Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat who is making her second run for Congress, lost both her legs when her Black Hawk helicopter was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade in 2004. Duckworth first ran for Congress in 2006, but lost to Republican Peter Roskam. Now, the EMILY?s List candidate looks poised to win her primary in the Illinois 8th, and the seat in November. A 48-year-old Iraq War veteran, Duckworth has based much of her platform on veterans? advocacy?a cause that was sparked by her first-hand experience recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
I talked to Duckworth about a range of issues, but it was Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum?s comment about women in combat that sparked the greatest reaction. Duckworth, the daughter of a veteran, joined ROTC over 20 years ago, as a graduate student, and chose to fly helicopters because it was one of the few combat positions open to women at the time. She went on to become one of the first women to fly combat missions in Iraq, and if she wins in November, she will be the first woman in the House of Representatives to have combat experience. Based on her own experiences of combat and recovery, Duckworth has stressed the importance of taking care of America?s armed forces in all possible senses, from making sure that military spending on the ground is as efficient and effective as possible to ensuring that veterans come home to jobs and adequate mental health care. Awarded the Purple Heart for her service, Duckworth says that Santorum?s stance on women in the military is ?completely out of touch.?
Chloe Angyal: If you win this race, you?ll be the first woman in Congress to have combat experience. What?s unique about your perspective as a woman who?s also been in combat?
Tammy Duckworth: I think that I have a very unique voice. I think that I can talk to how things are in combat, and I can identify issues that perhaps people would normally not talk about. For example, I think there was not enough discussion about whether or not we should invade Iraq, and I think that I can question any future decisions. Now, if you listen to the Republican presidential primaries, you?re hearing the drumbeats that we should invade Iran. Like anyone who?s served in combat?and there are fewer and fewer of us in Washington?I?ll be able to stand up with my peers to say, ?Hey, we?ve got some questions, and you?re not going to question my patriotism.?
I think [my military experience] gives me a legitimacy as a woman that sometimes other women candidates don?t get. I think Hillary really had to earn her stripes: she served on the Armed Services Committee, but she really had to earn her stripes and get the respect and be recognized as being very knowledgeable on defense. I think that, as a woman, and especially as a combat veteran, I start from a place that many other female candidates don?t get to have, which is a position of strength, and I?m listened to far sooner than others.
CA: It?s interesting that even if a male candidate doesn?t have combat experience, he?s likely to be automatically granted that legitimacy simply by virtue of being a man.
TD: I think that has been the case traditionally. And I think that has been one of the challenges for female candidates: They?re told they shouldn?t use the word ?fight,? and they?re seen as being aggressive when they?re not; they?re just being firm, and it?s viewed as a negative thing. But I can stand there and be firm and be seen as being firm and having the experience under my belt.
CA: The Pentagon recently reported that there?s been a 64 percent increase in the number of reported incidents of sexual violence in the military. A woman deployed in the US military is now more likely to be raped by a fellow American soldier than to be killed by the enemy. What do you think is the best way to respond to this crisis?
TD: Well, first of all, sexual assault is not acceptable in any arena, whether it?s in the military or the civilian world. I applaud the Pentagon for spreading the word, and as more women hear that others are having this experience, they are more likely to speak up instead of remaining silent and suffering. So I think that?s great. I think it?s great that women are reporting it more, whereas maybe 20 years ago they would not have been able to report it.
We need to care for these women, and on the Department of Defense side, we need to prevent military sexual trauma. So I think the more dialogue about it, the more we realize that it?s happening, the less stigma individual female and male service members have speaking up about their experiences. Because it?s not just happening to women; it?s happening to men as well.
CA: What would you say to a young woman who wants to serve her country in the Armed Forces but is aware of the statistical likelihood of being sexually assaulted while she?s serving?
