Thursday, July 5, 2012

Do lawmakers really believe the things they say?

Just when you thought the level of offensiveness in political discourse had reached an all-time low, along comes Congressman Joe Walsh (R-IL). (No, not the guy from The Eagles.)

Walsh has made some well-publicized gaffes in the past, but his recent criticism of his Democratic opponent, Iraq war veteran and double amputee Tammy Duckworth, truly takes the cake. You see, Walsh—who has never served in the military—believes Duckworth talks too much about her military service. In fact, he has accused her of "showing off" her sacrifice for political gain. (Because it's easy to hide the fact that you've lost both of your legs and the use of one arm.)

At a campaign event Sunday, Walsh lauded Sen. John McCain, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, for his humility and refusal to talk candidly about his service. (I guess Walsh has forgotten about the two books McCain wrote about those experiences.)

"Now I'm running against a woman who, I mean—my God—that's all she talks about," Walsh told an audience in Elk Grove, IL. "Our true heroes, the men and women who served us, it's the last thing in the world they talk about." (Never mind the fact that Duckworth sustained her injuries when insurgents blew up her helicopter in Iraq.)

(Duckworth received multiple military awards, including a Purple Heart, an Air Medal and an Army Commendation Medal. After her injuries, she became director of Illinois’ Department of Veterans’ Affairs, until President Obama made her assistant secretary of Veterans Affairs.)

There are many, many people who demonstrate heroism on a daily basis, both on and off the battlefield. And while I don't believe that sustaining injuries while in the service of your country necessarily means you're qualified to run for public office, someone who volunteered to fight for our country—and sustained life-altering injuries through no fault of her own while doing so—deserves to be called a true hero.

What's even more appalling is that Walsh is best known for falling roughly $100,000 behind in child support to his ex-wife and then failing to show up in court—because, a staffer told the judge, "Mr. Walsh is a U.S. congressman."

Whether or not Tammy Duckworth deserves to be elected to Congress is a matter for the voters of Illinois' 8th Congressional district. Whether or not she deserves to be hailed as a hero—and has every right to talk about her injuries and her military service—should not be questioned.

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