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Will Tammy Duckworth's Robot Feet Kick Mark Kirk Out Of The U.S. Senate?
Nope, can't come up with a joke about official portraits.
[contextly_sidebar id="spmMcd7849Nu6Rpf8uDJdM4G16pFxizK"]Welcome to the second installment of our fun new weekly series on the 2016 Senate races. We have about as many weekends between now and November 8 as there are senatorial races, and so we're aiming to hit every single one, because Yr Wonkette is nothing if not public-servicey, not to mention a little OCD. This time out, thanks to some brilliantly timed stupidity by the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), we're featuring the Illinois Senate race between incumbent Republican Mark Kirk, who's seeking reelection to a second term, and Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth, the Iraq vet who regularly kicks Republicans' asses with her prosthetic legs. At this point, things are looking pretty good for Duckworth in her bid to unseat the guy Politico calls the "most endangered Republican in the country."
So, here are things we know about Tammy Duckworth: She is an honest-to-god Iraq War Hero, having lost both legs when the Blackhawk helicopter she was co-piloting was hit by a rocket propelled grenade; of that 2004 attack, she later recalled seeing a fireball inside the cockpit and wondering why she wasn't able to work the helicopter's control pedals:
“I found out later the pedals were gone, and so were my legs,” she said.
[contextly_sidebar id="YZj2Xv7QAJ12YN8eeaTr9CkNXPP8tHIY"]Despite being wounded so badly that she almost lost her right arm (and almost half the blood in her body), she attempted to help fly the helicopter, although she later realized all the controls on her side of the cockpit were dead. The pilot, Chief Warrant Officer Dan Milberg, managed to land the Black Hawk and the crew got her to a hospital. She was awarded the Army Air Medal and Army Commendation Medal, and Milberg received the Distinguished Flying Cross. After rehab, she received a medical waiver and stayed with the Illinois National Guard until 2014 , even after entering government service, first in Illinois and later in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. She handily kicked the ass of deadbeat dad Joe Walsh when she ran for Congress in 2012, helped along by Walsh's stupid insistence on mocking her military service, because he was A Idiot.
Duckworth won the hearts and minds of YouTube viewers -- even Glenn Beck's The Blaze -- in 2013, when she gave about twenty different kinds of hell to scumbag government contractor Braulio Castillo, who won himself IRS contracts as a "disabled vet." In reality, he'd injured his foot playing football in high school. Duckworth laid into him with delicious vigor:
“I’m so glad that you would be willing to play football in prep school again ‘to protect this great country,’” Duckworth said.
“Shame on you, Mr. Castillo. Shame on you. You may not have broken any laws, we’re not sure yet … but you certainly broke the trust of this nation. You broke the trust of veterans.
After winning reelection to the House in 2014, Duckworth announced last spring that she'd run against Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk, a race that is not going so great for Sen. Kirk. He probably wasn't helped last week by the NRSC's dumb tweet accusing Duckworth of "not standing up for our veterans."
Oh, sure, they pulled it down quickly and then got angry at people criticizing them for being tacky, because as former Rep. Max Cleland can attest, the GOP loves disabled vets, right up until they have to either fund the V.A. or run against one.
[contextly_sidebar id="psyXeWfSrV65xGy4wqSZsNsovbic7Tsn"]So yes, let's do talk about Mark Kirk a bit. Yr Wonkette Archives have some amusing stories about his divorce and his dalliance with a Svengali-type lady who was also a Kraken (we skimmed, we'll admit), and how he blamed Al Gore's sex life for global warming. On the upside, he proved his "GOP moderate" credentials a few years back by becoming only the second Republican senator at the time to support marriage equality, without even having a gay kid! Politico notes that Kirk is also the "only Republican senator to receive an 'F' rating from the National Rifle Association," so there's that, too.
[contextly_sidebar id="ve1gejN0pei19XIyzob50M5j35BQ3QMD"]Kirk was one of the senators who signed that stupid letter telling Iran that Barack Obama isn't really the president, and then once President Obama went and signed the nuclear agreement with Iran, Kirk explained how Obama is Hitler and everyone in the Middle East will die because of his poor understanding of history. As everyone knows, good presidents don't sign agreements to limit Iranian arms, they sell missiles to Iran, like Saint Ronald did.
And what are the big issues in the campaign, besides Tammy Duckworth's seriously deficient patriotism? For one thing, in an ad released in late February, Kirk wants Illinois voters to know that Tammy Duckworth wants to flood America with Syrian refugees, who are almost certainly ISIS operatives, maybe. They could be!
So that's pretty scary! If you want to get bogged down in mere facts, we could point out that Duckworth actually called for accepting a total of 200,000 refugees in the coming year, of whom only 100,000 would be Syrian, and that refugees face a far stricter screening process than most other immigrants. Also, Duckworth happens to have former secretary of state Madeleine Albright right here, and she says Kirk knows nothing of foreign policy:
Senator Kirk’s commercial is pure demagoguery operating on the basis of the fear factor and I think that is a very, very dangerous approach because we got into the war in Iraq as a result of the fear factor and it was based on the wrong information.
Rightwing media, the NRSC, and the Kirk campaign have also been trying to make an issue of a pending lawsuit filed by two former State of Illinois employees over their firings 10 years ago, when Duckworth was the Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. It's the third time around for the plaintiffs:
The suit was dismissed by a federal judge in 2008 as a "garden variety workplace case." It was refiled in state court and dismissed again, but then narrowed and brought back a third time.
The NRSC has tried to frame the suit in the most shocking terms, saying she's "being sued by VA whistleblowers for ignoring claims of mistreatment and corruption." The reality seems a lot less exciting: the two former employees of a state veterans home claim they were improperly fired for insubordination after complaining to Duckworth about their supervisor. No, they didn't blow the whistle on systemic abuse of vets, and they aren't alleging corruption. They're asking for $50,000 in compensation, plus other damages for wrongful termination. The most damning allegation is that Duckworth may not have followed proper procedure by firing one of the women outright instead of putting her on leave with pay first, and that she allegedly told the other unhappy worker to "do your job and keep your mouth shut." Don't expect this one to be adapted into a thrilling movie about political intrigue, is what we're saying. Trial is tentatively set for April; since Duckworth was running a state agency at the time, the state of Illinois will be defending the suit. And yes, the Kirk campaign is suggesting there's something fishy about that completely routine aspect of the case as well, issuing a statement saying they are simply shocked, shocked:
Rep. Duckworth and her taxpayer-paid legal team are scheduled to be in court to face charges that Duckworth violated the state ethics act by attempting to silence whistleblowers
Obviously, there has to be something dirty about Duckworth, they suggest, since she was appointed to the state veterans affairs office by Rod Blagojevich (D-Prison). Yr Wonkette is Not a Lawyer, but this case seems to fall well short of the enormous whistleblower abuse scandal the R's are making it out to be.
Duckworth and Kirk are both favored to win their parties' primaries this coming Tuesday, and then it's on to November. The last polling on the race, strangely, is from June 2015, and showed Duckworth leading, plus Kirk having much higher negative views from voters. In a state that leans Democratic in presidential years, none of that is good news for Mark Kirk, especially if he keeps hinting that Tammy Duckworth doesn't care about veterans. A Navy vet himself, he should know better than to play that game. Kirk may want to watch that video of her ripping into the scammy guy again, and consider how well he'd come off tangling with her in a debate. Just a thought. Also, we hope he enjoys his retirement.