Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Wakim Defends Resume

One of the chief Republican takeover targets this year is the seat of incumbent Democrat Alan Mollohan in West Virginia. I have written extensively about the ethics charges against Mollohan.

Now it looks like the tables have been turned, and it is Mollohan's opponent Delegate Chris Wakim, who is answering questions about puffing up his resume:

Wakim Defends Record

Delegate Chris Wakim, R-Ohio, defended his military and academic records Tuesday, claiming that he has reported them accurately on his resume and campaign literature.

Wakim, a current Congressional candidate in West Virginia’s 1st District, is being questioned about his reported master’s degree in “public policy” from Harvard University, and whether he is truly “a veteran” of the Gulf War.

On his Web site, Wakim indicates that he is a graduate of both the United States Military Academy at West Point and Harvard University, and that he is disabled Gulf War veteran who was “honorably discharged for injuries sustained in the line of duty.”

The information also states that Wakim “earned his master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University in 1991 graduating in the top 15 percent of his class.”

During a teleconference Tuesday, Wakim was challenged by reporters who pointed out that one only receives an actual master’s degree in public policy from Harvard after graduating from the university’s prestigious Kennedy School.

Wakim admitted that he did not graduate from the Kennedy School.

“It’s an odd thing,” Wakim said. “We always called it a public policy program, but I didn’t go to K-school. I would have loved to have done so.”

His diploma from Harvard — when translated from Latin — states that he holds a‘‘master of liberal arts degree in extension studies with an emphasis on government’’ from the institution.

He said he actually obtained his master’s degree from Harvard over a three-year period in the early 1990s while serving in the military at nearby Fort Devens, Mass.

Wakim said he worked days at the military base, holding the rank of captain and training national guard troops who were being mobilized and sent to fight in the Gulf War. He then would travel the 30 miles to Cambridge, Mass., to take night classes at Harvard.

‘‘While I was at Harvard, war was proclaimed,’’ Wakim said. ‘‘My capacity was to evaluate units and deploy them using my expertise as a company commander with the 4th Infantry.

“I earned my master’s degree at night while serving my country during the day. Any attempt to discredit that is disgraceful.”

Wakim was questioned as to whether he himself saw battle during the Gulf War. He admitted that he did not, and that he was not stationed overseas during the Gulf War.

Wakim did say that he is in fact a veteran of the war under definitions stipulated by federal law. U.S. Code defines a ’’veteran of any warî as a member of the U.S. Armed Forces who served in the active military, naval, or air service during a period of war.

The Gulf War is listed as having begun Aug. 2, 1990.

Wakim was commissioned in the military after his graduation from West Point on May 18, 1980, and he served until Oct. 18, 1991.

Wakim said he is a member of both the American Legion Post 1 in Wheeling and of the Disabled American Veterans organization.

He added that he is considered ‘‘70 percent disabled’’ by the U.S. Veterans Administration.

While with the 4th Infantry, Wakim said he sustained a broken back, a broken elbow and sustained injuries that led to his knee having to be reconstructed. He attributed the injuries to the training of the 4th Infantry.

‘‘As a leader, I knew those things happen,’’ Wakim said. ‘‘I was medically discharged...

Frankly, this looks like a sloppy campaign mistake. Wakim may be accurate in his defenses to both of these charges, but he knew - or ought to have known - how they would be read. It would have been easy (and impressive) to claim a Master's in Government (if that is in fact, what it would be called) from Harvard, and to call himself a disabled Army Veteran. That phrasing would likely have saved him from this controversy. In a tough race against a longtime incumbent, the last thing Wakim needs is to become a distraction from the serious charges against Mollohan.

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