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Board of Review candidates spar over ‘cowards’ tweet about Afghanistan withdrawal

Ald. George Cardenas called it “shameful” for his rival to “disrespect the men and women who serve our country unconditionally.” But Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Tammy Wendt said she was talking about the “cowardly administration who made the decision to abandon the Afghan people and Americans that were left behind.”

Ald. George Cardenas (12th), left; Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Tammy Wendt, right.
Ald. George Cardenas (12th), left; Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Tammy Wendt, right.
Tyler LaRiviere; Rich Hein/Sun-Times file

It was a one-word tweet about the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan more than a week ago — but it sparked another exchange of angry words on Tuesday, jolting some life into the otherwise sleepy race for an obscure Cook County post.

The word that started it all was “cowards.”

Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Tammy Wendt tweeted it last week in response to a New York Times tweet linking to one of the newspaper’s articles about the military withdrawing from Afghanistan.

Ald. George Cardenas (12th), a Navy veteran who is running against Wendt for her spot on the property tax appeals board, demanded his rival apologize, calling it “shameful” for her to “disrespect the men and women who serve our country unconditionally.”

But Wendt said Cardenas’ interpretation is wrong.

She said she wasn’t referring to the military but to the “cowardly administration who made the decision to abandon the Afghan people and Americans that were left behind.”

Like President Joe Biden, both Wendt and Cardenas are Democrats.

Wendt called the withdrawal “chaotic, hasty and shameful, causing 13 of our brave military to be murdered.”

The first term Cook County Board of Review commissioner issued her clarifying statement after the 12th Ward alderperson blasted her Tuesday for her original one-word tweet on August 30.

“Our military service members are not cowards,” Cardenas said. “They are brave and deserve our respect and admiration. I call on Tammy Wendt to publicly apologize to our military service members and veterans, especially veterans of Afghanistan.”

Wendt threw the word back at Cardenas.

“My father is a Marine and served two tours in Vietnam,” Wendt said. “I have nothing but the utmost respect for our men and women who bravely fight for our freedoms. P.S. Alderman Cardenas should worry more about the cowards on the city council that won’t call out the county judicial system that is creating fear in our city than he should about my tweets.”

Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Tammy Wendt speaks during a virtual board meeting held in June.
Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Tammy Wendt speaks during a virtual board meeting held in June.
Screen image

Cardenas questioned Wendt’s explanation since the New York Times article she replied to was about the troops, not Biden’s administration, leaving after 20 years. He said she should either apologize or clarify her statement because, as it stands, the tweet is “offensive.”

“Serving in the armed forces is a privilege, it’s something people take very seriously — I know I did,” Cardenas told the Sun-Times. “Many pay with their lives. It’s no joke at all. To serve means a great deal to a lot of people. ... It’s a serious matter, and I think either way she has to apologize or clarify exactly what she meant.”

Ald. George Cardenas (12th) speaks during a City Council meeting in May.
Ald. George Cardenas (12th) speaks during a City Council meeting in May.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

As for Wendt’s dig at Cardenas and his colleagues on the City Council, the alderperson said anyone who knows him knows he “clearly states how I feel when it comes to police, when it comes to crime, when it comes to our duty when it comes to constituents, to safety.”

“No one’s going to accuse me of being a softie, no one is going to accuse me of being soft on crime,” Cardenas said. “So, I don’t know that she really knows what’s going on to be honest. I’ve been on the Council almost 20 years.

“She just got to her post a few months ago. I think Commissioner Wendt should tell the people about property taxes and why they’re so high and what she’s going to do about it, instead of disrespecting our troops.”