Now that Labor Day has passed, election season is in full swing. And in Illinois, polling shows the U.S. Senate race is beginning the fall in a dead heat.
Democratic candidate Alexi Giannoulias is starting the season by attacking Republican Mark Kirk on national security issues.
Giannoulias made a Tuesday morning appearance with Assistant Secretary of Veterans' Affairs Tammy Duckworth at the Volunteers for America service center in downtown Chicago. The two will also stop in the suburbs, and then participate in an afternoon town hall meeting in Champaign-Urbana.
The appearances with Duckworth come as the Giannoulias campaign is launching a new assault on Congressman Kirk, for comments Kirk made on the House floor in the lead-up to the Iraq war.
Kirk repeatedly described Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein as a threat to U.S. interests, and openly worried about the weapons in his arsenal. On June 5, 2003, Kirk said in the House, "No weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? We know to a moral certitude of such weapons."
The threat of WMDs was one of the principal justifications of the Iraq war, of which Duckworth herself is a veteran. In 2004, a helicopter she was piloting was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade; she lost both legs, and her arm was badly wounded.
Despite the fact that no evidence of such weapons has been found, Kirk repeatedly expressed confidence that they existed. From the Chicago Sun-Times:
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."
The Giannoulias campaign hopes to connect Kirk's statements on WMDs to the congressman's repeated exaggerations of various events from his military career. Kirk often said he won an award that doesn't exist, described combat action he never actually saw and overstated a number of incidents from his time in the Navy.
Duckworth appears with Giannoulias only a week after retired general Wesley Clark campaigned with the Democrat. When introducing the general, Giannoulias said, "He has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Purple Heart, among a host of other citations. And unlike Congressman Kirk, he actually won these awards."
The Kirk campaign's response this morning was a press release describing Kirk's support of the 9/11 G.I. Bill.