Political Animal


May 26, 2011 10:40 AM Joe Walsh’s ongoing struggles with reality

By Steve Benen

Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), one of Congress’ more notable right-wing freshmen, has an angry column in the Daily Caller today on U.S. policy towards Israel. Take a wild guess what the Republican lawmaker argued.

It pains me to say this, but President Obama is not pro-Israel. After last Thursday’s speech, that should be clear. His call for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement based on the 1967 borders should leave no doubt where he stands. The 1967 borders are entirely indefensible. He is not pro-Israel.

It pains me to say this, but Rep. Joe Walsh is not smart. After today’s column, that should be clear. His argument that President Obama wants a peace agreement based on the 1967 borders is demonstrably ridiculous — Obama, like Netanyahu and all modern U.S. presidents, sees the borders with land swaps as a starting point for negotiations — should leave no doubt where Walsh stands. The argument the congressman presents entirely indefensible. Walsh is not pro-reality.

We could, I suppose, explore whether Walsh is deliberately trying to deceive the public or simply doesn’t understand the subject matter he’s writing about, but either way, the column is idiocy.

But the Illinois Republican really gets cooking when he goes after Jews who refuse to see the world as he does.

[W]here is the outrage from the American Jewish community? Don’t they understand that the president is not pro-Israel? … The short answer is that most American Jews are liberal, and most American liberals side with the Palestinians and vague notions of “peace” instead of with Israel’s wellbeing and security. Like the president, the U.N., and most of Europe, too many American Jews aren’t as pro-Israel as they should be and too many share his belief that the Palestinians are victims of Israeli occupation.

So, after getting President Obama’s policy position completely wrong, Walsh feels comfortable lecturing Jews about their need to support Israel the way he wants them to.

Walsh, of course, is Catholic.

What’s more, after 10 paragraphs, Walsh never quite gets around to explaining how his approach to foreign policy strengthens U.S. interests, improves Israeli interests, bolsters the peace process, or helps anyone in any way.

It’s almost a parody of what a right-wing reactionary foreign policy looks like, and serves as a reminder of why clowns like Joe Walsh are not to be taken seriously.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


  • c u n d gulag on May 26, 2011 10:47 AM:

    Are you sure that this was Joe Walsh the Congressman, and not Joe Walsh the great Eagles guitarist who wrote "Life's Been Good To Me So Far..." after a relapse?

    Nah, musician Joe Walsh it at least 100 time smarter than that Congressman, even when he's high/stoned.

  • Anonymous on May 26, 2011 10:49 AM:

    Is it anti Semetic to point out that no other country dictates foreign policy to the US. If France or England tried to treat the US president this way, the congress would go tell them to pound sand-regardless of party. I find it strange that our foreign policy is dictated by Israel and that Congress will get behind a foreign leader over their US president. I understand the clout that the Jews or Israeli-Americans have over our discourse. I just do not understand why, given that the Jewish community only represents 3% of the population and therefore not going to going cause big changes is the final vote. I dont consider Israel our best friend, since they constantly disrespect us and give us headaches. We have their back; they do not have our back. England is our best friend. They help us out all the time and generally try to make our life easier in the international community. Does this make me anti-semetic for asking these questions? I just dont get it.

  • Grumpy on May 26, 2011 10:49 AM:

    Didn't Israel win a war with those "indefensible" 1967 borders? If defense posture is so important, the settlements on the West Bank would withdraw behind the border.

  • slappy magoo on May 26, 2011 10:53 AM:

    It doesn't matter that his position isn't reality-based. It just needs to be made. And repeated. And it will become reality. It's the Republican Way, whatever and ever, amen.*

    *I know I've written this a million times, but let's face it, it's never not-apt when it comes to right-wing attacks. Maybe, the more it's pointed out, the more what few actual journalists there are will start saying it, too.

  • Brenna on May 26, 2011 10:59 AM:

    This is one a**hole I hope gets voted out. He's beyond ridiculous. He said he's really going to push the Ryan plan hard during the election. That should be enough to end his career. His messaging is harsh and infantile.

  • Dylan on May 26, 2011 11:00 AM:

    "The short answer is that most American Jews are liberal, and most American liberals side with the Palestinians..."

    Really? His argument is aaples are fruit, and some fruit are oranges therefore apples are oranges? Did i get that right?

  • Nana on May 26, 2011 11:06 AM:

    Congressman Walsh is not my representative in Congress, for which I will be forever grateful, but I do live in a neighboring district, and so I have noticed and listened to him. I am amazed at how often he pops up in the media, particularly TV, and how willing the media are to give him a platform for his nonsense. It's as if he ran for office only to be a media figure. For this his constituents chose him over Melissa Bean? (also not a favorite). On this issue I hope you all saw Lawrence O'Donnell's Rewrite last night explaining this very issue.

  • Gridlock on May 26, 2011 11:06 AM:

    Dylan, you're absolutely right.

    Also: Most horses are brown. Most brown horses have black manes. Therefore, right-wing politicians are hysterical lunatics.

  • kth on May 26, 2011 11:07 AM:

    Right-wing Christian Zionists don't want peace in Israel, they want Apocalypse.

  • mommadona on May 26, 2011 11:08 AM:

    Joe Walsh is a Dominionist ~ this all revolves around the Armageddon need for Israel to be under Jewish control so they can 'reform' , come to 'christ' and, after all hell breaks loose on the REST of us, everything will be 'OK' as Jesus descends to 'save the real good ones.' ~ Yep. Completely NOT reality-based. And we are STUCK with these yahoos in a secular government setting.