TD: I think that the military is an incredible opportunity for anyone. It is a part of the American experience where a woman gets equal pay for equal work. I made exactly a hundred pennies to the dollar of my male counterparts?I didn?t make 80 cents on the dollar; I made exactly the same amount of money. I made equal rank. I was given tremendous opportunities. I became the first female commander of a Black Hawk unit in the Illinois National Guard. I was one of the first women to fly combat missions for the Army in Iraq. Those opportunities are there, and it makes military service one of the most rewarding because you get to serve your country.
But I would tell both men and women recruits that [sexual harassment and assault] is not acceptable behavior, and if it happens, you must use your chain of command to report it, and if your chain of command is dysfunctional, then you find someone else you can talk to, because there?s always someone you can report it to. And I did have instances where someone would come to me from outside of my unit and say, ?Hey, I?m having this problem,? not always a sexual harassment issue, but they would come to me. So I would say that the opportunities are there for you to make your way, but you also have to be firm and trust in your own voice, and if sexual harassment happens, it is not acceptable, it is never acceptable, and you need to stand up to it.
CA: Rick Santorum made some controversial comments recently about women in the military. He said that women should be restricted from certain front-line combat positions because men will feel the biological urge to protect them, thereby threatening unit cohesion and endangering the mission. What?s your response?
TD: He?s wrong. He?s absolutely, 100 percent wrong. I think he?s playing to the basest, most inflammatory argument because he?s playing a political game. He?s trying to appeal to prejudice and basing it on false statements. If anything, women have shown in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that they are not only fully capable; they have excelled. They have saved many men?s lives. And it did not damage unit cohesion. And if Rick Santorum doesn?t believe that, then he can volunteer, enlist, put on a uniform, and put his butt on the line and try it himself. He?s playing politics. He is saying something inflammatory because he thinks he?s going to get a certain population to give him money, and it?s a shame because America?s daughters are just as capable of doing their jobs as America?s sons, whether that?s at home as doctors and attorneys or in combat as convoy commanders. This is the 21st century. Get over yourself.
CA: But like you said, people tend to get uncomfortable when women are combative.
TD: I have to tell you, the men I served with were not uncomfortable or nervous about me being aggressive. For most of my military career, 99 percent of my mentors were men, because there were not often women of higher rank than me in the units I was in. And my male mentors did everything they could to help me make my way in my career just as they did for other soldiers. So Rick Santorum is in the minority, and he?s completely out of touch. The men that I served with would go through anything to take care of their buddies, whether they were men or women. It has nothing to do with your gender and it has everything to do with camaraderie, the mission, and serving your country.
CA: Presumably a woman would feel the same emotional urge to protect whoever was in her unit regardless of their gender.
TD: Absolutely. Talk to Lee Ann Hester. She?s a National Guard Sergeant who was awarded the Silver Star, who led her squad, which had been ambushed. They repelled enemy attack; she led her squad, and they followed her, and they were able to repel the enemy. She?s just one of many examples.
CA: There?s been a push lately to get businesses to hire veterans. What would you do in the Illinois 8th district to make it easier for veterans to find work?
TD: I?ve been working for the last six years to put veterans back to work. We started way back in 2007 when we became the first state in the nation to provide a tax credit to employers who hired veterans of Iraq, Afghanistan, or Desert Storm. It?s not very much; it was a $600 tax credit in the first year that you hire one of those vets, but we put hundreds of veterans back to work with that program. It rewards employers for hiring these vets, and that program has been expanded now. The tax credit is now at $1,200, and the Governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn, whom I first worked with back in 2007 to get that tax credit put into place, is proposing to increase it even more.
