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. Thomas

    Rep Joe Walsh (Dead Beat Dad)
    In the mid-1980s, he embarked on an acting career, taking lessons in stage, theater and television.

    Another Tea Party Nut Job who acts like he was once in the Military, but in reality never was.

    July 5, 2012 04:59 am at 4:59 am |
  2. Old Soldier

    He's wrong. Lots of vets talk about their service. Go to any VFW hall, and you can check it out. And, of course, vets like Ollie North and Allen West do so all the time...they just don't bring up their trials by court martial (or being allowed to retire quietly with an Article 15 to avoid a trial). Over-generalizations like his breed inaccuracies. But he does have a point. Just having thirty years in combat boots doesn't entitle me to anything if I'm running for office or interviewing for a job. Same for her or any other Veteran. Or policeman. Or NYC fireman. Or anyone. If you are going out for something, stick to the relevant stuff. Campaign on the skills you attained because of military service, not just that you served. Relate how your service pertains to the office if she hasn't held political office. If she is doing what he says and gets voted into office just because she is a disabled Veteran, that's bad. Illinois could get stuck with another Allen West, for God's sake! And no one should want that! Old Soldier, out!

    July 5, 2012 05:08 am at 5:08 am |
  3. Log

    Agree 100 percent with Walsh. I too am a veteran, but when you are running for office you have to be able to talk the issues.

    July 5, 2012 05:09 am at 5:09 am |
  4. christ

    john mcain did the same thing so i dont see what the big deal is just mad because is going to lose

    July 5, 2012 05:11 am at 5:11 am |
  5. s

    go home looser, Tea party you are going to run on that LOL LOl LOL.

    July 5, 2012 05:13 am at 5:13 am |
  6. Franny

    She doesn't have to throw her service in his face. Her sacrifice is obvious to anyone who has eyes. How disrespectful do these yahoos have to be for the American People to vote them out of office? I guess "life's been good to him so far"!

    July 5, 2012 05:51 am at 5:51 am |
  7. Doyle Wiley, MI

    It makes sense that McCain wouldn't want to talk much about his time as a Prisoner Of War. While being held he gave military intelligent information to the enemy. McCain should have died before giving-up that information. As far as I am concern Duckworth, a soldier that lost two legs and the use of one arm, can talk about her service 'until the cows come home.'

    July 5, 2012 05:59 am at 5:59 am |
  8. Core republican Values

    Typical republican loudmouth lightweight. He's trying to do what Karl Rove did to John Kerry. Try to make heroic national service look like a bad thing. I hope the voters see him for what he is. A worthless member of the "American Taliban."

    July 5, 2012 06:06 am at 6:06 am |
  9. Printz Metternich

    With her sacrifice Tammi Duckworth did a better day's work in one day than Joe Walsh has done in his entire life.

    July 5, 2012 06:28 am at 6:28 am |
  10. asm_ith

    Interesting that Walsh said that McCain's advisers repeatedly begged him to talk about his military service and McCain refused. Note that McCain lost the election. I wonder how much of Walsh's complaint about Duckworth is because she is doing what McCain wouldn't do and he's afraid that it actually was good advice and it could help her win. Walsh has shown himself to be a deadbeat loudmouth who doesn't deserve anyone's vote.

    July 5, 2012 06:33 am at 6:33 am |
  11. Willie

    Let me get this straight.... Joe Walsh (who never even served in the military) is suddenly an expert on the extent veterans should acknowledge their own service??? How did this happen?

    July 5, 2012 06:37 am at 6:37 am |
  12. Sam

    Anything is greater than a zero. For someone like Walsh, who has never served in the military, ANYTHING his opponent says, seems too much. I have no respect for his ilk.

    July 5, 2012 06:46 am at 6:46 am |
  13. JD

    So it is basically "Stop talking about stuff I don't have or didn't do" right? Sorry but this country was much better off when both sides put up folks for election that had served. They were better leaders and better people than what we get to pick to vote for today.

    July 5, 2012 06:52 am at 6:52 am |
  14. martin

    They have some things in common. She left her family to go serve her country. He just left his family. Thank you, Tea Party, for your service.

    July 5, 2012 06:52 am at 6:52 am |
  15. amlcpamaine

    I guess Walsh would rather the narrative be more on dead-beat dads and congressmen who rip us all off with their righteous blather while refusing to do their jobs responsibly. Walsh is trash and CNN shouldn't give him cover.

    July 5, 2012 06:53 am at 6:53 am |
  16. BobAD Iowa

    Well Joe just tell us your stories about military service and we'll listen.

    July 5, 2012 06:55 am at 6:55 am |
  17. perennial2

    I've no dog in that campaign fight, but agree that anyone holding office ought have qualifications more than serving in the military, if that even is a qualification. The U.S., overall, has fallen into a very dangerous trend over the past decade+ of militarizing everything while diminishing the value of a citizen government. It is the common man citizenry with strong intellectual ideals as to freedom and quality of life who created this nation, not killing machines and armies.

    July 5, 2012 07:03 am at 7:03 am |
  18. Tony in Maine

    Gee Joe, why don't you talk about your service?

    Just another Republican chickenhawk ready to trash a real hero – kind of like the character assassination of Max Cleland and the Swift Boating of John Kerry. It's too bad the testosterone overload that marks conservatism is nullified by the big yellow streak up their backs.

    Outside of McCain, you really can't find a current Republican pol with a military record to match Duckworth, Cleland or Kerry. It's positively disgusting the way they will attack or use surrogates to attack genuine heros just to get themselves in a position to get the big payoffs from K Street slime.

    July 5, 2012 07:07 am at 7:07 am |
  19. ppppuuuuuu

    Meet Joe Walsh, the fastest mouth of the MidWest, isnt this the same guy with the child support problems?

    July 5, 2012 07:09 am at 7:09 am |
  20. Ronal anthony Bobeck

    Look, this professional; politician is beyond The pale , I am 70% service connected disabled . I live close to Ft Bragg NC. I see active duty people everyday and new Veterans at the VA Hospital, if you have never been you should go and see what REAL american hero's look like and what a lot of us have to try to carry on with our lives. NOT, some elitist P.O.G. thinks they Know HARD TIMES... Please MY may have male Gentiles But, NO way are you a Man .

    July 5, 2012 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  21. Gary

    I'm John McCain, and I approve this message.

    July 5, 2012 07:30 am at 7:30 am |
  22. Nkwame Simba Makote

    Walsh: you have a big mouth. You know you'll lose the election and will do anything to try to change the outcome. You won't. So, hush, hush, little boy, go an play with your little toy.

    July 5, 2012 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  23. Marcia Greenwood, IN

    Whereas the only thing Joe Walsh is known for is not paying child support and insulting everyone from his constituents, the President and everyone else so why is anyone surpised that he insults veterens-get him OUT of Congress to a real job

    July 5, 2012 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  24. drinky

    Just another GOP chickenhawk shooting his mouth off

    July 5, 2012 07:41 am at 7:41 am |
  25. gregingso

    Typical chicken-hawk behavior on the part of this congressman. John McCain is a hero but so is this woman and if she chooses to talk about her service I say good for her. All you had to do Mr. Walsh is sign up yourself and serve your Country like these two heros did and you would be able to talk about it too.

    July 5, 2012 07:42 am at 7:42 am |
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