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Duckworth Interview

Aired July 6, 2012 - 16:29   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN: Let's bring in Tammy Duckworth right now. I spoke with Joe Walsh together with Kate earlier in the week. Tammy is here right now.

What do you say to his specific charge that the only thing you really want to talk about, Tammy, is your military service? You don't want to talk about the specific economic, social issues that are important to constituents out there?

LT. COL. TAMMY DUCKWORTH, D, ILLINOIS CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Well, I actually talk about the issues a majority of the time. And in fact, Mr. Walsh is trying to distract the voters away from last week, when he voted against the highway bill that you're about to discuss today, as a matter of fact, Wolf.

He was the only member of the entire Illinois bipartisan delegation to vote against a bill that would fix the roads and bring much-needed jobs into the district. He also has voted against the student loans. He wanted student loan rates to double.

He has no plans for what to do to cut the budget, other than to do it on the backs of seniors. He voted three times to end Medicare and Social Security as we know it. So he's trying to actually shift the focus away from his irresponsible actions as a congressman by attacking military service. And that's irresponsible in his words.

BLITZER: I don't know if he's attacking military service, but he's clearly attacking you. What's the biggest difference, in your opinion, constituents out there in Illinois should know about, when it comes to economic policy, economic issue between you and Walsh?

DUCKWORTH: That I actually have a plan for what we're going to do. I talk in my jobs plan about the need to bring in infrastructure development. We need to look at some serious cuts in the budget. And everything should be on the table, including defense spending. I think we also need to take a look at rewarding employers and small businesses that keep jobs here.

Let's have tax cuts for those who hire people who have been unemployed for more than six months. Let's have tax credits for businesses that keep jobs in the district.

I have many, many items in my proposal. Go to my web page. You'll see that a majority of my discussions is about jobs, it's about the economy, it's about the need to access good health care for all Americans. And it's also about education, making sure that our kids can afford to go to college.

BLITZER: He repeatedly says John McCain, a war hero to be sure, he never really spoke that much about his own personal experiences as a POW in Vietnam, for example. But that's all. he says. you talk about, your war experiences. Do you want to respond to what Walsh is saying?

DUCKWORTH: Well, I think that Mr. Walsh is being very irresponsible in his words. At a time when we have so many veterans coming home, I hope that the veterans of this generation talk about their war experiences more than the veterans of the Vietnam generation like Senator McCain.

You know, they were criticized back then. Our war heroes coming home today should talk about their service. They need to talk about the leadership skills they learned in the military that will make them better employees. They need to talk about the fact they were able to accomplish really tough missions under really extreme conditions.

And that will make them, again, better employees and better leaders in the civilian world.

We also need to make sure that our veterans who are suffering from post-traumatic stress talk about their wartime experiences and reach out for help. And also those veterans who become momeless nmeed to talk about the fact that they are homeless.

It's very irresponsible for Mr. Walsh. as a sitting Congressman. to try to muzzle war veterans and to keep them from talking about their service by trying to insinuate that you're not a hero if you talk about your service, when, in fact, our veterans should be talking about their service. It will help us better understand why they make better employees so that they can find those jobs. It will also help us address issues of post-traumatic stress, increasing deaths to suicide, the need for access to health care for veterans and also the need to end homelessness among veterans.

BLITZER: Do you have a problem that he never served in the military?

DUCKWORTH: None whatsoever. I think there are many, many ways to serve this nation. I think that people who volunteer on their kids' PTA are serving. I think people like my mom, who volunteers at a soup kitchen, is serving this nation.

The key is for us to all do a part to make this nation great. And what we need now are people in Washington, just as we have here at home, who are willing to roll up their sleeves and get to work.

Mr. Walsh is an example of what is wrong with Washington. He's been there for two years. And all he does is use belligerent words and belligerent actions and he doesn't want to compromise or work with anyone. Instead, he disagrees and argues with anyone who disagrees with him and doesn't see things his way. That's simply not acceptable in a sitting congressman.

BLITZER: I agree that the differences on substantive policy issues are what the two of you should be debating. He's used some nasty words. But you've also suggested, among other things, that Walsh is an extremist loudmouth for the Tea Party.

Back in April you said there's not a crackpot Tea Party idea that he hasn't embraced. Is that appropriate to use that kind of language against a sitting United States Congressman?

DUCKWORTH: I think it's appropriate against a gentleman who says that he wants to be the poster child for the Tea Party. He actually gave that quote to "Time" magazine. He's told the people in the district that "you're not going to get squat from me," his words, and that he is going to Washington to shout from the mountaintops and that he's not going to compromise. He's not going to work with anyone. He is there it to be a poster child for the Tea Party.

Well, if he's proud of that, then he needs to embrace that, because the people in the district are sick and tired of what's going on in Washington. They want folks who are going to sit down, roll up their sleeves and get to work.

I'm willing to work with anyone who loves this country as much as I do, who is willing to get to work to get the country moving again. That's why in Illinois we have everyone in the Illinois delegation agreeing to vote in support of the transportation bill, something desperately needed, especially in my district, where we have O'Hare Airport as part of our district.

Yet Mr. Walsh was the only one to vote against that much-needed bill and the jobs that would come with it.

BLITZER: Do you have a problem -- he says that you send -- you and your campaign; I assume that's what he means -- someone to videotape all of his speaking engagements, to watch him wherever he goes. Is that an issue as far as you're concerned?

DUCKWORTH: No, since he sends someone to tape all of my speaking engagements as well. So I think it's a standard campaign policy. I think that you should be proud of what you say in public. And if Mr. Walsh has a problem with that, then he shouldn't say these things that really are not in keeping with the values of people of the district.

BLITZER: If he's watching right now, is there anything you want to say to him directly?

DUCKWORTH: No, since he sends someone to tape all of my speaking engagements as well. So I think it's a standard campaign policy. I think that you should be proud of what you say in public. And if Mr. Walsh has a problem with that, then he shouldn't say these things that really are not in keeping with the values of people of the district.

BLITZER: If he's watching right now, is there anything you want to say to him directly?

DUCKWORTH: You know, I think that he needs to explain to the people of the 8th Congressional District why he was the only person to vote against a highway bill and why he wanted student loan rates to double when our students desperately need help so that they can get to college and that workers in the district need the jobs to get to work on fixing our roads and our commuters and our businesses need to make sure the roads and rails and bridges in our district are fixed.

Why is he the only one to vote against all of those bills that are desperately needed and supported in the district?

Are you willing, Tammy, to come on our show and debate him directly?

DUCKWORTH: I've already debated him once. We had the first debate in the nation. I've agreed to, I think, three or four more debates. And we're going to work through those issues. And if yours is one of the ones we agreed to, then I would be happy to.

BLITZER: So there will be more some more debates before election day?

DUCKWORTH: Yes. We already agreed to several more. And we're working through the issues. And we actually had the very first debate in the congressional race in the general election back in May. So we've been seen together in a lot of places.

BLITZER: We would love to invite you and Mr. Walsh to come on and do a good, serious, substantive debate, no name-calling, no nasty words on either sides, just the substantive, important issues. I think that our viewers would be very happy to see that.

DUCKWORTH: I think that would be great too, Wolf.

Thank you so much, Tammy Duckworth, joining us from Chicago.