Tammy Duckworth is up for a big promotion: Joe Biden’s advisers are vetting her to be his running mate. In the meantime, she’s focused on protecting the promotion of another lieutenant colonel.
The senator from Illinois, who lost both her legs as a helicopter pilot in Iraq and was awarded the Purple Heart, has placed a hold—Senate-speak for preventing a vote—on hundreds of military promotions, she told me. She’ll maintain that hold until she gets written confirmation from President Donald Trump’s defense secretary, Mark Esper, that he won’t block the anticipated promotion of Alexander Vindman, the lieutenant colonel who testified in the House hearings that led to Trump’s impeachment. The White House dismissed Vindman from his position on the National Security Council two days after Trump was acquitted in the subsequent Senate trial. (He’s since been reassigned to the Pentagon.) But Duckworth worries that kicking Vindman out of 1600 Pennsylvania won’t be enough for Trump, whose score-settling has been a running feature of his presidency. And she may be betting that attacking Trump as a failed commander in chief could win her some attention as Biden’s running-mate search draws to a close.
Duckworth isn’t seen as a likely Biden pick at the moment. She’s not particularly well known, and doesn’t have some politicians’ natural smoothness in interviews and other appearances. That sort of camera readiness is more important than ever in a pandemic campaign, given how much of voters’ exposure to the vice-presidential nominee will come via TV appearances on Zoom. Biden’s running mate will also face a high-stakes debate with Mike Pence, whose years as a radio host and politician made him more agile in the 2016 VP debate than his political opponents like to claim.