Last Friday, Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) challenged his Democratic opponent — Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth — to a debate. Walsh posted an announcement on his campaign website which stated that the congressman would be hosting a town hall on Sunday, and that he “has invited his opponent Tammy Duckworth to join him because he believes the voters deserve to have the ability to directly compare their competing views on the issues.”
Unfortunately, she was unable to attend. Why? Because Duckworth, who serves in the Army National Guard, was on duty this past weekend. As VoteVets told ThinkProgress, under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Duckworth was legally prohibited from appearing at any campaign events while on duty. VoteVets Chairman Jon Soltz issued the following statement:
Joe Walsh just cannot stop trying to use Tammy Duckworth’s service against her, and he needs to stop, now. Whether or not his campaign was aware of her Army obligations, he now is, and should immediately apologize for this stunt. We should be thankful for the service of all of our troops, not use their time in uniform as an opportunity to play a political stunt.
The Duckworth campaign has made clear that it would like to hold a series of debates with Walsh.
Walsh’s denigration of Duckworth’s service seems to be a recurring theme. In a recent interview with Politico, Walsh diminished Duckworth’s sacrifice for her nation (she lost both of her legs and has a damaged right arm because her helicopter was gunned down in Iraq in 2004) by saying, “What else has she done? Female, wounded veteran … ehhh…. She is nothing more than a handpicked Washington bureaucrat.” Walsh refuses to apologize for those remarks and has instead doubled down. “Wearing the uniform should immediately earn everyone’s respect. It should not, however, earn everyone’s vote,” he said earlier this month.
Since 2006, Duckworth has been serving our nation’s veterans, first by directing the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, and more recently by serving as an Assistant Secretary in the federal Department of Veterans Affairs. But Walsh has been “trying to pretend that [Duckworth’s] service ended when she came home from war.”