“There are 87 Republican freshmen here,” first-term Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh explained to The Daily Caller in his Capitol Hill office last week. “There is one, one of those 87 that didn’t get a dime of help from the party. There’s only one of those 87 that didn’t get any outside support. And all of us have worked hard to get here but nobody worked harder than I did to get here because I was all by myself.”
After barely besting Democratic Rep. Melissa Bean by a mere 300 votes in last November’s midterm elections, Walsh came to Capitol Hill on a mission – and as a man who doesn’t owe the Washington establishment anything. Since entering Congress, he has wasted no time making his presence known, issuing provocative statements and appearing in the media more than just about any other freshman member with the possible exception of Florida Republican Rep. Allen West.
He also hasn’t been above staging stunts. For instance, after President Obama mocked Republicans for continuing to express concern about border security by saying maybe the GOP would need a moat with alligators to be satisfied, Walsh wrote a letter to the president saying he’s all for it if it would secure the border.
“I actually think a moat might be a very good idea and I’m wondering how many alligators it would take to secure the entire border,” Walsh wrote.
But whatever you do, don’t say that Walsh is just a showman. He says he is simply a man willing to do whatever is necessary to thwart the Obama agenda.
“I was sent here on a mission to stop this president and to stop this government from getting big and I’m going to work my ass off. I’m going to scream from the mountaintop. I’m going to push legislation. I’m going to do whatever I can to stop this president,” he said.
And when it comes to President Obama, Walsh doesn’t see shades of grey. (‘Cut, Cap, Balance’ ties conservative choices to debt ceiling vote)
“From a policy perspective, no way, none, nothing,” he said, when asked what, if anything, he likes that President Obama has done. “I don’t think he had any business becoming a president…He’s got an agenda that is killing the country, just killing it.”
One reason the Republican Party may have been wary of supporting Walsh during his election bid is his precarious personal financial position – among other things, a house he owned was foreclosed on in 2009. In March, OpenSecrets.com reported that while the freshman class was a “notably wealthy bunch,” Walsh was the poorest member of the lot – perhaps the poorest member of Congress – with a net worth somewhere between negative $481,994 and negative $153,001.
But Walsh, who sleeps in his congressional office when in town, said he doesn’t dwell on his own fiscal imbalance.
“I ran for Congress two years ago because I just felt like I was losing my country. Was I financially in a position to run? Probably not,” he said. “I taught American government. It’s probably my most favorite period to read about and study. I said and I still believe this way. I feel like some farmer back in the revolutionary times who hopped on his horse and just rode off to fight the war to save his country. He didn’t give a damn about what kind of farm he left behind him.”
Indeed, Walsh sees the whole class of Tea Party freshman as revolutionaries. He said that while he voted for Paul Ryan’s budget, it was a tough decision – not because it was too radical, but because “it did not go far enough.”
“A year ago Paul Ryan was thought of as this conservative outlier. Here comes this freshman class. We’re Paul Ryan and then some,” he said. “We are beyond conservative. We are revolutionaries who want to stop how dangerously big this government is and believe our federal government is doing things it can’t and shouldn’t do.”
That includes waging wars abroad Walsh no longer believes America can afford or win.
“It isn’t helping us and it’s costing us a lot of money. It’s costing us lives. I think we need to begin to get out,” he said of Afghanistan, an issue he says he has “moved” on since coming to Congress. “My worry is that [the president’s troop withdrawal plan] won’t be quick enough so I would certainly advocate quicker.”
Though Walsh advocates withdrawing from Afghanistan and cutting the defense budget, he doesn’t necessarily favor America withdrawing from the world. He is staunchly pro-Israel, for instance. During his short tenure in Congress, he has passionately spoken out in favor of Israel and recently introduced a bill to cut off funds to the Palestinian Authority if it didn’t meet certain conditions. Walsh also drew controversy when he penned an op-ed in TheDC saying, as a non-Jew, that “too many American Jews aren’t as pro-Israel as they should be.”
“I’ve never served in the military. Can I discuss defense policy?” Walsh asked rhetorically. “In my lifetime this is the first president who I believe in his bones doesn’t support Israel. That’s stunning…I think what my role is to be, find a better way to say this, a real out there voice that is purposely provocative and purposely in your face to this president and respectfully in your face to American Jews to help wake us all up.”
When asked if he is worried about reelection – his district may get redistricted away next cycle – Walsh claimed, “I don’t care about my reelection.”
“I came here to do certain things and if I do these certain things and it pisses people off and [they send me] back home, so be it,” he said.
As to what he will do if he isn’t returned to Congress in 2012?
“I want to get the hell out of this town…This is one guy who will not be a lobbyist,” he said.