Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) is one of the most vulnerable incumbents this election, and he probably didn't help his chances to retain his seat in his debate Thursday night with his Democratic challenger, Rep. Tammy Duckworth. Kirk had been pretty low-key in their first debate, but he was decidedly more feisty on Thursday night, accusing Duckworth of lying about a workplace discrimination lawsuit and calling her record of serving veterans "very questionable." His biggest hit, however, was also his loudest thud.
Duckworth had just explained why she wanted to serve in the Senate "when the drums of war sound," to explain the costs and risks of war. "My family has served this nation in uniform going back to the Revolution," she said. "I am a Daughter of the American Revolution. I've bled for this nation." That's not hyperbole — Duckworth served as a U.S. Army helicopter pilot in Iraq, and she lost both her legs when a rocket-propelled grenade took down her chopper in 2004. "I had forgotten your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington," Kirk said, apparently referring to the fact that Duckworth's mother is Thai of Chinese descent; Duckworth was also born in Thailand.
Kirk's comment was met with an awkward silence, then a moderator told Duckworth, "You're welcome to take some time to respond to that, too," and Duckworth laughed: "There's been members of my family serving on my father's side since the American Revolution.... I'm proud of both my father's side and my mother, who's an immigrant."
Kirk, who served as an intelligence officer in the Naval Reserve for 23 years until a serious stroke prompted his retirement in 2013, had been urged by the National Republican Senatorial Committee to "stay out of the media" as much as possible this election, the Chicago Tribune reports, and he has mostly made news so far for being the first Republican to unendorse Donald Trump after Trump attacked a Mexican-American judge. Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway joined the many jeers of Kirk's gaffe, because revenge is a dish best served five months later. Peter Weber