Who is Tammy Duckworth, the U.S. senator from Illinois who was reported on the short list for the president’s seat on Democratic tickets?
Born in Bangkok and wounded in the Iraq war, Tammy Duckworth has Purple Heart and the instincts of a street fighter.
His name has often appeared in high-level discussions about the vice-presidential space for the daring Democratic nominee, Joe Biden. He was also a target for Fox News̵7; Tucker Carlson and other conservatives.
When he recently told CNN that he was open to thinking about the hope of removing US monuments from US founders and slave holders, Mr. Carlson questioned his patriotism.
He went back, saying that Mr. Carlson should “walk a mile on my legs and then tell me if I love America or not”.
His challenge to Mr. Carlson attracted national notice and drew the attention of the people both to his political acumen and to his military background. He was shot in a helicopter during the Iraq war and lost his legs.
Many Democrats believe that his military record and his bravery during the fight against conservatives, as well as his background as an Asian-American, will strengthen Mr. Biden’s candidacy. If she chooses him as a running mate, her supporters say, she will help to increase the votes of veterans, minorities and women.
But many believe that Mr. Biden should choose a black running wife instead – Senator Kamala Harris is often cited as a possibility. Moreover, the home state of Ms Duckworth is safe Democrat. Other contenders for the Democratic ticket, a group that includes New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, could help Mr. Biden in states where he could use an aid.
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Choosing a running mate adds to the importance for Democrats because of Mr. Biden’s age and his own assessment of his role.
He is 77, and if he is elected he will be 82 by the end of his term. He saw himself as a “candidate in the transition”, and even his diehard supporters assumed that if he was elected he would not seek a second term.
This means that the person acting as vice president can be president.
Ms Duckworth, 52, is best known for her work on veterans issues. In addition, she worked on health care policy and often talked about national security. He fought in the Iraq war, but he believes it was a mistake.
“It was a tough lesson,” he said. “And I hope this country will be more skeptical of the reasons to go to war.”
He also has a compelling personal story. He and his wife, Bryan Bowlsbey, had two children, Abigail and Maile Pearl, and they were the first to give birth to a child while serving as a United States senator.
His father, Frank, a United States citizen, worked for the United Nations, and his mother, Lamai, came from Thailand.
Ms Duckworth, who speaks Thai, lives with her parents in Singapore, Indonesia and Cambodia because of her father’s work at the UN.
The family was in Cambodia, living in Phnom Penh during a period of violence shortly before the capture of the Khmer Rouge in the mid-1970s.
He remembered going to his market with his mother when, suddenly, a bomb began to fall. Her mother pushed her to the floor of the car, Ms Duckworth said, “so I can’t see the bleeding”.
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Ms Duckworth later enlisted in the military, following in the footsteps of her father, a Vietnam veteran. He once told me that he did not see himself running for president.
“I don’t have that fire in my stomach,” he said. But he was a fierce supporter of Mr. Biden, and he took a shine from him.
During an online fundraiser, he praised his bravery in battle and in politics. “I can’t think of anyone who showed more courage,” he said. Speaking to him directly, he said: “I thank you for being here with me in this fight.”
Ideologically, Ms. Duckworth is a great match for Mr. Biden, a cent Democrat. Among the Democrats in the US Senate, he, too, appears at the heart of the ideological spectrum.
In recent weeks, he has been intrigued by President Donald Trump and his “failure to lead our country”, which has shown his willingness to act in the wake of Mr. Biden’s attacks during the campaign.
Mr. Biden’s assistants interviewed him shortly after the vice-presidential slot, he said in a live Washington Post chat on Thursday. He described the “job interview” as positive.
Who can be Joe Biden’s running mate?
Presidential candidate Joe Biden has vowed to choose a woman as his running mate. Those on the rumored shortlist include:
- California Senator Kamala Harris
- Former national security adviser Susan Rice
- Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer
- Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth
- Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren
- Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin
- Arizona Senator Kyrsten Cinema
Read more about the potential running here by Mr Biden
After retiring from the military, Ms Duckworth worked on the issues of veterans at the state and national levels and was elected to Congress in 2012. She won a senate seat in 2016, becoming a state senator and following in the footsteps of President Barack Obama. His rise from political state to national fame was rapid.
Dick Simpson, head of the department of political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said he moved faster than anyone in politics he had seen in half a century. Mr. Obama, who also got his political start in Illinois, rose higher than Ms Duckworth. But as Mr Simpson points out: “Longer.”
Peter Levin, the founder of a software company in Washington, worked with him in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and said he had a natural talent for politics.
“He naturally brings the best to people even when there is tension in the room,” he said, explaining that he is accustomed to tuning “his language, his emphasis, to the person he is talking to” to form the consensus.
His political record is far from perfect, however.
He struggled to pass the law in Congress, and he was criticized for his work on veteran issues. He said all the right things, according to his detractors in Illinois, but many of the veteran programs he talked about never went to earth.
Criticism slightly slowed him down, and throughout his career he showed an unusual resolution. While recovering from his war injuries at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Maryland in 2004, he was given “heavy-duty pain blocks,” he said, but they did little to alleviate the pain of losing his legs.
But during his recovery and in the years that followed, he showed almost no self-pity: “For me, it goes back to the fact that I am grateful to have lived. I know that sound is corny,” he says. “But I wonder what my friends did to get me out and the pilot who brought me to safety. I can’t get around.”
His supporters expect Mr. Biden to choose him as his running wife so that he can bring his enthusiasm to the campaign. He is expected to announce his decision this week.