We also need to work with businesses so that they understand the value of military men and women. These are people who, every day, guarantee the quality of their work with their lives. When I went out to my helicopter and my mechanic gave me the keys to my helicopter, he said, ?Yes ma?am, I checked every oil level, I twisted every safety wire, that aircraft is ready to go.? He guaranteed the quality of his work as a mechanic with his life because he climbed into the back of that helicopter, where he had no access to the flight controls, and flew into combat with me. And I knew every time I took a helicopter up that it was in the best shape it could possibly be in, because he put his butt in that aircraft with me. And I don?t think that other than firefighters and police officers, there?s another profession where that?s done on a routine, daily basis. So I?d like to take my experience working at Veteran?s Affairs to get more veterans back to work, but also other people who are out of work as well.
The World Wildlife Fund accuses a Virginia company of destroying the rainforest habitat of tigers, elephants and other wildlife in Indonesia to turn it into toilet paper:
By some estimates, the world is losing 50 million acres of tropical rainforest a year -- an area double the size of Virginia. On the Indonesian island of Sumatra, much of the destruction has been traced to a Chinese Company called Asia Pulp and Paper or APP. The family that owns APP also owns and supplies Mercury Paper -- a company that moved to Virginia after [Gov. McDonnell] offered a $250,000 incentive to relocate from California. APP was recently singled out by Greenpeace, when laboratory analysis showed its paper towels, cardboard and toilet paper were made from rainforest trees. [...]Instead of urging the company to clean up its act to make its Virginia operation sustainable in the long term, McDonnell has parroted the company's attacks on anyone who would dare accuse Mercury of wrongdoing. No wonder McDonnell spends so much time trying to regulate women's bodies - otherwise people might realize the only way he can create jobs is by shoveling tax dollars to companies accused of harming wildlife.
The company points proudly to a sanctuary it established for critically endangered tigers, but World Wildlife?s Jan Vertefeuille says APP?s taking down that rainforest too: "We found out, through satellite imagery, that APP was clearing part of its own tiger sanctuary. They had told the government that they were going to protect this area, and they were actually clear cutting it."
Products made with APP fiber, such as toilet paper, paper towels and tissue, are increasingly landing in grocery stores, restaurants, schools and hotels across the country under the Paseo and Livi brand names.This controversy drags on because manufacturers are convinced Americans are so pampered that we will only wipe our asses with the finest, most pristine old-growth forest paper our planet has left to offer.
Eight large retailers ? BI-LO, Brookshire Grocery Company, Delhaize Group (owner of Food Lion chain), Harris Teeter, Kmart, Kroger, SUPERVALU, and Weis Markets ? have decided to stop carrying tissue products made with APP fiber during the last several months.
I keep hearing talk about contraception and abortion and I wholeheartedly agree that something needs to be done, however the arguments I?ve heard fail to get to the root of the matter. Obviously, the primary cause of the need for contraception and abortion is the male erection. That is why it is against the beliefs [...]Related posts:
The possibly final Republican faceoff was notable for what didn?t happen, the classic Sherlock Holmes clue of the dog that didn?t bark in the night.
Neither the moderator nor Santorum?s opponents pressed him to explain his positions on religious issues that have been making headlines, so extreme that even Rush Limbaugh concedes he must answer because they make him look like ?an absolute religious nut and wacko.?
But none of the debate dogs barked on the subject as they went at him on government spending and earmarks.
Santorum was asked about contraception but not Satan. He gave waffling answers about his votes to fund Planned Parenthood as well as a short speech about young poor women having babies that sounded as if it were leading to an argument for birth control but ended as an endorsement of abstinence and family values.
CNN?s John King may have still been traumatized after being mugged by Newt Gingrich at a previous debate, but why did the others hold back?
The most likely answer tells us about the state of the GOP today, held captive by the Tea Party and the Religious Right to the point that it may be politically dangerous to ask a Presidential candidate what he meant by saying ?mainline Protestantism in this country...is in shambles? and ?gone from the world of Christianity as I see it.?
If Santorum somehow manages to get the nomination, Democrats may not be so shy.
