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Child-Support Dodging Republican Denigrates War Veteran Opponent's Military Service--She Responds

Tammy Duckworth speaks with Alex Seitz-Wald about her Republican opponent's attack on her military service
 
 
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Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat challenging Republican Rep. Joe Walsh in Illinois’s 8th Congressional District, is a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Illinois National Guard who lost both her legs when insurgents shot down her helicopter in Iraq. This week, Walsh, who has never served in the military, attacked Duckworth’s military service, sparking a media  firestorm. Duckworth spoke with Salon about Walsh, what keeps her going after losing so much and her superstitions.

What was your first reaction when you heard Walsh’s  comments?

Unfortunately, I was not surprised at all. This is typical of the type of things that he says. We didn’t responds the first two times. And this time, we didn’t respond at first either, but then I just felt like we had to because I think he’s undermining a lot of veterans out there. There are 23 million veterans in this country, and they should not be criticized for talking about their military service.

I know some veterans have  flooded Walsh’s Facebook account with condemnations. Have you heard from other veterans?

Definitely, a lot of folks have reached out to us. A lot of veterans, including some who say, “I’m a Republican, but I’m supporting you because this is just not acceptable.” And you know, we even had a lot folks come and sign up on our Facebook page, as well. So it’s been great.

Who is he appealing to here with these comments? Do you get the sense that voters are fed up with this kind of rhetoric?

I think he’s just very irresponsible in his words and in his actions as a congressman. I don’t know, maybe he really believes this stuff that he’s saying. He’s certainly said this enough times, trying to undermine military service.  … I think voters are definitely fed up with it. You know, they just want people in Washington to work together and solve the problems of this country and of this district. And I think Congressman Walsh, if anything, has been consistent in that he said he was going to Washington to be a poster child for the Tea Party and that the folks in the district were going to get squat from him, his words directly. And he’s lived up to that. So they’re sick and tired of it.

I think he was just trying to distract the people and the constituents form the bad votes that he cast. … He was the only member of the entire bipartisan Illinois delegation to vote against the highway bill that would bring much-needed jobs as well as help repair our roads in this district. He even voted to let student loan rates double. So he had a pretty bad week in terms of the votes that he chose to cast. And instead of trying to explain them to the constituents, he chose to attack someone’s military service on Fourth of July weekend, which is … It just speaks to his irresponsible nature.

And it’s the kind of the kind of very inflammatory rhetoric that does help the discourse in Washington. It’s what’s wrong with Washington. Unfortunately, Congressman Walsh has been in Washington for two years and has been pretty consistent with this.

You ran in 2006 and lost by  fewer than 5,000 votes. What do you think is different this year, aside from a new congressional district (from the 6th to the 8th)?

Well, with redistricting, over half this district, what is now the new 8th, was part of the old 6th, so most of the people here know me very well, and most of those folks have voted for me [in the past].

 
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