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. HenryB

    Max Cleland – Attacked by the same rabid right wing. They love warriors except when warriors are Democrats. The rabid right wing doesn't love warriors – they pander to people. They don't care about vets, they use them to hide their total lack of thoughts and idea. They hide behind their bible, our flag, the cross. They are the phonies that us stup!d Americans keep falling for.

    July 4, 2012 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  2. Bill in Florida

    So it's OK for "Rudy noun-verb-9/11 Guliani" and "John POW McCain" but it's not OK for a Democrat? Typical GOP hypocrisy.

    July 4, 2012 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  3. independent

    Sounds like Walsh is getting nervous, and trying to diminish the sterling record of a decorated veteran.

    July 4, 2012 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  4. Beadles

    Oh, for heaven's sake, who is this guy? What are the specifics of his military service? It's up to the voters whether or not they like whatever Lt. Col. Duckworth is saying. Contrary to Rep. Walsh's comments, I don't think we're indebted to our heroes and in awe of them because they don't talk about their service. We're indebted to them because of their actions. Some of them talk about it and some of them don't. Seems to me that Rep. Walsh is a bit jealous. I hope she kicks his whiny behind right out of the State House. Retired Navy Captain.

    July 4, 2012 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  5. ObamaCares

    Has this clown paid his child support? He is the epitome of a deadbeat.

    July 4, 2012 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  6. Ideas, Ideals, not ideologies

    It's not her fault that she sacrificed for her country and Mr Walsh didn't. She's entitled to talk about it. Does her scars unmask Walsh's hollow propaganda like. Walsh is the guy that wrap himself with the flag and talk the patriotic talk until he finds out the listener actually served. Then he pulls you over to the side to explained all the reasons he didn't serve. He's the kind that confuses his political affiliation with being a patriot.

    July 4, 2012 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  7. JD

    I guess he does not have much of resume to talk about himself. Not much on it yeh!

    July 4, 2012 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  8. Larry L

    Most of the Tea Party extremists are chicken-hawks who have never served and yet tend to always select war as the first option. Of course Walsh doesn't want to hear about honorable service – he doesn't know what it means! Just another loud-mouthed, Tea Party radical.

    July 4, 2012 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  9. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Illinois has their embarrassment in Joe Walsh, and Florida has Allen West.

    July 4, 2012 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  10. repubs are evil

    This woman is a hero, unlike Mclame who was NOT a hero but was a screw up who disregarded his orders and was shot down and captured. Part of being in the military is to follow orders. Not go off willy nilly doing what you want.

    July 4, 2012 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  11. Gary

    This guy is an embarrassment to Illinois. He needs to go.

    July 4, 2012 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  12. MaryM

    Walsh is a loser . Do not vote for this dead beat dad Joe Walsh

    July 4, 2012 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  13. NotFooledByDistractions

    I'm kind of torn as to who I find more despicable – Mr. Walsh or the people in the audience that chuckled and let him get away with it.

    Not one person – not one – in that audience stood up and said "shame on you." They should have – all it takes is a modicum of common decency and civility. I realize politics is hardball, but disparaging any soldier who has sacrificed so much deserves respect under any and all circumstances. Period. Shame on them all.

    July 4, 2012 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  14. Paul Thomas

    Shamefull, reach into the RNC bag of tricks try to diminish her service. Enjoy your time Walsh you won't be around next year the woman your up against is charismatic and your a loser

    July 4, 2012 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  15. natsel

    The two questions Walsh hates the most: What did you do in the war, daddy? Why don't you pay mommy your child support?

    July 4, 2012 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  16. Myviewis

    Okay, I'll bite. I'm confused, Democrats are angry and insulting Romney and his sons for not having participated in the Military, yet this same Democrats in 2008 said it was great that Obama never participated in the Military and that McCain was exhausting them with all his talk of his military career. Which one is it Democrats? Yes Military, No Military. Remember 2008?????? Or is all this just another gimmick?????

    July 4, 2012 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  17. Steve

    I don't know what the representatives background is, but I assume that he is complaining because he can't match her experience. As a retired naval officer, I don't talk about, nor expect, any acknowledgment of my service. However, someone that has experienced as significant a life changing event as Ms. Duckworth has the right to suggest that they may have a different perspective on sacrifice.

    July 5, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  18. KC

    You could attack her for....hmmmmi...The fact you chose not to serve in any way except in congress gives you no real way to accuse her of any of the normal tea party lies.

    July 5, 2012 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  19. bearsnoah

    Vote this guy out. This is the worst kind of politics.

    July 5, 2012 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  20. markod52

    This jerk is now backtracking on his heinous comments caught on video. Watch it and judge for yourself. In the video he definitely separates Duckworth from "real heroes". Any American who goes overseas and spills their blood on foreign soil to protect people like Walsh, who never stood tall himself, is a hero in my book.

    And, his statements about John McCain are wrong also. His war record was very much a part of his 2008, from his nomination speech through many campaign commercials.

    Walsh should simply resign as a member of Congress. He's a disgrace.

    July 5, 2012 12:23 am at 12:23 am |
  21. Jane

    This creature is a total waste of space and oxygen. Next thing we hear, he'll be the Rombot's running mate!

    July 5, 2012 12:23 am at 12:23 am |
  22. J.V.Hodgson

    I find the idea that this lady only talks about her military service when making what must be limited public appearances that she does not have opinions about health care the economy etc also in the category of an insult to her opposition toeards him. whatever else she is running as democrat and that has very clear political policy differences to a Republican tea partier which I am sure she will have mentioned.
    Also if she chooses to put her military service on display as a platform piece and what she will push for, for Vets... hell its a free country. So I think his comments are uncivil and outrageous from a war mongering Republican!!
    Regards,
    Hodgson.

    July 5, 2012 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  23. justaminit

    I am a veteran and Walsh is a weenie who has never served in the military. Ms. Duckworth should continue to point out that this guy has NOTHING he can say about a wounded veteran. What a jerk. Typical Tea Party warrior.

    July 5, 2012 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  24. Thomas Paine

    Republican Rep. Joe Walsh is right! Enough about Tammy Duckworth gallant service to this county and the limbs and life she was will to give to protect it. Ya, Yah she a Hero.
    Let’s focus more on Joe Walsh’s unselfish acts of . . . well his heroic deeds in . . .um . . hey the guy was one hell of a fundraiser.

    semper fi

    July 5, 2012 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  25. AK-steve

    Could you imagine is a Democrat said this? Oh, my – it would be treason. But this new batch of GOPers, who never fought for their country should think they now how to run it.

    Typically GOP shallow, selfish and self-centered.

    July 5, 2012 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
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