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Republicans spar over contraception at debate: “All four Republican presidential candidates criticized the Obama administration’s birth control mandate during Wednesday night’s debate but sharply disagreed over government’s proper role on the issue of sex. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum defended earlier remarks about “the dangers of contraception,” saying he was concerned with sexual activity among young Americans.” [The Hill]
Romney and Santorum blame each other for Obamacare: ?We were talking about this issue before of religious conscience and protections, but the whole reason this issue is alive is because of the bill that you drafted in Massachusetts, ?Romneycare,? which was the model for ?Obamacare? and the government takeover of heathcare,? Mr. Santorum said to his rival. ?There was a study that just came out about ten days ago?two weeks ago, that listed 15 ways in which ?Romneycare? was the model for ?Obamacare.?? Romney blamed Santorum for causing ?Obamacare? because he endorsed former Senator Arlen Specter in his race against a more conservative candidate, Pat Toomey in 2004. [Politicker]
Virginia ultrasound bill likely to fail: “Amid a public uproar that prompted Virginia’s governor to withdraw his support, Republican legislators on Wednesday dropped a bitterly contested proposal to require that women seeking abortions undergo invasive ultrasound imaging, likely dooming the bill.” [AP]
HHS announces a new round of exchange grants: “New federal money is headed to ten states to help them establish insurance exchanges through which individuals and small businesses can buy insurance beginning in 2014. The Department of Health and Human Services is sending a total of $229 million in exchange establishment grants to ten states, the agency announced Wednesday.” Four of the states are governed by Republican governors. [Kaiser Health News]
Democrat calls for tougher electronic health record standards: “Congress?s gambit to create a national system of electronic health records is ?at risk of failure or mediocrity? if federal regulators continue to water down the standards that doctors and hospitals must meet, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) wrote in a letter to federal health officials.” [The Hill]
Whistle-blowers key in health care fraud fight: “About 36% of the almost $16 billion recovered by the Justice Department in health care whistle-blower fraud cases has come since 2009, records show, which reflects an increased focus on fighting fraud.” [USA Today]
Medicaid cuts in New Mexico: “Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration is proposing to overhaul a program that provides health care to a fourth of the state’s population, and the changes could require some needy New Mexicans to dig into their pockets to pay a fee if they go to an emergency room for medical care that’s not considered an emergency.” [AP]
Vermont governor defends the exchanges: “Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin is defending his administration’s push to set up a new health insurance marketplace ? or exchange. Shumlin says the aim is to comply with the federal health reform law passed two years ago and lay the groundwork for the single-payer health care system he wants to set up by late in this decade.” [NECN]
Welcome to Justiceline, ThinkProgress Justice?s morning round-up of the latest legal news and developments. Remember to follow us on Twitter at @TPJustice.
Want the scoop on hot races around the country? Get the digest emailed to you each weekday morning. Sign up here.Leading Off:
? CA-21: I don't know whether to be happy or start pounding my head on the desk, but either way, get ready for the return of Cruz Bustamante. The man who's probably best remembered for being the principal, and decidedly lackluster, Democratic opposition to Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 2003 gubernatorial recall election is now interested in a bid for the House, in the swingy Fresno-area 21st, essentially open with Democratic Rep. Jim Costa's decision to run one district to the north under the new map. (Bustamante may see a role model in John Garamendi, who also bounced around California downballot statewide offices, tanked in the gubernatorial arena, and then found some job security at the House level.)
While Bustamante has his weaknesses, he does bring one thing to the table that none of the Dems in the CA-21 currently have, though: widespread name rec. This race has, since state Sen. Michael Rubio declined, been a recruiting sore spot for the Dems; the best they have in the race, at this point, are businessman John Hernandez and Fresno city councilor Blong Xiong. (David Jarman)
Hope and Change: The dreadful consequences of Europe's austerity policies and obsession with deficit reduction should warn us against the Republicans' plans to replicate those policies here.
Love, Joy, Feminism: On gay marriage, the battle for public opinion is going the right way; on abortion rights, there's still work to do.
