The freshman class in the House is pretty huge by historical standards, thanks to the 2010 wave, but some of the new members have found a way to stand out in the crowd. Take Republican Joe Walsh, for example.
Dave Weigel explained this week that the Illinois loudmouth has made a name for himself as the “biggest media hound in the freshman class.” Walsh is “an excitable, handsome freshman who will say anything,” which is a combination that makes him wildly appealing to editors and television producers.
The problem, of course, is that Joe Walsh appears to be stark raving mad. After nearly five months in office, his greatest-hits collection is growing quickly. Just over the last couple of weeks, it was Walsh who condemned liberal Jews for not supporting Israel the way he wants them to — and he’s not Jewish. He also endorsed putting “moats and alligators” along the nation’s southern border. He described the entire American social safety net as unconstitutional.
Television bookers want wacky lawmakers who’ll say crazy things, and Walsh is eager to play the part. (I mean that literally — he took up acting after several failed attempts at public office in the ’90s.)
But Walsh is of particular interest when the subject is President Obama.
“Look,” he says, “I don’t think this is complicated. He doesn’t really have a history. I say all of this respectfully — he is the least well-known guy we have ever put in the presidency, and there’s no one even close. He’s probably got easily the lightest resume of anybody we’ve elected.”
Walsh leans forward and taps me on the knee with a bumper sticker.
“Why was he elected? Again, it comes back to who he was. He was black, he was historic. And there’s nothing racist about this. It is what it is. If he had been a dynamic, white, state senator elected to Congress he wouldn’t have gotten in the game this fast. This is what made him different. That, combined with the fact that your profession” — another friendly tap of the bumper sticker — “not you, but your profession, was just absolutely compliant. They made up their minds early that they were in love with him. They were in love with him because they thought he was a good liberal guy and they were in love with him because he pushed that magical button: a black man who was articulate, liberal, the whole white guilt, all of that.”
Everything about this is dumb. Obama was arguably one of the best-known candidates in recent memory, thanks to an autobiography, extensive opposition research, media scrutiny, and the longest presidential campaign in American history. His “history” is fine.
But the bigger problem is the notion that Obama was elected due to “white guilt.” For the right, the search for excuses is never ending — an African-American candidate, the argument goes, couldn’t possibly win on his own because he earned it; there has to be some other explanation.
You’ll notice Republicans never search for these kinds of racial rationalizations after GOP victories.
In the larger picture, I think Matt Yglesias’ suggestion was a good one: “If you feel the need to issue a ‘there’s nothing racist about this’ disclaimer, you might want to rethink your remarks.”