Walsh says opponent talks too much about military service
July 4th, 2012
08:29 PM ET
2 years ago

Walsh says opponent talks too much about military service

(CNN) - Republican Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois on Wednesday stood by earlier comments questioning his congressional opponent, an Iraq war veteran and double-amputee, for speaking too much about her military service.

"She is a hero, and that demands our respect, but it doesn't demand our vote. All she does, guys, is talk about her service," Walsh said on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer."

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He contended that his rival, Democrat Tammy Duckworth, rarely makes campaign appearances, but when she does hit the trail, she primarily focuses on her background fighting overseas.

A Black Hawk helicopter pilot in Iraq, Duckworth lost both legs and the use of one arm when her crew was shot down in 2004. She was later awarded the Purple Heart and continues to serve as a lieutenant colonel in the Illinois Army National Guard.

In his original remarks on Sunday, Walsh lauded Sen. John McCain's modesty in talking about his well-known background as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. Walsh said McCain's 2008 Republican presidential advisers repeatedly pushed the senator to talk more about his story, but he was strongly reluctant to make that a focus of his campaign.

"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," Walsh said. "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."

His comments soon generated buzz online, prompting several groups, including VoteVets.org and Emily's List, an organization dedicated to helping Democratic women get elected to office, to condemn the congressman's remarks.

Walsh, elected in 2010 with wide support from the tea party, reiterated Wednesday that he believes Duckworth is a hero but she gives voters a narrow window into her positions on the issues.

"I continue to salute her service, but if that's all she runs on, voters are going to find that offensive," he said.

He called into question the very notion that she would discuss her military background, saying "veterans don't talk about their service" and choose to be "private about it."

When pressed by Blitzer, who said a lot of veterans are proud to discuss their background, Walsh brought up McCain again as an example of one who tends to be more reserved.

"They don't throw it in your face," he said. "They at least can move beyond that and tell you why they want to be a congressman or woman."

Duckworth's campaign responded to his original comments on Tuesday, calling the comments an "insult."

"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," campaign manager Kaitlin Fahey said Tuesday in a statement.

Duckworth, herself, said during a Tuesday interview with MSNBC that Walsh was using the attack for his own political gain and called him an "extremist loudmouth for the tea party."

This election year marks her second run for Congress. The Iraq war veteran made an unsuccessful House bid in 2006, prior to being tapped by President Barack Obama in 2009 to become the assistant secretary of Veterans Affairs.

The two candidates are fighting for a seat representing the new 8th Congressional District located outside of Chicago and created by the state's recent redistricting process.

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Filed under: 2012 • Illinois • Joe Walsh • TV-The Situation Room
soundoff (137 Responses)
  1. Name Derek

    Imagine if a Democrat said this. How fast would they be called "a traitor who disrespects wounded soldiers"?

    July 4, 2012 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  2. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    What does Walsh have to say about his own record? Is there any word about what he has or hasn't done? What does this Tammy Duckworth talk about? I doubt that she is only talking about her military service. If she did, then she would be like her Republican counterparts that seemingly only talk about that.

    July 4, 2012 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  3. jesor

    If Lt. Col. Duckworth isn't allowed to talk about how her military experience has given her insights that would make her an excellent congresswoman, then nobody should be able to talk about their own work or personal experiences that make them qualified to hold office either. Can you imagine how ridiculous it would look if Mitt Romney couldn't mention his "private sector" experience?

    July 4, 2012 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  4. ohreally

    I bet she pays for her kids.

    July 4, 2012 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  5. lgny

    Want to bet that if the roles were reversed, he'd be wrapping himself constantly in military patriotism?

    July 4, 2012 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  6. TeeDeeDubya

    The good folks in Walsh's district have an easy choice. Ms. Duckworth who gave so much for her country or Mr. Walsh that has done nothing for the US and bailed on his child support. Wish they were all that easy.

    July 4, 2012 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  7. FedUp

    Evidently, he doesn't have any military service to bring up. It should have been written in the Constitution that anyone running for President, House, Senate, or any cabinet position, would be required to have previous military service. If you don't know what you are talking about, it is impossible to be a Commander-In-Chief and do your job respectfully.

