Plenty of buzz about this last night on social media, especially on the left, although they’re stomping a candidate whose career is all but dead anyway. He’s a Republican running in Illinois in a presidential election year. Duckworth, a veteran who lost both legs in Iraq before becoming a congresswoman, is a strong opponent, especially by the standards of this year’s dismal Democratic crop. Kirk could have had the debate of his life and he’d almost certainly still lose next month. He did not have the debate of his life.
The exchange begins with her touting her family’s record of military service, not just her own, as a reason to send her to the Senate. Her father’s an Army veteran and his ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War. She and her relatives know the price of war, she says; she’ll be an agent of restraint on the more ardent interventionists in Congress. The moderator offers Kirk 30 seconds for rebuttal, which, you would think, would be an opportunity to remind the audience that he’s a veteran too and knows the importance of American resolve in confronting threats. Watch what he does instead. The entirety of his answer is the one-liner headlined above, which Kirk himself seems to think is a zinger so devastating that it requires no elaboration. There’s an uncomfortable pause of several seconds as the room realizes that this is what he’s sticking with, then the moderator moves on. And here’s the thing: I don’t know how else to take it except as an ethnic shot. There’s no obvious benign what-he-meant-to-say-was interpretation. Duckworth, whose mother is Thai and who was born in Thailand herself, does her pitch about service to America — and Kirk’s comeback is essentially to wonder how devoted any foreign-born American can be to the United States, including one who lost her legs during her service. Is there some nuance to his answer that I’m missing? This guy is supposed to be one of those moderate, centrist, “reasonable” Republicans the media likes so much, right?
If you’re worried that criticizing Kirk is heresy for Republicans in the home stretch of a battle for the Senate, relax. Trumpworld gives you permission.
The same Mark Kirk that unendorsed his party's presidential nominee and called him out in paid ads? Gotcha. Good luck. https://t.co/IV7miL317s
— Kellyanne Conway (@KellyannePolls) October 28, 2016
FiveThirtyEight’s Senate forecast this morning gives Democrats a better than two-to-one chance of winning a majority next month. Duckworth is a 93 percent favorite in Illinois.
Update: Kirk is sorry.
Sincere apologies to an American hero, Tammy Duckworth, and gratitude for her family's service. #ilsen
— Mark Kirk (@MarkKirk) October 28, 2016