A new book from New York Times political writers Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, “This Will Not Pass: Trump, Bidden, and the Battle for America’s Future,” details exchanges between then-presidential candidate Joe Biden and Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) about why she was nixed as his running mate.
Biden’s vice president search team initially considered Duckworth as a contender, but Biden and his lawyers apparently expressed concerns about her place of birth. Duckworth was born in Thailand to a Thai Chinese mother and American father, which they believed made her vulnerable to birther claims from the Trump campaign.
Martin and Burns wrote in their book, “Biden brought the concern to Duckworth gingerly. Duckworth pushed back hard on the Biden team. She reminded them that she had been attacked in racist and xenophobic terms in past campaigns and that she had prevailed.”
“I’ve beaten every assh-le who’s come after me with that.” Duckworth purportedly said.
According to the authors, Biden’s hesitations gave Duckworth “the sense that Biden felt bad about the message he was conveying to her. His campaign was about to engage in a preemptive surrender to the most vicious of Donald Trump’s political tactics — to a version of the same lie that had made Trump a celebrity folk hero to the paranoid right.”
As Duckworth reportedly mentioned, she has previously beaten opponents who have weaponized her heritage to make xenophobic and racist attacks. During a debate in 2016, Illinois Republican Sen. Mark Kirk went after then-challenger Duckworth after she mentioned her father’s family had served in the military since the American Revolution.
“My family has served this nation in uniform going back to the Revolution. I am a daughter of the American Revolution. I’ve bled for this nation,” Duckworth said. “But I still want to be there in the Senate when the drums of war sound because I want to say, this is what it costs. This is what you’re asking us to do. And if that’s the case, I’ll go. Families like mine are the ones that lead first. But let’s make sure the American people understand what we’re engaging in. And let’s hold our allies accountable because we can’t do it all.”
Kirk fired back, saying, “I forgot your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington.”
He later apologized to Duckworth on Twitter, writing, “Sincere apologies to an American hero, Tammy Duckworth, and gratitude for her family’s service. #ilsen.”
Duckworth was born in Thailand in 1968 to a Thai Chinese mother from Chiang Mai. Her American father was a Marine veteran. Duckworth herself is a veteran of the Iraq War and lost both her legs during a crash.
Trump and his campaign have repeatedly used birther attacks for political gain. Back in 2011, Trump brewed conspiracies about Obama’s birth certificate. In 2016, he questioned Sen. Ted Cruz’s legitimacy as a presidential candidate because he was born in Canada to a Cuban father and American citizen mother.
The tactic has long been used to target several other presidential candidates. Republican Arizona Senator John McCain was born on a military base in the Panama Canal Zone. Mitt Romney’s father, Gov. George Romney, ran for president in 1968 and was born in Mexico to American parents. Sen. Barry Goldwater, who was born 1909 in Arizona before it became a state in 1912, ran for president in 1964.
Article II of the U.S. Constitution states only a “natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States” can be president; however, it does not clearly define “natural born Citizen.” Many legal experts agree that as long as someone has at least one parent who is an American citizen – no matter where they are born – they are considered a “natural born citizen.”
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