Updated Oct. 10, 12:40 p.m. ET
Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) deployed a strange attack on his Democratic opponent, Iraq War veteran and former Veterans Affairs official Tammy Duckworth, at a debate Tuesday night — brandishing a photo of her picking out a dress for the Democratic National Convention.
The point that Walsh intended to illustrate was that Duckworth was a political insider and a handpicked candidate of the national Democrats.
“I was marching in a parade in Schaumburg (Ill.), Sunday, two days before the Democratic convention,” Walsh said, holding up the photo, “when Tammy Duckworth was on a stage down in Charlotte (N.C.) — if you can look at the picture — picking out a dress for her speech Tuesday night.”
Back in September, Walsh issued a statement attacking Duckworth’s speech at the convention, and accusing her of dodging debates: “It has become abundantly clear that at this point the only debate Ms. Duckworth is actually interested in having is which outfit she’ll be wearing for her big speech.” Walsh pointed to the photo on Tuesday night as a way to explain what he said previously.
At the very raucous debate in Rolling Meadows, Ill., the Daily Herald reported, Walsh followed up on that, saying that Duckworth only says what top Democratic strategists advise her to say.
“And I think darn near everybody in this audience is sick and tired — and I’ll say with a smile — of Republicans and Democrats, elected officials, who seem to poll test every syllable of every word that they utter, because they’re so afraid of offending people and losing votes,” said Walsh. “You’re seeing the perfect example of that up here on this stage. Tammy Duckworth will not say a thing that David Axelrod and her advisers won’t let her say.”
Members of the audience booed profusely, but Walsh wasn’t fazed. He went on to address his criticism of Duckworth picking out her clothes for the Democratic convention — by holding up the photo.
The audience booed again, very loudly, as Walsh was finishing his statement. For her part, Duckworth accused Walsh of trying to distract from the issues — and she got in a kicker of her own.
“And yes, I do sometimes look at the clothes that I wear,” she said. “But for most of my adult life, I’ve worn one color — it’s called camouflage.”
Walsh has previously criticized Duckworth, who lost both of her legs as a helicopter pilot in Iraq, for talking about her military service — saying that “true heroes” don’t talk about it.
As the Chicago Sun-Times reports, this comment again came up at the debate, when Walsh had to respond to a question about whether he was too “extreme.”
“I never said she wasn’t a hero,” Walsh said of Duckworth, who lost both her legs while piloting a helicopter in Iraq. That caused a major groan to wash over the auditorium.
“Yes you did!” someone shouted.
Duckworth said: “My opponent has attempted to criticize me for talking about my military service. But I served — and he didn’t, so you’ll forgive me if I talk about it a little bit now — because I think it’s important. My military service is key to understanding who I am as a person. It is at the core of my life of service to this nation. You know, when you’re part of a unit, it’s not about the individual, it’s about the mission and banding together to get things done.”
A survey from mid-September conducted by Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, commissioned by the League of Conservation Voters, showed Duckworth leading Walsh by a margin of 52 percent to 38 percent.