The conservative reaction to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s announcement that the military would abolish its arbitrary restriction against women serving in positions defined as “combat roles” is predictable but a bit behind the times. As Adam Serwer at Mojo quickly pointed out, a lot of women are already placing themselves in the line of fire without technically being in a combat role. Check out Serwer’s response to the Daily Caller‘s Tucker Carlson, who has been prominent among opponents of the rule change:
Carlson is a political journalist, so he might be expected to know that there is a woman US Army veteran amputee named Tammy Duckworth currently serving in Congress. Duckworth, who represents Illinois’ 8th congressional district, lost her legs after an attack brought down the helicopter she was piloting in Baghdad.
But this development is actually a bit older than you might think. Back in 2002, on the brink of the second Iraq War, in a Washington Monthly article, Phillip Carter predicted thousands of women would serve in de facto combat roles in Iraq, based on earlier experience:
Since the Gulf victory in 1991, a series of largely unnoticed policy changes have opened new opportunities for women to fight alongside, and even to lead, front-line troops. The Navy and Air Force, with some fanfare, allowed women into the cockpits of fighters and bombers. But less well known is how vastly the Army has expanded the role of women in ground-combat operations. Today, women command combat military police companies, fly Apache helicopters, work as tactical intelligence analysts, and even serve in certain artillery units–jobs that would have been unthinkable for them a decade ago. In any war in Iraq, these changes could put thousands of women in the midst of battle, far more than at any time in American history.
Carter, like Serwer, notes that having combat roles officially opened will be extremely helpful to women who want a professional career in the armed services, since combat experience is often crucial to promotion opportunities. And in any event, elimination of the gender barrier does not mean women unqualified for combat roles will assume them, any more than unqualified men, a point Serwer makes:
Most men cannot meet the necessary mental and physical requirements for service in combat. Any woman who can meet those standards should not be denied the opportunity because of an arbitrary gender restriction. Moreover, removing the restriction is not about celebrating militarism. The military has long been a path for historically disfavored groups to claim the full benefits of citizenship. Justifying discrimination against blacks, gays and lesbians, or women becomes much more difficult when they’re giving their lives for their country.
Perhaps that’s an underlying motive for conservatives deploring the change: it helps give discrimination a bad name!
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, January 24, 2013
During a televised debate Thursday on Chicago’s WTTW, Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) reiterated his opposition to abortion in any circumstance. It’s similar to the Republican Party’s national platform, which doesn’t have any exceptions for abortion in the case of rape or incest. Walsh is taking it a step further — banning abortion to save the life of the mother.
“I’m pro life without exception. Understand though, that when we talk about exceptions, we talk about rape, incest, health of a woman, life of a woman. Life of the woman is not an exception,” he said.
Tammy Duckworth, Walsh’s Democratic opponent in Illinois’ 8th congressional district race immediately denounced Walsh, saying the incumbent congressman would let a woman die rather than permit her access to abortion. Walsh contradicted her, saying she was unfair.
Walsh didn’t have time to explain his stance more fully during the event, and reporters questioned him afterward. CNN says Walsh claimed “there’s no such exception as life of the mother, and as far as health of the mother, same thing, with advances in science and technology. Health of the mother has been, has become a tool for abortions any time under any reason.”
When questioned by WGN radio, Walsh seemed to indicate that women no longer face life threatening pregnancies: “Absolutely. With modern technology and science, you can’t find one instance.”
Walsh’s biological knowledge of women’s reproductive health is off, notes the Huffington Post, which points to statistics from the National Institutes of Health. One risk women may face during pregnancy is a life threatening ectopic pregnancy; this occurs when a fetus forms outside the uterus. The fetus cannot survive. The NIH estimates an ectopic pregnancy can “occur in 1 in every 40 to 1 in every 100 pregnancies”.
Walsh’s statement is reminiscent of controversial Missouri Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.). Earlier this year, Akin triggered an uproar by remarking that women can’t get pregnant if they’re raped. He said, “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down”. Akin later apologized, saying he “misspoke” by failing to communicate the empathy he has for rape and abuse victims.
Update at 1:41 p.m. ET. Pregnancy Not ‘Risk-Free Life Event’:
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued a statement about this issue a short while ago. They say Walsh’s comments are simply not accurate. Pregnancy, they say, is “not a risk-free life event.”
The statement continues:
“Despite all of our medical advances, more than 600 women die each year from pregnancy and childbirth-related reasons right here in the US. In fact, many more women would die each year if they did not have access to abortion to protect their health or to save their lives.”
