On Sunday, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), one of the women Joe Biden is considering to be his running mate, slammed President Donald Trump’s Fourth of July speech at Mount Rushmore. She suggested she would consider removing statues of George Washington, the father of our country, and she condemned Trump for speaking at Mount Rushmore, which rests on land “stolen from Native Americans.” Ironically, the very same woman had a completely different attitude about Mount Rushmore back in 2015…
Duckworth focused on the idea that Trump’s “priorities are all wrong” because he defended memorials to American heroes at a time when an angry mob is tearing down statues. She suggested he should focus on the coronavirus pandemic and Russia. Yet she couldn’t stay on message or stop herself from siding with the iconoclastic mob.
CNN’s Dana Bash mentioned Trump’s speech and she noted that Duckworth supports removing the names of Confederate generals from military bases. She then asked the senator, “Should statues, for example, of George Washington, come down?”
Any true patriot would have emphatically said, “No! This is the father of our country, the man who gave up power when he could have been King of America. Perhaps some statues should come down, but not his.” Instead, Duckworth called for a “national dialogue.”
“Well, let me just say that we should start off by having a national dialogue on it at some point but right now we’re in the middle of a global pandemic,” the senator said. “What really struck me about the speech that the president gave at Mount Rushmore was that he spent more time worried about honoring dead Confederates than he did talking about the lives of 130,000 Americans who lost their lives to COVID-19 or by warning Russia off of the bounty they’re putting on Americans’ heads.”
“His priorities are all wrong here. He should be talking about what we’re going to do to overcome this pandemic, what are we going to do to push Russia back. And instead, he had no time for that. He spent all his time talking about dead traitors,” Duckworth insisted.
Bash appeared taken aback that Duckworth would suggest Washington is a “dead traitor.” She pressed Duckworth on the issue.
“George Washington, I don’t think anybody would call him a traitor, and there are moves by some to remove statues of him. Is that a good idea?” the CNN host asked.
“I think we should listen to everybody. I think we should listen to the argument there,” Duckworth responded, clearly attempting to dodge the question but refusing to oppose removing statues to the father of our country.
Then she went entirely off-script, attacking Trump for daring to speak at Mount Rushmore.
“But remember that the president at Mount Rushmore was standing on ground that was stolen from Native Americans, who had actually been given that land during a treaty,” she said. Only after this jab on Mount Rushmore did Duckworth return to her talking points about the coronavirus pandemic and the bounty Russia supposedly put on Americans’ heads (the idea of such a bounty is plausible, but U.S. Intelligence has not confirmed the truth of the claims in a widely-shared New York Times article, and sources have denied the claim that Trump was briefed on the matter and did nothing).
Sen. Tammy Duckworth on President Trump's Mt. Rushmore speech where he defended Confederate monuments: "His priorities are wrong. What are we going to do to push Russia back? Instead, he had no time for that. He spent all his time talking about dead traitors" #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/Qs6bzdGGY3
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) July 5, 2020
Duckworth’s comments are noteworthy for three reasons.
First, her openness to removing statues of George Washington should concern every patriotic American. Biden should not tap a potential vice president who is open to the idea of removing monuments to the father of our nation.
Second, Duckworth twice insisted that President Trump’s speech was focused on “honoring dead Confederates” and involved “talking about dead traitors.” Yet Trump did not once mention Confederates or the Confederacy in his speech (full text here). Instead, he lamented that “angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our Founders, deface our most sacred memorials, and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities.” The president explicitly mentioned “George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, abolitionists, and many others.”
In fact, Trump spent about a third of his speech praising the four American giants on Mount Rushmore: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. Each of these presidents has grand achievements and deserves his place on Mount Rushmore, and each of them has seen his monuments defaced or retired in recent weeks.
Was Duckworth suggesting that these great American presidents — the one who gave up power, the one who wrote the Declaration of Independence, the one who freed the slaves, and the one who established America’s National Parks — were “Confederates” or “traitors”? Trump has defended Confederate monuments, but he did not broach the subject in his Mount Rushmore speech.
Finally, Duckworth’s jab at Mount Rushmore seems particularly bizarre. Just five years ago, the very same Tammy Duckworth tweeted on the Fourth of July, “Next year I’m going as Mt. Rushmore!”
— Tammy Duckworth (@TammyforIL) July 4, 2015
It sounds like 2020 Tammy Duckworth will have to give a stern lecture to the sadly un-woke 2015 Tammy Duckworth. How dare she celebrate a monument built on stolen Native American land!?
Tammy Duckworth went into that interview aiming to seem like the adult in the room, a woman who — unlike Trump — won’t get side-tracked by discussions about America’s history but will rather focus on the “real” issues at hand. Instead, she revealed herself as a bumbling radical who is open to the idea of erasing George Washington from the public square and willing to condemn someone for speaking at Mount Rushmore — even though she herself said she would dress up as Mount Rushmore in 2015!
Tammy Duckworth is an impressive individual — the first Thai American senator, a military veteran, a double amputee, and the first sitting senator to give birth while in office. But her impressive resume won’t erase this embarrassing interview. Her race in the veepstakes is off to a rocky start.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.