiries.

Cmdr. Danny Hernandez, a Navy spokesman, said the service notified Kirk’s office last Thursday that the Navy was releasing information to the media, including to the Chicago Tribune and the Washington Post.

“We just let him know that you, the media, were asking questions about who the Intelligence Officer of the Year was,” Hernandez said. “We let him know that there was an individual who was named reserve intelligence officer of the year.”

That person was not Kirk.

Kirk’s trying to squirm out of this by citing a different award, given to his entire intelligence unit while he was stationed in Italy in the late 1990s. That award is presented by a military-industrial complex organization; it’s practically an astroturf award.

Orrin Hatch did some fancy tap dancing on this to try and claim his punitive legislation for those who “lie about serving in active duty in the military for the purposes of career advancement” applies only to Blumenthal and not to Kirk. Of course, Kirk lied about that as well, saying he was “deployed” in Operation Iraqi Freedom when he wasn’t. So Hatch is being ridiculous, but in the tradition of IOKIYAR.

Blumenthal weathered his storm, but I don’t see Kirk handling it as well thus far. And the charges seem much more damning in his case.

UPDATE: Kirk fesses up to the Operation Iraqi Freedom mistake – it was an in/during problem! So that’s completely equal to what Blumenthal did, and then add on top of it the fake award.