Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville, the Republican from Alabama who is blocking the appointments of hundreds of Defense Department personnel, did not serve in the military. However, that doesn’t stop Tuberville from making big claims about his commitment to military families and to veterans. In his Senate biography, Tuberville says his motivation for being on the Armed Services and Veterans Affairs committee is “to give back to the brave men and women of the United States Armed Forces.” That, in turn, stems from the “legacy of his father, a highly decorated WWII veteran and Purple Heart recipient.”
In fact, Tuberville has been claiming that legacy—and inflating it—for decades, as Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler has determined from an exhaustive examination of military records. These points are among the exaggerations and false claims debunked by Kessler’s reporting about his father’s WWII service:
Charles Tuberville lied about his age to enlist at 16. Tuberville’s father actually registered on his 18th birthday in July 1943 and enlisted several months later in November.
He was a tank commander. Charles might have been given temporary command at some point, but the highest rank he achieved was “TEC 5,” or technician fifth grade, and tank commanders had to be sergeants.
He received a Purple Heart and five Bronze stars. This is the wildest of them. What Charles received were Bronze service stars, essentially participation medals awarded to soldiers who physically participated in a particular military campaign or engagement. The actual Bronze Star is the eighth-highest award, and only “about three out of every 100 soldiers earned one.” Earning five would be nearly impossible.
He drove a tank into Paris to help U.S. forces liberate the city. That couldn’t have happened. His battalion was about 90 miles away from Paris on Aug. 29, 1944, the day of the liberation.
Point by point, Kessler dismantles the stories while noting that family stories “become exaggerated as they are handed down from generation to generation” and that he is not attempting to tarnish the record of Tuberville the elder at all. It’s a good record, just not the fantastical one the son has claimed. Tuberville never bothered to learn about his father’s actual record (or really anything about military history or procedures, apparently). But he was happy to steal some of his father’s valor and exaggerate it in an attempt to puff up his own image
Military families are already angry at Tuberville, and these revelations are going to fan the flames. The nonpartisan Secure Families Initiative, an organization of active-duty military families and spouses, call Tuberville’s nominations blockade “highly inappropriate and unpatriotic.” They delivered a petition with more than 500 signatures to him on Monday, telling him “service members and military families will not be used as political leverage.”
“It’s time to end this political showmanship and recommit to respect the service and sacrifice of those who pledge to defend this nation,” the petition says. “How are we supposed to trust our political leaders to make decisions over war and peace when they play partisan ploys with our futures?” added Sarah Streyder, executive director of Secure Families Initiative and a military spouse. “This isn’t a football game; this nonsense needs to stop right now.”
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters Wednesday that the number of positions blocked by Tuberive is now “up to 300” and that it is “having a real effect on military families ... Children are having to be disenrolled from schools they were going to start in the fall." Many of the appointments require relocation, so these families are in limbo. That just amplifies how empty Tuberville’s rhetoric about the military and veterans is. He’s not just harming national security by throwing the military’s leadership into chaos, he’s hurting their families.
While we’re on the subject of his lies and hypocrisy, let’s check in on the campaign promise he made that he would donate his Senate salary to veterans’ charities. Guess what? He hasn’t done that. Why not? For the Trumpiest of reasons possible: His foundation, the Tommy Tuberville Foundation, is being audited, and he was going to distribute the funds from there. That’s absolutely true, apparently because tax filings show that only about a third of the money the Tuberville Foundation has taken in has gone to actual charity over the years. He really is just like Donald Trump, down to the scammy golf tournaments.
The Senate is working on the National Defense Authorization Act this week, the last business before they head off until Labor Day. Leadership on both sides had hoped to resolve Tuberville’s blockade in that bill, but he’s not budging. He told leadership he might agree to a time limit on debate for each individual nominee, but that would still mean the Senate would have to hold a vote on each nominee individually, which at this point is impossible. There simply aren’t enough hours in Senate work days to do that.
So the blockade continues, the disruption continues, and the people Tuberville claims to hold as dearest to his heart are lining up against him.
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