Tammy Duckworth has the makings of a very attractive VP candidate. Smart, articulate, a working mother (who gave birth while in office and has brought her baby to the Senate floor). An Iraq war veteran who lost both legs in the service of her country. Multi-racial (though Black is not part of the mix.) Progressive.
But she has not spent much time in the national spotlight. And yesterday it showed. From this morning’s Taggan Goddard’s Political Wire about a CNN interview (the CNN link seems to no longer have this exchange):
BASH: In your view, where does it end? Should statues, for example, of George Washington come down?”
DUCKWORTH: Well, let me just say we should start off by having a national dialogue on it at some point. But right now we’re in the middle of a global pandemic.
BASH: That may be true, but George Washington, I don’t think anybody would call him a traitor and there are moves by some to remove statues of him. Is that a good idea?
DUCKWORTH: I think we should listen to everybody. I think we should listen to the argument there, but remember that the president at Mount Rushmore was standing on ground that was stolen from Native Americans who had actually been given that land during a treaty.
Charlie Sykes immediately saw what she’d done: This Should Be Easy. Why Isn't It?
This was worse than a gaffe. It was political malpractice, because it threw Trump a lifeline at time when even Republicans are rattled by Trump's dark and divisive message. Confederate statues are one thing, but George Washington? Mount Rushmore? Seriously?
But, but, (I'm told on social media) Duckworth was simply saying we should “listen to everybody,” and what's wrong with that?
Nothing, if this was a graduate seminar in performative wokeness. But we are in the midst of a presidential campaign and Duckworth just gave an answer that could launch a thousand Trump TV ads. [emphasis in original]
He adds that
Duckworth seemed to realize her mistake and tried to walk it back Sunday morning.
pointing to this tweet she sent:
Donald Trump wants to continue honoring traitors who took up arms against us in the Civil War to protect their ability to enslave, sell & kill Black Americans. This has never been a debate about honoring the complex legacy of those who actually helped *build* our great nation. [8:02 AM · Jul 5, 2020]
but it’s likely the damage has been done. As the Washington Post remarked this morning:
Republicans are intently watching the Biden team’s actions, with Trump allies preparing to unleash a barrage of attacks on whoever emerges as the running mate, according to people familiar with the plans.Biden himself has proven largely impervious to Trump’s attacks, and Trump aides hope the vice presidential nominee — a woman who could be more liberal and less familiar than Biden — will prove more vulnerable to criticism.
Even hinting that she might just consider the possibility that maybe Washington wasn’t such a paragon and that we might want to reexamine his history as a slaveholder has got to get GOP operatives salivating. The ads write themselves: “Duckworth wants to tear down the Washington Monument! Take him off the one-dollar bill! Change the name of the capital — and the state of Washington too!” They’ll make an ad showing her, artificial leg and all, kicking GW off Mount Rushmore.
Protests that this isn’t what she meant will fall on deaf ears. She was being nuanced, and like George Bush, Trump doesn’t do nuance. This will be red meat to his base, and just what he needs as a distraction. At a minimum, it shows she is not ready for the national mudflingfest that is a modern presidential campaign.
It’s a pity, too. I was starting to get interested in her as VP.