Rep. Joe Walsh, Tea Party-Ill., is getting tired of hearing about Tammy Duckworth’s military service. Duckworth, a Black Hawk helicopter pilot and lieutenant colonel in the Illinois National Guard, lost both her legs in Iraq. That combat experience is central to Duckworth’s political career, and her story as a candidate. She was director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs and then Assistant Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs in the Obama Administration. As she says on her website: “Military service is a Duckworth tradition - a family member has served during every period of conflict since the Revolution. Tammy followed suit by joining the Reserves in graduate school and chose to fly helicopters because it was one of the few combat jobs open to women.”
But according to Walsh, real heroes don’t brag about their war exploits. At a town hall meeting in Elk Grove Village, on Sunday, he compared her unfavorably to Sen. John McCain.
Understand something about John McCain. His political advisers, day after day, had to take him and almost throw him against a wall and hit him against the head and say, “Senator, you have to let people know you served! You have to talk about what you did!” He didn’t want to do it, wouldn’t do it. Day after day they had to convince him. Finally, he talked a little bit about it, but it was very uncomfortable for him. That’s what’s so noble about our heroes. Now I’m running against a woman who, my God, that’s all she talks about. Our true heroes, it’s the last thing in the world they talk about. That’s why we’re so indebted and in awe of what they’ve done.
In fact, McCain wrote a book, Faith of My Fathers, about his life as the son and grandson of admirals, and his experiences as a Navy pilot and prisoner of war in Vietnam. The book was published in 1999, as McCain was preparing for his first presidential run. It was filmed as TV movie in 2005, as McCain was preparing for his second presidential run. Like Duckworth, McCain made his war record part of his political narrative.
Duckworth responded to Walsh’s remarks with this statement:
This week we celebrate our country’s founding and we are grateful for the courage and service of all of our military men and women throughout our nation’s history. Congressman Walsh’s comments insult those who sacrificed to make this country free. Tammy is proud of her over twenty years of service with the Army and her family’s legacy of fighting for this country. We can’t recognize our servicemen and women enough and ask that we keep them in our thoughts during this holiday week.
Walsh is trying the same play George W. Bush used against John McCain: if you don’t have a military record, tear down your opponent’s, or at least tear down your opponent for bragging about her military record. If we start hearing about a group called “Black Hawk Veterans For Truth,” we’ll know he’s gone too far.
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