When he entered the political arena, retired Col. Mike McCalister of the Army Reserve wanted you to believe he was some sort of derring-do, special operations, international man of mystery who gallivanted about the globe with a dagger clenched between his teeth, guns blazing on the trail of evildoers.
Indeed, or so the resume suggested, this guy could kill you with his left earlobe — if he wanted to. Why, you would have thought the Rambo of MacDill Air Force Base made SEAL Team 6 look like King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Alas, as we have learned, Col. McCalister has quickly become the General Halftrack meets Maxwell Smart of Florida politics.
Many politicians butter up their biographies, making it seem that their leadership was pivotal in getting laws passed, or persuading Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall, or that without their economic brilliance we would still be trading in pelts.
But McCalister, who is running for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination, has taken self-aggrandizement to stratospheric Donald Trump heights.
Early in his campaign, McCalister bragged he had been a full-time professor and "Department Chair Senior professor" at Florida A&M University. When it was pointed out to the candidate his claim was phooey, wrapped in balderdash, enshrouded in fiddle-faddle, he changed course to simply note he actually was: "Executive Officer and Assistant Professor of Military Science, Army ROTC Battalion" at Florida A&M.
Sheesh, the Libyan air force didn't retreat this quickly.
About the only detail lacking in McCalister's litany of embellishments is that he once stole away Morgan Fairchild from Saturday Night Live's Tommy Flanagan. Yeah, yeah, that's the ticket.
The poor man couldn't help himself, concocting a story about facing down all those peacenik doves in Washington during steely-eyed congressional testimony as the right-hand-man/aide-de-camp/close confidant of Lt. Gen. W.P. Tangney. Why he could kill these folks with his pituitary gland — if he wanted to, or if Gen. Tangney had only nodded at the right moment.
The only problem is Tangney had no memory of McCalister, unless it was that faceless factotum in the back of the room holding a can of Brasso just in case the general needed an emergency polishing of his stars.
Perhaps McCalister could be simply dismissed as just another bloviating pol trying to finagle a few cheap votes. Or put another way, think of McCalister as a Dilbert character in camouflage.
But McCalister went further, deftly suggesting — without directly making the claim — that he was somehow involved in "black operations," which to most people would suggest the colonel was actively engaged in secret, covert, behind-the-lines, operations. You know, stuff like killing people with his appendix — if he wanted to.
That's a bit like the equipment manager taking credit for the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl.
In fact, McCalister has been commanding a desk for most his military career as a staff member in various assignments where the biggest threat to life and limb was the risk of a paper cut.
Well, there was the Battle of Office Depot, where the colonel waged a valiant defense against wave after wave of copy machine salesmen.
Perhaps the most egregious display of conduct unbecoming an officer was McCalister's appearance at a Feb. 16 political fundraiser where, as a candidate for office, the retired colonel wore his formal, ceremonial Army uniform, which is about as cheesy and improper a violation of military regulations as you can get. Gomer Pyle would know better.
Did it never dawn on McCalister that as a candidate his bona fides would be vetted by the media and his political opponents? So much for being an intelligence expert.
There is nothing wrong with serving your country as a military bureaucrat. Countless men and women have worn the uniform and fulfilled their duties in administrative roles — from processing paychecks to ensuring steady supplies to the front line. Their service is no less honorable.
Not every soldier has to be Sgt. York.
Had McCalister simply been up front about his duties as an able paper pusher who did the very best job pushing paper as he could, no one would hold his service against him, or suggest he didn't deserve respect.
But in shamelessly contorting his military record to suggest something he was not, McCalister has engaged in a disservice to those who defend this country every day both on the battlefield and, yes, in office cubicles, too.
Retired Col. Mike McCalister needs to be reminded that they also serve who staple and collate.