Brains and Eggs: The Republican party doesn't like gays, unless they're hypocrites.
Bob Cesca: Just in case there was any doubt, the Republican base really is completely nuts.
Blog round-up by Infidel753. Tips to mbru [at] crooksandliars [dot] com.
Visual source: Newseum
And when Mr. Santorum sought to turn the discussion back to Mr. Romney?s health care overhaul in Massachusetts, saying it was the precursor to ?Obamacare,? Mr. Romney said Mr. Santorum?s support of Mr. Specter had helped make the health care plan law. (Mr. Specter, who switched parties to become a Democrat before the 2010 election, had voted for the national health care plan.)WaPo:
?So don?t look at me,? Mr. Romney snapped. ?Take a look in the mirror.?
But Mr. Santorum was prepared with a defense of his support for Mr. Specter, noting that Mr. Specter had helped shepherd the nominations of conservative Supreme Court justices including Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Samuel Alito Jr.
Rick Santorum?s front-runner status in the GOP presidential race is predicated on the idea that he is the consistent conservative alternative in the field.Jonathan Bernstein:
And that image had some serious holes poked in it at Wednesday?s debate in Arizona.
Since it?s the last one of these: The real losers here are Republican voters. Not just because none of these folks is very good at debating, although that?s certainly true. Santorum? He can?t seem to avoid getting bogged down in Senate-speak and unnecessary defenses of stuff that no one cares about. And he seems to have missed the day in candidacy school where they teach you to ignore the question and shift to something you would rather be talking about. The best example? At one point, he was on a roll attacking Romneycare fairly effectively, when Romney (talking over him) just said one thing: ?Arlen Specter.? You see, he had previously attacked Romney for supporting Specter against?oh, it doesn?t matter. What matters is that Santorum actually fell for it and switched from an effective attack into a long, nuanced defense of his actions in a long-ago Senate primary in Pennsylvania. All of which, first of all, didn?t do anything positive for him, but, more importantly, was off the main thing that he should have been pounding: Romneycare = Obamacare. A total Jedi Mind Trick moment. And it?s not just Santorum; at one point all three of the candidates who have served in Congress wound up giving extended defenses of earmarks. Perfectly reasonable ones, by the way ? but surely clear losers in a GOP nomination battle.Charles Blow:
Rick Santorum exposed his legislative underbelly during Wednesday?s debate and maybe revealed a weak spot.EJ Dionne:
When defending his support for No Child Left Behind during the Bush years, Santorum said:I have to admit, I voted for that, it was against the principles I believed in, but you know, when you?re part of the team, sometimes you take one for the team, for the leader, and I made a mistake. You know, politics is a team sport, folks, and sometimes you?ve got to rally together and do something, and in this case I thought testing and finding out how bad the problem was wasn?t a bad idea.Team sport? Rallying together? These are not things Republicans like to hear.
They say that President Obama is a Muslim, but if he isn?t, he?s a secularist who is waging war on religion. On some days he?s a Nazi, but on most others he?s merely a socialist. His especially creative opponents see him as having a ?Kenyan anti-colonial worldview,? while the less adventurous say that he?s an elitist who spent too much time in Cambridge, Hyde Park and other excessively academic precincts.EJ, I know how you feel.
Whatever our president is, he is never allowed to be a garden-variety American who plays basketball and golf, has a remarkably old-fashioned family life and, in the manner we regularly recommend to our kids, got ahead by getting a good education.
Please forgive this outburst. It?s simply astonishing that a man in his fourth year as our president continues to be the object of the most extraordinary paranoid fantasies. A significant part of his opposition still cannot accept that Obama is a rather moderate politician quite conventional in his tastes and his interests. And now that the economy is improving, short-circuiting easy criticisms, Obama?s adversaries are reheating all the old tropes and cliches and slanders.
A variety of links to articles/interviews/speeches on current topics that may be of interest.[...]
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