Sunday, July 10, 2016
The Tea Party's man feints to the Left.
To be honest, I did not know former Congressman Joe Walsh had a radio show, and never would have thought of him again for the rest of my life had not he posted a particularly brainless tweet in the wake of the Dallas police shootings, seeming to threaten the president and declaring a state of "war."
I remembered vaguely meeting him in a coffee shop four years ago, and thought it would be diverting on a Sunday to dig that column out. My apologies if it's overkill — with the way the news is going, I'll have some new horror to react to by this afternoon.
Until then, notice how he blames the abortion issue on liberals, as if the Right trying to strip away reproductive rights from women were a Democratic plot. The general sense of squishiness and blame-shifting should be reminiscent of another Republican flash-in-the-pan currently enjoying his moment on the stage.
Rep. Joe Walsh is a charming man. Big, handsome smile, generous (at least to me), Walsh (R-8th) insists on paying for our drinks at the Starbucks on Delaware.
And he has moxie — after I wrote a column about breakfast with Sen. Dick Durbin, Walsh was the lone politician to suggest the same.
I will admit, meeting the Tea Party's darling was not high on my agenda. What the Tea Party represents — tear down the government out of an exaggerated concern for the deficit, oppress immigrants under the fig leaf of illegality, and in general try to drag the country back to a past that wasn't all that great the first time — is anathema to me. But why not talk?
"Awfully nice of you!" he exudes.
The Tea Party movement . . .
"Here's the deal. There's such a misunderstanding of the Tea Party movement. The Tea Party movement is a good thing only in that it has gotten the country talking again."
Walsh talks fast, and it takes a moment for the "only" in the above to register.
"No," he corrects himself. "I mean it's a better thing than that. The country is going through a revolution. What I mean by that is we're having a grand debate and an argument and a fight about our core principles."
Reagan's epiphany was: Starve the government so we can cut these programs we hate that serve people we hate. That's what's happening.
"What you and I both know is we've got 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day. And they're not living until they're 63, they're living until they're 93. Politicians in both parties have been scared to frickin' death about how to pay for all that health care."
What would be a fair amount to pay? What would be fair for Joe Walsh to pay in taxes?
"I wanna say 'Yes, we should pay something.' I want a safety net, especially when it comes to health care."
The question is, who pays for it?
"If we don't figure that out, we're sunk financially. Come home from Afghanistan tomorrow. Get rid of the oil subsidies. Do all this stuff that I want to do and liberals want to do and it won't solve the debt problem. The biggest, fastest-growing piece of our budget is health-care costs for our aging population. Democrats don't want to touch it. They're scared to death. So here come Republicans."
When it comes to women, suddenly you want an active government prying into citizens' lives.
"The Tea Party movement, all we talk about, all we've focused on is the growth of government, all this spending, all this debt, and to a smaller degree our loss of perceived freedoms. I don't think we've been asked four times in the past two years about abortion."
But it keeps coming up.
"The other side's bringing it up. It's how they succeed, they think."
Does that explain immigration, too? Because I seem to recall a lot of immigration talk at rallies.
"I don't want to have a discussion what to do with 12 to 14 million living here until the government does the one thing it should do: Secure the border. You gotta stop the spigot. Right now, it's illegal to come over the border. I'm a limited-government guy, but use every resource we've got."
Is it worth it? You're expending resources trying to stop something that's good for the U.S.
He chewed on that. "You probably want the government to do a bit more than I do," he finally said. "One thing I want the government to do is enforce its laws. If it's not going to enforce its laws, it should change its laws."
But wouldn't that be "amnesty"?
"I hear what you're saying. I don't want my government to incentivize behavior."
Such as by permitting of gay marriage?
"I don't want my society recognizing any forms of marriage except for heterosexual marriage. End of story."
"I want my government acknowledging the best, most unique way for kids to grow up is through a two-person heterosexual marriage."
What's that based on? Studies?
"God yes!" he said, poking my arm — he does that a lot, driving his point home. "A man and woman! There are studies that show, when it comes to crime, education, drug use . . ."
What studies? That just isn't true.
"I will feed you studies. But the Tea Party doesn't talk about this. I've talked about this twice. Nobody talks about abortion. The Tea Party is 99 percent focused on the economic."
It's been a week and I'm still waiting for those studies, which don't exist. Walsh is very dynamic. He believes — using facts if they're there, emotion and sleight of hand if they're not.
"There's this notion that the Tea Party, we're these crazy cave men," he said. "All I'm trying to do is get us back to what I think this country was founded upon."
I think it was founded upon life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Yet some people's happiness doesn't seem to count for much.
—Originally published in the Sun-Times May 12, 2012