The Morning Jolt


Joe Walsh Is Obviously Not the Answer

Joe Walsh at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. (Gage Skidmore)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Why newly announced GOP presidential candidate Joe Walsh isn’t the natural contrast to Donald Trump that he thinks he is; Jay Inslee departs the Democratic presidential primary.

Joe Walsh Is Not the Most Natural Contrast to Trump

Radio-show host Joe Walsh is getting ready to run for president, challenging President Trump for the GOP nomination. While I’m sure Walsh and I would agree on a lot of the issues, particularly economic ones, I’m left underwhelmed.

Walsh won his congressional seat in a huge upset during the 2010 Tea Party wave, winning by 291 votes.

Back when Walsh was a congressman, he sounded a lot like the president in some ways. His view on American Jews and Israel, for example, echoes the president’s recent remarks:

Most American Jews are liberal, and most American liberals side with the Palestinians and vague notions of “peace” instead of with Israel’s well-being and security. Like the president, the U.N., and most of Europe, too many American Jews aren’t as pro-Israel as they should be and too many share his belief that the Palestinians are victims of Israeli occupation. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Walsh just had the good sense to not call American Jews “disloyal” to Israel.

In May 2011, five months into his term, he told Slate, “We are all better at certain things than others. I still am someone who doesn’t understand the way the legislative process works. I do, but I don’t. I can’t find my way around the Capitol. I have a hard time with protocol.” In November 2011, he lost his temper and screamed at a woman at a town hall meeting.

In the House, Walsh’s persona was that of the impassioned political amateur who says exactly what he thinks, regardless of the consequences, who’s a bit of a bull in a china shop but who wears his values on his sleeve, and everyone always knows where he stands. He didn’t have much patience for the niceties and unwritten rules of Washington, he just wanted to get things done. That’s . . . not the most striking contrast with the sales pitch for the current president.

Then Illinois Democrats redrew the congressional district lines to ensure Walsh would run against another Republican in 2012, so he decided to run in an adjacent district. He was up against Tammy Duckworth, a Black Hawk helicopter pilot who lost her legs in combat in Iraq. Let’s observe that it’s always difficult to run against a wounded veteran.

Walsh declared, “Now I’m running against a woman who, I mean, my God, that’s all she talks about. Our true heroes, the men and women who served us, it’s the last thing in the world they talk about.” He went on to lose by ten points.

(Earlier this year, Walsh was still in disbelief about Trump’s criticism of John McCain, “He’s not a war hero. He was only a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” Walsh asked, “Who says that? What kind of person says that? How utterly unkind and callous does someone have to be to even think that?”)

As a talk-radio host since leaving Congress, Walsh has offered his own share of heated remarks, including a tweet declaring, “This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you”; a threat to “grab a musket” if Trump lost the presidential election; and a declaration that “I think Obama is a Muslim” in December 2016.

In the coming weeks, you may hear that Walsh was “suspended from his radio show for using racial slurs,” which is technically true but not quite the full story. In 2014, Walsh spoke the terms aloud in the context of discussing why they are offensive, instead of using terms like “the n-word” and other verbal replacements.

It is important to note that Walsh wasn’t using the slurs against people, as the station clarified: “Joe Walsh conducted a segment of his show regarding the recent controversy about the name of the Washington Redskins. During the segment Joe intended to cite several common racial slurs as examples. He did not in any way use them in a defamatory or derogatory manner, simply as examples.  However, AM 560 The Answer did not allow them to go on the air. AM 560 The Answer has a policy of not using certain words on the air that are highly inflammatory and offensive even in the context of a discussion of why those words are offensive. We will continue that policy.” Walsh may have demonstrated bad judgment, but he was not using those terms to demonstrate racial animosity.

Walsh voted for President Trump, supported him in the 2016 election, and spent much of 2017 defending Trump from his critics. In March, he was mocked Mika Brzezinski for saying that Trump’s behavior “scared” her and tearing up on-air. In April, he did cable television hits praising Trump for being “ready and willing to destroy ISIS by any means necessary.” In May, Walsh hand-waved away the president’s more incendiary comments:  “As a Trump supporter I do my best not to pay attention to what he says.” In November, he contended that John McCain was a hypocrite for claiming Trump had no principles.

