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Editorial: Weighing price of dishonesty in Cleveland and Illinois

Tammy Duckworth in March. | Brian Jackson/ For the Sun-Times

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Political transgressions come in different forms, some more objectionable than others.

In her speech at the Republican National Convention on Monday, Melania Trump lifted a few good lines, almost verbatim, from Michelle Obama’s speech eight years earlier at the Democratic National Convention. This was amazingly stupid, if only because the theft was sure to be detected, but we’re not sure what else to say about this.

Yes, plagiarism is intellectually dishonest and lazy, but every inch of Donald Trump’s campaign is intellectually dishonest and lazy. So where’s the news?

More troubling in recent weeks, to our thinking, have been a couple of scurrilous accusations by Democratic Senate candidate Tammy Duckworth against her Republican opponent, incumbent Sen. Mark Kirk. If we ever thought Duckworth might be above cheap shots, we know better now.

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Duckworth loaded the two false accusations into a single tweet on June 8: “Kirk, who called for the mass arrest of 18,000 African Americans, was apparently fine w/ Trump’s #StillTooRacist call for mass deportation.”

Did Kirk in fact call for the arrest of 18,000 African-Americans? No.

Is it true Kirk has no objection to Trump’s call for the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants? Also not true.

Reboot Illinois and PolitiFact, joining forces, looked at the record this week and scored both accusations as “false,” allowing for no fudge room. And Duckworth, to our mind, surely knew she was twisting the truth.

As Reboot and PolitiFact report, Duckworth’s first accusation was based on a comment Kirk had made on TV back in May of 2013: “My top priority is to arrest the Gangster Disciple gang, which is 18,000 people. I would like to do a mass pickup of them and put them all in the Thomson Correctional Facility.”

Kirk quickly backed off that comment, saying it was “not actually that practical” to arrest every Gangster Disciple. But, more to the point, Kirk never once used the term “African-Americans” in the TV interview. It was the Duckworth campaign that magically swapped out Gangster Disciples for African-Americans.

Duckworth is equally disingenuous in claiming Kirk “was apparently fine with Trump’s call for mass deportation.”

While it is true that Kirk once said he would support Trump for president — aware of Trump’s draconian views on deportations — the senator later withdrew his support. More significantly, as Reboot and PolitiFact report, Kirk has made it clear all along he does not support Trump’s immigration policies.

A full year ago, Kirk told reporters he had a message for Trump: “In a typical Chicago way, to my Mexican-American friends, I would say, ‘Donald Trump callate’ — shut up.” Kirk has a clear record on immigration reform in the Senate, supporting legislation that would, among other things, create a fair pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. And Kirk was the only GOP senator in October 2015 who voted to preserve federal funding for “sanctuary cities.”

We’d love to know how Melania Trump or her speechwriter could rip off the words of Michelle Obama and think nobody would notice.

But a bigger mystery is how Duckworth could look at Sen. Kirk’s record and conclude he wants to arrest 18,000 African-Americans and is “apparently fine” with the mass deportation of 11 million people.

Or maybe there is no mystery, which says nothing at all for Duckworth.

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