“I’ve got my faults and we’ll probably talk about some of them tonight,” Congressman Joe Walsh started the first of ten Town Hall Meetings in ten days during the August recess.
The audience was diverse, ranging from a nattily attired man in a tan summer coat with a pro-Wisconsin public employee union button to one wearing an anti-Obama tee shirt.
“This is the most important thing I do,” Walsh said of holding Town Hall Meetings. Criticism of Democratic Congresswoman Melissa Bean’s refusal to go head to head with her constituents was one of Walsh’ major points of attack in his slender 2010 victory.
“I work for you. You hired me.
“I need to answer to the people who hired me in good times and bad.
“There’s not a member of Congress that makes themselves more available than I do.
“This is your democracy, your republic at work,” the former history teacher said in opening remarks to a standing room only crowd.
“There is very little subtle about me. I believe this country is going through a revolution right now. It doesn’t scare me,” he said, saying it happens about every hundred years.
He demanded that people “Respect each other” in their discourse. The other rule is that no one including himself would be allowed to filibuster in the hour and a half meeting.
“We’ve got cameras here tonight. Why would they be here?” he asked almost sardonically. WBBM-TV and the Northwests Herald had their cameras rolling.
His opening statement covered three subjects
- My family issue
- The debt ceiling
The Chicago Sun-Times front page article on his ex-wife’s saying he owed her over $100,000 in child support was, of course, the first topic.
“In the Sun-Times piece we’re talking about a family issue, delicate, careful, but clear.
“Two to three weeks after I won, my ex-wife filed a lawsuit against me. For the past 7-8 months I’ve been trying to work it out privately.
“Virtually every thing in the Sun-Times piece was wildly…inaccurate.”
Referring to his three children from his first marriage, Walsh said all he wanted on his tombstone was, “He tried to be a hell of a Dad.”
“My kids have been my life.
“It’s been a bumpy ride for me, privately and legally.”
He vowed to “clear my name.
“I won’t and can’t do that in public…This is personal and this is something I’m going to fight. I hope to clear it up in short order.
“This is a tough business. I knew I was opening up my life to the world.”
The media’s penchant for trying to reveal all of the warts of a major candidate is the reason far too many good people don’t run for office, Walsh said.
“Who the hell would want to put up with stuff like this? Until we as a country tell the media we don’t care about that stuff, (it will continue)…
“it pisses me off (but) I’m going to keep (doing what I believe is right).
“The Sun-Times can’t stand Joe Walsh.
“I did not go to Congress to be quiet and ignored.
“I know there are people who sit in rooms every night trying to figure out how to take me down.
“I’m glad I’m not a lawyer.
“You guys can say anything you want about me.That’s part of being a public figure.”
Redistricting took about a paragraph. He told about the Republican mapthat had been just released. He criticized majority parties throughout the country playing the same game of Gerrymandering.
The third topic was the debt ceiling.
“I’ve spent the last three weeks voting ‘No.’
“I voted ‘No” to my leadership.
“We are falling off a cliff…We did nothing.
“Your government today borrowed $4 billion,” he revealed.
Walsh then turned the floor over to questions.
“I don’t think you want me to survive. I think you want to screw me,” a first woman started out.
“I don’t understand why you can’t compromise at all.”
Walsh explained that he thought the American people said ‘time out’ to the Democrats after two years of one-party rule in the Executive and Legislative Branches.
“Now’s the time to say, ‘Come back this way.’”
“We need jobs,” she continued.
Walsh agreed but contended that borrowing more money was not the way to get them. He contended that the government should “get out of the way.”
“Now is not the time for my party to compromise. You need look no further than jobs.”
A questioner elicited the information that the “national debt is 100% of Gross Domestic Product,” a situation that has not existed since the end of World Warr II.
“I don’t care about the next election,” Walsh told the audience. “A lot of freshmen feel that way.
“Most politicians, all they want to do is win reelection. The longer you’ve been in that town, you forget what brought you there,” Walsh said in pushing for term limits. He reminded people he had promised not to stay in Congress more than six years.
An original supporter (from the basement at Hackney’s) thought “the mistake that you made was that you would have let it (the Titanic government) run into the iceberg.”
“I never bought into the notion that the lights would go out on August 2nd,” Walsh replied.
In response to an audience member who thanked Walsh for taking “a hard line,” the Congressman related an interview with a Newsweek reporter who had been covering Washington for about ten years. He wanted to know how “this unorganized little band of 20-25 moved this debate in the last six months.”
That’s an article, I’m going to have look up.
The need for compromise was the topic of a man whose first name was Stuart.
“Politicians in Washington need to find compromise. Everything has to be on the table.
“If the six Democrats say no entitlement (cuts) and the six Republicans no tax increases (nothing will get done).”
“If you believe like I do that this President is not a bad guy, but his policies every single day are destroying what makes this country great, my job now is just to stop what’s he’s doing.
“After November of 12, it will change the dynamic…We weren’t sent there to advance things with him.
“Health care legislation, oh my God, I think this is going to destroy this country.”
A young man urged those in attendance to read the language of the compromise legislation. He pointed out that President Obama is the tie breaker.
“There’s you and 300 thieves, robbers and prostitutes and I apologize to any prostitutes in the audience.
“Are we going to be able to change this at the ballot box?”
Walsh assumed the audience they could and urged those in attendance to pick a side and work hard for it.
“This is coming to Congress and Congress can’t change it,” Walsh agreed.