Walsh’s in-your-face persona from the past decade is not the most natural contrast to Trump today. Last week he apologized for “helping put an unfit con man in the White House.” This morning he asks, “Who will the President of the United States personally attack and/or tweet cruel insults at today?”

It’s one thing to ask for forgiveness. It’s another to ask to be elected commander-in-chief the following week. It’s great that Walsh wants to turn over a new leaf, demonstrate civility and respect and appreciation for decorum, and set a new, better example for everyone in the political arena. But from 2010 to late 2017 or so . . . he had a pretty Trump-y public persona, which raises some tough questions about why Walsh would be the right guy to replace Trump on the GOP ticket.

Jay Inslee, We Barely Knew Ye. And You Know, We’re Fine with That.

It would be easy to make snarky remarks about Jay Inslee ending his presidential campaign right now. “Washington governor Jay Inslee is dropping out of the 2020 Democratic presidential race, he announced Wednesday night on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow show.” But instead, let’s look at what lessons can be learned from the little-noticed Inslee 2020 campaign . . .

Single-issue campaigns are usually a waste of time. The president of the United States doesn’t handle a single issue; he handles many of them. Inslee and his fans will probably tell themselves that his campaign brought more attention to the issue of climate change, but . . . do you think the issue would have been significantly less covered if he hadn’t been in the race? If Inslee had never entered the race . . . how differently would things have turned out?

Geography matters. A two-term governor from any of the Acela corridor states in the northeast, California, Texas, or Florida will be much more well-known to the political scene than the governor of Washington. Yes, it isn’t fair. But it is political reality.

Back on January 2, I wrote:

“[Inslee] and a chunk of the environmentalist movement have argued for quite some time that [climate change] is the most important issue facing the country and humanity as a whole, dwarfing even economic challenges or terrorism. Let Inslee and his biggest fans go out and make that case to the voting public and we’ll see how it goes. There’s quite a bit of polling evidence that suggests most of the public is generally and vaguely concerned about climate change, but not particularly motivated to do anything about it… if Jay Inslee stumbles and never gets any traction, the environmental movement will have to grapple with the fact that despite all of their dire warnings about climate change, many Americans are comfortable prioritizing other issues and waiting for someone else to take action.”

The Providence Journal editorial board rips into Rhode Island governor Gina Raimondo, who is chair of the Democratic Governors Association:

It’s never a good day when you’re the governor and the state Ethics Commission decides to investigate you. It’s even worse when the investigation involves a lucrative no-bid contract you are trying to get the General Assembly to approve. It’s even worse than that when you are attempting to introduce yourself nationally as a new and inspiring model of a Democratic politician.

But that’s the kind of day Gov. Gina Raimondo had Tuesday.

The Rhode Island Ethics Commission, by a 6-to-1 margin, voted to investigate the governor’s close relationship with longtime International Gaming Technology executive Donald Sweitzer.

Mr. Sweitzer is a $7,500-a-month lobbyist for IGT, and its former chairman. He is also a noted national political fundraiser who has an unusually strong political tie with the governor.

Ms. Raimondo is chair of the Democratic Governors Association — a position that is widely seen as a stepping stone for national politics, often including a run for the presidency. She made Mr. Sweitzer her top associate in that organization.

“Don has been a trusted adviser to the Democrats for decades, and I’m lucky to have him as a friend, supporter and constitution,” she said last November in announcing his appointment as DGA treasurer.

After that appointment, Ms. Raimondo struck a $1-billion, no-bid, 20-year deal with IGT to provide lottery services for the state.

Certainly, the relationship gives off the aroma of a conflict.

Unless you live in Rhode Island, you probably haven’t heard of Gina Raimondo, or you’ve barely heard of her. You certainly haven’t heard about her and any potential scandal as much as you heard about, say, Chris Christie and Bridgegate; or Bob McDonnell and his expensive gifts; or Mark Sanford’s infamous hike on the Appalachian Trail; or the allegations of twisted behavior by Missouri’s Eric Greitens.

In the eyes of many media figures, a scandal around a Republican figure is reflective of deep-rooted corruption, selfishness, and moral rot that extends to every nook and cranny of the party. A scandal around a Democratic figure is just an unfortunate thing that happened, with no further ramifications or reflections of any broader issues.

ADDENDA: John Hickenlooper is running for the Senate in Colorado. If his presidential campaign doesn’t turn out to be an impediment, every decent Senate candidate in future cycles will run for president first . . .


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