These inaccurate comments are yet another reason why The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ (The College) message to politicians is unequivocal: Get out of our exam rooms.”
By: Korva Coleman, NPR, October 19, 2012
When Rep. Joe Walsh looks back on his brief and inglorious career in Congress, he will have many moments to blame for his demise, but none more colorful than Thursday afternoon, when he managed to utter the word “Ashleigh” 91 times over the course of a 12-minute interview.
This bizarre verbal obsession had origins in the freshman tea party Republican’s town hall meeting in Illinois a few days earlier, when he unfavorably compared his opponent, who lost both legs in combat in Iraq, to John McCain, who Walsh claimed was reluctant to talk about his military service.
“He talked a little bit about it, but it was very uncomfortable for him. That’s what’s so noble about our heroes,” Walsh said. “Now I’m running against a woman who, I mean, my God, that’s all she talks about. Our true heroes, the men and women who served us, it’s the last thing in the world they talk about.”
So Lt. Col. Tammy Duckworth, who earned a Purple Heart in 2004 when the helicopter she was co-piloting was hit, is not “noble” or a “true” hero because she talks about her military service? It was similar to what Walsh told Politico a few months earlier: “I have so much respect for what she did in the fact that she sacrificed her body for this country. Ehhh. Now let’s move on.”
If this isn’t enough to persuade voters to “move on” from Walsh, the lawmaker continued his self-destruction by appearing on CNN and declining host Ashleigh Banfield’s invitation to cast his remarks as a “slip-up.” Instead, he scolded “Ashleigh,” using her first name repeatedly when he wasn’t calling the 44-year-old anchor “kiddo” or asking the recently naturalized citizen whether she served in the military.
“No, no, Ashleigh. No, Ashleigh, this wasn’t a slip-up. I don’t regret anything I said,” Walsh declared.
Banfield tried to read a list of things Duckworth has talked about other than her military service.
“No, she hasn’t, Ashleigh. No, Ashleigh, no, she hasn’t.”
“Do you want to hear it, Congressman? Do you want to hear it or do you just want to rail on me?”
“I’ve got the list here.”
“No, Ashleigh, Ashleigh.”
Banfield read part of the list.
“Ashleigh, Ashleigh, Ashleigh,” Walsh replied. “Hey, Ashleigh, Ashleigh, Ashleigh.”
All indications are that Walsh’s first term in the House may be his last, as challenger Duckworth, a failed candidate in 2006, is favored to win Illinois’s 8th District, redrawn to favor Democrats.
But Walsh’s antics should be of concern to Republicans far beyond the congressional district, both because they are the type of tea party histrionics that raise doubts about the GOP’s readiness to govern, and because they point to a potential Republican vulnerability among veterans, usually a reliable voting bloc.
Polls are conflicting, ranging from a Gallup survey in May showing Mitt Romney with a 24-point lead among vets to a Reuters poll the same month giving Obama a seven-point lead. (McCain won vets by 10 points in 2008.)
Regardless, Obama tends to do better among veterans under 60, and his campaign, seeing a potential inroad, is planning to make veterans’ issues central to the Democratic convention in Charlotte. Obama’s pitch to veterans is that he has sponsored various jobs programs for them and proposed steady increases while Romney backs the House Republican budget, which would cut domestic discretionary spending by 19 percent — likely costing vets tens of billions of dollars.
Walsh is a ripe target for reasons well beyond his crass putdown of Duckworth. During his term, he failed to show up to a court hearing on his ex-wife’s claim that he owed $117,000 in child support (there were earlier tax liens and a foreclosure). His driver’s license was suspended last year for the second time in three years. He called Obama a “tyrant” and accused the president of “lying.” He even squared off with the other Joe Walsh, of the Eagles, over unauthorized use of the song “Walk Away.”
And now there’s Ashleigh, Ashleigh, Ashleigh.
Walsh acknowledged to Banfield that all veterans are heroes, but he defended his claim that Duckworth isn’t a true hero because she spoke about her service. He made this argument primarily by repeating the host’s first name 91 times by my count.
After many such Ashleighs — “Hey, Ashleigh, well, Ashleigh, look Ashleigh” — the interviewer responded in kind with “Yes, Congressman, Congressman. Yes, Congressman.”
“Whew,” Banfield said after the final “Ashleigh.” “I need to take a big breath.”
So should Illinois voters — and send a true hero to Washington in Walsh’s place.
By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 6, 2012