U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth is serious. She's earnest. She's determined.
Duckworth will make a welcome replacement for the U.S. Senate's class clown, Republican Mark Kirk.
The no-nonsense Democrat knows her way around the military. The Iraq War cost Duckworth both legs. She sits on the House Armed Services Committee, where she's made hay challenging her party's dogma and the White House.
Duckworth has rightly criticized the insane cost overruns for the development of the F-35 jet and championed procurement reform for the Department of Defense. The White House has, for years, hoped to pump military hardware into the hands of Syrian rebels. Duckworth sided with Republicans, correctly arguing that even the finest intelligence can't confidently determine friend from foe in such a confused ethnic clash.
Perhaps above all else, Duckworth's skepticism of incessant U.S. military involvement around the world comes from a place of personal experience. She's "no dove," Duckworth says, adding that she would seek an appointment to Senate Armed Services, if elected. But she's "no hawk," either. Too many in Washington are willing to send young Americans off to war with little if any personal investment. Not so for Duckworth.
No hawk can dismiss Duckworth's position as the rantings of some hippy. And she's seen first hand the failings of decades of interventionist U.S. foreign policy. In that regard, Duckworth represents a rare authoritative voice on issues of military force and spending, particularly among often dove-like Democrats.
Toss in fleshed-out proposals regarding soybean and biofuels production and Duckworth is a ready-made senator from the Land of Lincoln.
She faces one-term incumbent Mark Kirk, a man exceedingly easy to cheer for among those searching high and low for reasonable, moderate Republicans. Kirk made fans in 2014 when he was the only GOP member of the Senate to join pro-gay marriage protesters on the steps of the Supreme Court. Kirk supports rational gun control at a time when much of his party seems to want infants packing heat. Kirk was the first high-ranking elected Republican to disavow Trump, an honorable position his counterparts in Iowa should have mirrored.
In some ways, Kirk is precisely what the obstructionist GOP needs right now. Otherwise, the party faces extinction. Even the most liberal must acknowledge the dangers of a single dominant political party. A legitimate, serious Republican Party — or something similar — is a necessity.
But the easily savored romantic notion of Kirk is one thing. The reality is another.
Fact is, Kirk has shown himself as a glib showman. He's a perpetual gaffe-machine whose mouth outruns his mind. "Bro with no ho." "Drug dealer in chief." He said white people speed through black neighborhoods. He oversold his military record.
Kirk called for the privatization of the locks and dams along the Mississippi River, during an interview with the Quad-City Times editorial board. It's utter nonsensical madness.
It's not Kirk's political independence that's eroded his power. It's his penchant for flippancy.
He's an unserious man in an exceedingly serious line of work. And, in this case, it's to the detriment of millions in Illinois.
On the contrary, Tammy Duckworth is both sober and knowledgeable. The joke's on Illinois unless voters support Duckworth on Nov. 8.