Wounded Iraq war vet Tammy Duckworth will campaign today for Democratic Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias, whose newest battle plan is to put increased scrutiny on GOP rival Mark Kirk over statements he made about Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction -- even as Senate Republicans worried about faulty U.S. intelligence.
Pete Giangreco, a Giannoulias campaign consultant, said the latest Giannoulias attack will focus on Kirk's June 5, 2003, statement from the House floor, where Kirk, a Naval Reserve intelligence officer, said, "No weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? We know to a moral certitude of such weapons."
This latest phase in the ferocious Illinois Senate race -- deadlocked for weeks, according to public polls -- is opening up a week after President Obama declared that the U.S. combat mission in Iraq is over, with no weapons of mass destruction ever found.
Duckworth, the assistant Veterans Affairs secretary, is the former director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. She lost her legs and mangled an arm when the Army helicopter she was piloting in Iraq was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade on Nov. 12, 2004.
Her appearance with Giannoulias at a morning news conference at the Volunteers of America service center at 47 W. Polk -- to discuss jobs, among other topics -- comes a week after retired four-star Gen. Wesley Clark stumped in Chicago for Giannoulias. The Giannoulias campaign is trying to keep voters from forgetting stories about how Kirk embellished parts of his 21-year career in the Navy Reserve; the Duckworth and Clark events play into that strategy.
After the Chicago news conference and a stop in the suburbs, Duckworth and Giannoulias head to Champaign-Urbana for an afternoon town hall meeting on veterans issues with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).
At the same time, the Giannoulias campaign is pushing on a new front: raising questions about Kirk using his military credentials to push the Iraq war.
The Giannoulias campaign plans to use several quotes from Kirk -- found by the campaign in newspaper stories and a House speech -- to construct a narrative that "when Congressman Kirk has a political objective, he will say anything to reach it," Giangreco said.
An Oct. 27, 2002, Daily Herald story said that "Kirk said he has seen classified information that convinced him the resolution was needed."
Two years later, in 2004, the Herald reported that Kirk "said he had seen 'direct' evidence that Hussein presented a threat."
Kirk made his "moral certitude" speech as the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in June 2003 -- chaired at the time by a Republican -- began a review of the "quantity and quality" of what the U.S. intelligence community knew about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Even when members of his own party called for an investigation, Giangreco said, "Congressman Kirk went back to the House floor to repeat the lie. He dug in his heels and repeated what was not true."