New York Times reporters Jennifer Steinhauer and Steven Yaccino unfurled a hit piece (accompanied by a severely unflattering photo) on Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois, conservative freshman congressman and Tea Party favorite, on the front of Tuesday’s National section: “G.O.P.’s Freshman’s Fiscal Message Clashes With His Finances.” It’s not the first time the paper has gone after a Tea Party conservative on such personal terms.
There is Representative Joe Walsh, a freshman from Illinois, deriding his colleagues once again for their poor stewardship of the economy. During the debt ceiling debate, Mr. Walsh took to the airwaves to call President Obama a liar for suggesting that the nation might default. Just the other day, Mr. Walsh held court at a Tea Party rally, complaining that Republican leaders in Congress had “been there too long” to understand how best to deal with the nation’s daunting fiscal issues.
Among the 87 Republican House freshmen, Mr. Walsh is perhaps the most visible when it comes to televised economic exposition, refracted through the lens of the Tea Party that helped him eke out a win last year in a suburban Chicago district. Although his district is among the least conservative of any won by a Republican, Mr. Walsh has among the most conservative voting records; he was one of 22 Republicans to vote against the debt-ceiling agreement last summer and among the 24 Republicans to reject a short-term spending agreement passed in September, arguing that its cuts were not deep enough.
But Mr. Walsh’s own finances are not quite in step with the tight-ship budgeting he calls for in Washington. According to a lawsuit filed by his ex-wife, he owes more than $100,000 in child support, an accusation he denies.
There have been other financial setbacks. Mr. Walsh lost a condominium to foreclosure before he ran for office. He has had a run-in with the Internal Revenue Service. He has no savings accounts, no investment accounts and has $3,000 in his only I.R.A., according to court documents filed by his lawyer last week.
Why it apparently would be more acceptable for liberals who push for more government spending to have bad personal finances is left unexplained. Perhaps it’s because not even the liberals at the Times expect the government to behave in a fiscally responsible manner?
Mr. Walsh’s decision to repeatedly bang the drum of strict fiscal responsibility appears to reflect his belief that the Tea Party support that swept him into office by roughly 300 votes will keep him there despite his own financial problems. “What we need to do is elect fighters in every single level of government,” he said in his Capitol Hill office, where, with no apartment in Washington, he sleeps on an air mattress when Congress is in session. “When it comes to the issues that this Congress has been immersed in the past nine months, I have taken the leading role.”
But Mr. Walsh’s outspokenness -- especially when he criticizes other Republicans -- combined with his troubles -- have annoyed House Republican leaders, who use “toxic” and other unflattering terms to refer to him, as they try to maintain Republican seats in hard-fought districts.
In a quick feint toward balance, defeated Democrat Rep. Alan Grayson was mentioned as “Mr. Walsh’s corollary on the left chatterwise,” though you would be hard pressed to find similarly piercing criticism of Grayson in the Times.
A January 3, 2011 item found the recently defeated candidate still a “liberal folk hero,” and an October 6, 2010 piece by Damien Cave merely found Grayson “not known for subtlety.” Some of Grayson’s greatest hits: “A campaign ad calling Republican opponent Daniel Webster “Taliban Dan,” and a quote: “The Republican health care plan is this: ‘Don't get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly.’” Grayson also called Republicans "knuckle-dragging Neanderthals."