    July 4, 2012 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  8. Jane

    True heroes don't talk constantly about their military service. As a vet I respect her and thank her for her service; however using it as the only platform to run on is well...... Only a vet would understand.

    July 4, 2012 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  9. Drew

    The guy is the very reason the RepTEa party will lose. They hate the truth he do not have any real ideas on his record except missing his child support payments. GET A LIFE DUDE!!! VETERAN SOLDIER

    July 4, 2012 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  10. RSaundersPA

    So Mr. Walsh hasn't done very much with his life. Does that mean others can't be proud of their service and sacrifice?

    July 4, 2012 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  11. Vote the Tea Party OUT in 2012

    Walsh needs to go pay his child support and have MORE respect for our heroes. She lost use of one arm and BOTH legs to help protect jerks like him so in my opinion she can talk about her service to our country as much as she wants.

    July 4, 2012 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  12. jg

    Joe Walsh is a piece of trash who can't even be bothered to pay child support. He has no place telling anyone how to act.

    July 4, 2012 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    I'm in the service and I am not insulted. I'm more insulted when another vet gloats about their service all the time and expects something back for their service. That was your job...you signed up for it.

    July 4, 2012 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  14. Ehhh

    As a voter (who usually votes Republican) from Illinois, I have no problem with Tammy Duckworth talking about her military service. She is a hero, and has given more for this country that most people, I just happen to disagree with her stance on many issues.

    But, hey, if Joe Walsh served his country in Iraq and lost a couple limbs, he could talk all he wanted to about it. Shame on him for bashing Tammy for this, rather than her stance on the real issues.

    July 4, 2012 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  15. Chipster

    Walsh apparently hasn't been listening. Duckworth has addressed many issues. The economy and job creation are high on her priority list. She supports investments in infrastructure that will address 2 issues: job creation and critical updates that are needed for our highways, bridges, and electrical grids/delivery structure. Witness the terrible power outages facing numerous states today. We need to invest in updating power line structures, underground installations, and grid updates. These problems were predicted by Al Gore in 2000 and here we are today, suffering the consequences of our bad decisions to ignore and ridicule his recognition of these needs that long ago. Duckworth has addressed these and other issues.

    July 4, 2012 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  16. dave morris

    This shows the level to which the GOP has stooped. The GOP is now basically a Sharia Taliban branch of the Republican Party which used to have respect 20 odd years ago. People like this should be turned out on their butts ...I just hope there are enoough Republicans with integrity enough to vote against this man...but finding Republicans with integrity is a losing mission any more.

    July 4, 2012 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  17. carly

    Walsh is a right wing clown and a dead beat father. And he never served in the military.Walsh is a representative of today's GOP: anti-women, anti-vets, anti-middle class and on and on.

    July 4, 2012 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  18. Bob

    I have every expectation that Mr. Walsh could be 100% correct and not win the election. A fiction writer could not dream up a more perfect profile for a candidate to win elections in Illinois than Ms. Duckworth. That, and the appointment to her first govermental post by the illustrious Rod Blagjoevich.

    July 4, 2012 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  19. Sarah

    In addition to being a draft dodger, isn't Walsh also a deadbeat dad who is thousands behind in child support payments?

    July 4, 2012 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  20. Jim

    "Our true heroes, it's the last thing in the world they talk about."

    So her sacrifice is less because she chooses to talk about her military service? I think not.

    July 4, 2012 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  21. Cetus

    For some, their military service is what defines them. Someone who's never served would not understand that.

    July 4, 2012 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  22. flip

    That's much better than an obstuctionist, revisionist, blindly fundermental, blindly ignorent, greed stricken Repub.
    Go, girl, go!

    July 4, 2012 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  23. Karl Jonas

    ... says the deadbeat dad ...

    July 4, 2012 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  24. marty

    The 'Ugly American' is making a comeback.

    July 4, 2012 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  25. steven harnack

    Maybe he would prefer that she talk about his status as a deadbeat dad, how much he is in arrears and whether he has ever even started paying child support out of his $180,000 per year salary? A conservative spin on his statement would be that he hates military veterans especially wounded veterans so he hates America and loves her enemies.

    July 4, 2012 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
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