Mark Kirk is Donald Trump-lite. In last night’s debate with his opponent for Illinois’ Senate seat, Tammy Duckworth, he made that descriptor unquestionably his own.
Duckworth is a veteran who lost her legs in the Iraq War and, as part of her response to a question during the debate, she tied that experience to her family’s long history of serving the United States in uniform. “My family has served this nation in uniform going back to the Revolution,” she said, “I am a daughter of the American Revolution.”
Kirk decided that the best possible response here was to make a clever quip with racial undertones. “I’d forgotten that your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington,” he responded.
Duckworth’s mother is Thai, but her father is American and his family has been in the United States since before the Revolution. Regardless of her political views — and that should go without saying — she is rightfully proud of her and her family’s service.
Kirk, on the other hand, is despicable to question her family’s commitment. On top of that, though he may be in more trouble than any other Republican incumbent senator, Kirk has apparently not bothered to learn enough about Duckworth to know where her parents are from.
The alternative explanation is that he was willing to lie about in order to call into question the patriotism of people who are not even seeking office. Just what Kirk thought he’d accomplish here is something the rational among us will probably never understand.
The ignorant racial comments and the lack of debate preparation will of course remind readers of Donald Trump, which is ironic, since Kirk un-endorsed Trump in June, literally calling him “too racist and bigoted” to be president. In a move of equal irony, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway threw Kirk under the bus after last night’s comments.
It wasn’t the first time Kirk made comments beneath a U.S. Senator. From Politico:
Kirk isn’t a stranger to controversial remarks. In August, Kirk called President Barack Obama the “drug dealer-in-chief” for the administration’s $400 million payment to Iran that was tied to the release of American prisoners there. And after Kirk said “we drive faster” through black neighborhoods, the senator told the Chicago Sun-Times that he would no longer discuss race and ethnicity, saying: “I would say that whenever a targeted member talks about race or ethnicity, it is impossible for him to get it right. So I’ll leave it at that.”
Too bad he didn’t stick to that plan.
These are not the only things Kirk has in common with Trump. His conservative credentials are highly suspect as well. He is one of the most centrist of all Senate Republicans according to multiple trackers of voting records. He is untrustworthy — even downright terrible — on some of the most basic conservative issues, from gun rights to life. Apparently he’s on conservative when it’s convenient.
Fortunately, Kirk shares one other thing with Donald Trump: he’s a long shot to win. Real Clear Politics’ aggregate polling has him down 7 points on Duckworth. Conservatives need not shed a tear over a centrist Republican who doesn’t have the judgment to recognize that such remarks as he made last night are wrong, whether his last name is Trump or Kirk. If he loses as he is likely to do, it’s just one step in the difficult road back to a decent, functioning, conservative Republican Party.
"I forgot that your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington." – Sen Kirk to Rep Duckworth pic.twitter.com/WApfHL1GEq
— Broderick Greer (@BroderickGreer) October 28, 2016