A heated dispute around Rep. Joe Sestak's Navy record has become a central issue in his Democratic primary Senate race against incumbent Arlen Specter.
The best way for Sestak to resolve the issue would be for him to release his Navy records.
The dispute centers on an ad by Specter's campaign that said Sestak was relieved of his post as chief of planning for the Navy because he created a "poor command climate." That's according to a 2005 Navy Times article cited by the TV ad. Pentagon sources have confirmed the Navy Times report to multiple news organizations.
But Sestak denies the report, and said he retired in part to let the new chief of naval operations, Adm. Michael Mullen, put his own team in place. Sestak says his push to downsize the Navy ruffled feathers that also contributed to his ouster.
Sestak responded to the Specter ad with his own ad featuring veterans accusing Specter of "swift-boating" the former admiral. The ad says: "Tell Arlen Specter to stop lying about Joe Sestak's military record."
During a candidates' debate Saturday, Specter demanded an apology for the Sestak ad that calls him a liar.
The dueling ads are part of a tough campaign by both politicians. It is a shame that 30-second TV ads remain the way most voters get their information about candidates. Both candidates have more to offer than dueling attack ads.
Sestak, who spent 31 years in the Navy, rising to the rank of admiral, believes the Specter campaign has unfairly portrayed his military record. Specter, who has spent 43 years in public service, doesn't appreciate being called a liar.
Sestak is rightly proud of his Navy career. It clearly shaped him and is a big part of his campaign. But now his departure from the Navy is in dispute.
The best and easiest way to clear the air, and let voters decide the truth before the May 18 primary, would be for Sestak to release his Navy records. That should explain exactly why he left the Pentagon job.