clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Joe Walsh, popping up on cue to make things worse

In case you’ve forgotten Joe Walsh — and oh, how I envy you — a quick reminder. He’s a guy who never let a fact get in the way of a well-polling opinion.

Former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh
Former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh is pondering a challenge to Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination next year.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

A madman, raging in the town square, is finally subdued and carted off to an asylum. While he is locked away, the world itself goes mad. Breaking out, he finds himself, though unchanged, suddenly sane again.

Could this be the Joe Walsh story? The one-term congressman, swept into office by Illinois’ 8th Congressional District on the Tea Party tide in 2010. Sucked back out into civilian life in 2012, though in that short time distinguishing himself as the kind of fact-free hater that would later do so well on a national scale.

My colleague Lynn Sweet has reported that Walsh “is weighing” a challenge against President Trump.

“Won’t rule it out,” Walsh told Lynn.

Of course not. The Walsh I know wouldn’t rule out cutting off his pinkie and nailing it over his front door, if that would attract attention.

In case you’ve forgotten Joe Walsh — and oh, how I envy you — a quick reminder. He’s a guy who never let a fact get in the way of a well-polling opinion.

Gay marriage? That can’t be allowed because gays make worse partners and parents than straight people.

“A man and woman!” he told me, in 2012, when I tried to give him a fair shake, hear what he had to say. “There are studies that show, when it comes to crime, education, drug use ...”

He promised to share those studies with me. It’s been seven years, so I’m not holding my breath.

Yet here he is, speaking strongly against the president in a way that few Republicans dare.

”Trump’s a bully, and he’s a coward, and the only way you beat a bully and you beat a coward is to expose them, is to punch them,” he said this week. “He is a bad man.”

No argument here, except perhaps for the “expose them” part. Whatever you can say about Trump, his utter inadequacy has not been a big state secret, except of course to the army of head-in-the-sanders who wouldn’t reconsider their support of Trump if they saw a video of the president strangling a puppy and using its blood to sign over his soul to Vladimir Putin.

Walsh has been right before. In 2012, he did accurately sum up what is happening in this country.

”The country is going through a revolution,” he said. “What I mean by that is we’re having a grand debate and an argument and a fight about our core principles.”

“Grand debate” is a wildly over-sophisticated description of the partisan blood brawl going on right now.

Walsh is out of his element. If before he was slightly too ahead of his time when it came to trying to run a government based on self-interested fantasy, now he is too much of a lightweight to prevail over Donald Trump. At best Walsh will do what he has a certain genius for doing: make matters worse. Like in 2016, when he broke the surface of the obscure depths of the AM radio dial with a tweet blaming Barack Obama after a deranged Army vet opened fire on Dallas police officers.

”3 Dallas Cops killed, 7 wounded,” Walsh tweeted. “This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you.”

We are currently having a national ... not debate, not discussion, but somewhere between an arm wrestle and an eye gouge. It’s a national tug of war over exactly what “Real America” is.

If real America is soulless opportunists who’ll say almost anything to draw notice to themselves, then perhaps Joe Walsh has a shot at taking his rightful place as that America’s leader. If Walsh runs, it won’t be because he’s so different than Trump, but because he is so similar.

My hope is that America is like a stately oak tree with a bad infestation of verminous haters and perennial nincompoops scuttling around inside one dying branch. That branch might be sawn off in 2020. Or the rot could continue toward the trunk. Perhaps Joe Walsh is just emerging to blink bug-like at the unfamiliar sun for a moment before ducking back into the moist darkness whence he came.

But that might have been said of Donald Trump at one point. Heck, maybe Joe Walsh is on his way to becoming King of America. He certainly seems to think so.