Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Walsh Attended SOTU, Sits Out Jobs Speech

Email
|
Print

    NEWSLETTERS

    During his brief Congressional career, Rep. Joe Walsh has become a darling of the cable news circuit for taking outspoken positions against President Barack Obama. 

    On Thursday, remarks Walsh made eight months ago again put the scrappy congressman in the spotlight, and his decision to not attend the president's address to a Joint Session of Congress drew criticism.

    Flashback to Jan. 25 -- the night of the 2011 State of the Union Address -- and Walsh's appearance on the MSNBC program The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell.

    O'DONNELL: "Congressman Paul Broun, a Tea Party Republican from Georgia, did not attend tonight's speech and instead he sent out this Tweet: "Mr. President, you don't believe in the Constitution. You believe in socialism."

    "Now, [Wisconsin Congressman and Chairman of the House Committee on the Budget] Paul Ryan said that it is the government's duty to provide a social safety net for people who cannot provide for themselves. That is socialism. Isn' t it, congressman?"

    WALSH: "You know, again, Lawrence, I'm a Tea Party guy. I'm going to concur with you that there is no constitutional authority in that. But look, the president deserved -- I disagreed with virtually everything he said in this State of the Union tonight. But out of respect, of course we've got to be there and listen to him out of respect for the office."

    But Walsh made good Thursday night on the promise he made earlier this month to not attend the president's speech, opting instead to host a town hall with constituents in Schaumburg.

    He opened the meeting with a feisty tone and at times raised his voice as he spoke to the approximately 50 attendees. He said he'd flown all day and had "about 34 cups of coffee."

    "Why in God's name is your congressman here now?" he asked rhetorically.

    He said he didn't want to be a "prop in this political theater" and tried to make a distinction between Thursday's speech and the annual State of the Union.

    Joint Sessions of Congress, he said, should be reserved for Heads of State, not for a president to "deliver his third job plan in two and a half years."

    Though he didn't watch the speech -- he said he read a transcript -- his failure to attend, he stressed, wasn't about politics but about policy.

    "This country is not working. We are not working," he said.

    Walsh said he'll be flying back to Washington with the goal of delivering to the president the recommendations that came from his Town Hall, specifically as they relate to small business owners.

    Still, Democrats were seizing on the fact that Walsh, as well as Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and the aforementioned Rep. Broun, weren't in the House Chamber.

    "We are not going to get the country back on track by not talking to each other.  Congressman Joe Walsh showed enormous disrespect to the Office of the President and failed to represent the hardworking people of his district by snubbing the President.  Illinois families deserve better," said Haley Morris, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's regional spokeswoman.

    Walsh's Jan. 25, 2011 exchange with MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell on The Last Word:

    Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy