Generally, I think Americans are pretty forgiving, perhaps to a fault, and one misstatement of fact among many will not necessarily sway their opinion of a politician. But a consistent record of exaggerations, misstatements and outright lies can take their toll, and a tipping point hits, where the individual basically turns into an untrustworthy buffoon. This was used expertly by the conservative noise machine against Al Gore, with an ebullient media playing along, even though the so-called “exaggerations” weren’t actually exaggerations at all (see: everything Bob Somerby’s ever written).

But in the case of Mark Kirk, the mistakes keep piling up. And now, the media has switched from the casual puffing-up of his military record to the normal lies and bullshit that conservatives spout on a daily basis. If they want to start down this road, they basically will have enough material to last them the next decade. Because right-wingers make nonsense statements like this all the time.

Rep. Mark Kirk’s problems with exaggeration or “casualness . . . with details,” as he described it last week, go beyond his military record to his comments about foreign policy issues that are supposed to be his strong suit, a Sun-Times look at the record has found [...]

But some of the stories Kirk tells on the stump seem a bit too good to be true. When he last ran for re-election to his congressional seat, he got into trouble for saying China was drilling for oil off the coast of Cuba, which was not true, he acknowledged Thursday in a meeting with the Sun-Times editorial board.

Speaking to the City Club of Chicago last year just after President Obama authorized the shooting of Somali pirates who kidnapped American Capt. Richard Phillips, Kirk got a whole lot wrong talking about pirates attacking ships off Africa.

“We began to see some backbone, not from the U.S. but from France,” Kirk said. “France was always good for a quick $2 million ransom until the election of President Sarkozy. When his first ship was seized, he authorized the standard ransom payment — with a transmitter in the box. As that went into the pirate compound, he then authorized French Special Forces to roll in. And they killed everybody. . . . It kind of shocked us in the Pentagon. But it sent a clear message and I don’t think the French have had many problems since.”

Here’s the problem: Much of the answer was fiction. It wasn’t the first ship attacked after Sarkozy took office; and the French Special Forces didn’t kill everybody. In fact they didn’t kill anybody, Sarkozy has said [...]

Last year, Kirk told WLS-AM (890) that America should drill offshore for oil so we don’t have to import oil from Iran: “We have a fundamental choice. . . . We can either buy 80 billion barrels of oil from the Iranians or from ourselves. And we should buy it from ourselves,” he said.

The problem is, the U.S doesn’t get oil from Iran. The U.S. government has adopted sanctions for any company that would try.

These are merely the normal lies that conservatives tell about foreign policy all the time. They have a narrative, they count on the public’s weak knowledge of foreign policy, and they just hew their stories to fit those narratives. If it isn’t China drilling in Cuba it’s Iraq’s WMD were shipped to Syria or America could have won in Vietnam if they were just given a chance or people in foreign countries wait in long lines for health care or “Dubai, free and rich” or the North American Union and the NAFTA Superhighway or the Shia and Sunni have no history of conflict or any number of a thousand other outright falsehoods.

This kind of thing is the conservative stock in trade, and if media types wake up to that fact and start scrutinizing the claims, Republican candidates are in a lot of trouble.

As for Kirk, he’s quickly becoming a total joke. But no more so than the rest of his political party.