  • Ed on May 26, 2011 11:10 AM:

    What's with the "of course" in "Walsh, of course, is Catholic". Your bigotry is showing.

  • Seth Edenbaum on May 26, 2011 11:11 AM:


    "…since the West Bank itself is surrounded by Israel on three sides, anybody who tries to enter it from the east is sticking his head into a noose. To make things worse for a prospective
    invader, the ascent from the Jordan Valley into the heights of Judea and Samaria is topographically one of the most difficult on earth. Just four roads lead from east to west, all of which are easily blocked by air strikes or by means of precision-guided missiles. To put the icing on the cake, Israeli forces stationed in Jerusalem could quickly cut off the only road connecting the southern portion of the West Bank with its northern section in the event of an armed conflict."

  • rusrus on May 26, 2011 11:17 AM:

    What's with the "of course" in "Walsh, of course, is Catholic". Your bigotry is showing

    I read it as, of course a Catholic will be telling Jews how to thing/react

  • berttheclock on May 26, 2011 11:19 AM:

    Steve, you mentioned he is Roman Catholic, which is part of his bio. However, you failed to mention he taught at the Hebrew Theological Seminary, which is an orthodox school in Skokie, ILL.

  • martin on May 26, 2011 11:21 AM:

    Like the president, the U.N., and most of Europe, too many American

    In short, every one else in the world except right wing Israelis and Americans

  • Tony Greco on May 26, 2011 11:24 AM:

    "Like the president, the U.N., and most of Europe, too many American Jews aren't as pro-Israel as they should be...." Walsh might as well have added "...and most of the rest of the world...." It is remarkable that he and other knee-jerk supporters of everything Israel does cannot contemplate that maybe, just maybe, when most of the world agrees on something, they are probably right.

    Anonymous: of course you are not anti-semitic for asking obvious and sensible questions. Those questions don't get asked because of the tremendous effectiveness of the Israel lobby in our politics. To understand the lobby's power, just think about the anti-Castro lobby, which has managed to prevent constructive change in our Cuban policy for several decades. Compared to American Jews, Cuban-Americans are geographically less well distributed for electoral influence, less affluent, less educated, and not as long-established in this country. Yet they have exerted tremendous influence in the issue-area that they (or at least the most active of them) care about. Our political system gives great power to well-organized, dedicated minorities operating in narrow issue-areas, especially when there is no countervailing organized interest.

  • Perspecticus on May 26, 2011 11:26 AM:

    I am adding my voice to any who have correctly noted that the Israelis appeared to have defended their 1967 borders quite effectively.

  • Mass Hysteria on May 26, 2011 11:28 AM:

    The "of course" refers not to the fact that he's Catholic but to the fact that he's not Jewish. I'm pretty sure that Steve meant the following: "Of course, the Republican lecturing Jews is not himself Jewish because Republicans always think they know what's best for other people."

  • PGeorge on May 26, 2011 11:31 AM:

    The reason Joe Walsh is the rep for IL-8 is because the former rep, Democrat Melissa Bean, was doing the bidding of the financial industry, wanted to end estate taxes, and was pro-war. In other words, the only ones who liked her were Republicans and Chicago machine politicians (like the President).

    Finally in 2008 the Republicans found a Tea Party supporter they could rally around and voted out Bean, despite the fact that Walsh is a certified loon.

  • Bloix on May 26, 2011 11:34 AM:

    I read the "of course" as meaning that anyone named Walsh is obviously Catholic, "Walsh" being an extremely common surname among Irish Catholics. It would be like saying, "of course, Goldberg is Jewish."

  • Roger Ailes on May 26, 2011 11:40 AM:

    Look for Walsh's new CD, "The Winger You Get, The Dumbfucker You Are."

  • DRF on May 26, 2011 11:44 AM:

    If it is true that Walsh is not Jewish, then I, as a Jew, am incredibly offended that he would presume to preach how Jews should view this issue.

    It's even more offensive when he states that most liberals "side" with the Palestinians. It's a ridiculous statement and clearly shows that Walsh is deeply ignorant of the complexity of the issues facing Israel and the Palestinians.

    Finally, Walsh's implication that if you don't agree with the current Israeli administration you are "pro Palestinian" and not "pro-Israel" is also offensive.

    Obviously, there are mutliple views as to what is the best course for Israel to follow in order to ensure its security and survival in the long run. People with differing views on this aren't more or less pro-Israel, and I, for one, resent this sort of accusation from anyone, let alone a guy who clearly is not well-informed on the issues.

  • Texas Aggie on May 26, 2011 12:02 PM:

    Do people like this jerk, such as Goehmert, the Kings, Bachmann, and all the other loons, ever get any feedback that makes them stop and think for a moment? Do they live in a bubble where they "create their own reality" and never hear what is going on in the real world? What's with them? I'm at a complete loss when it comes to understanding their thought processes, their motivations, their whole mental arrangement.

  • berttheclock on May 26, 2011 12:04 PM:

    Do not forget the over 6,900 votes the Green Party candidate received in that very close election between Walsh and Bean.

    However, what influence on his Jewish views came from his teaching at Hebrew Theological Seminary?

  • Zorro on May 26, 2011 12:19 PM:

    Anonymous + Tony Greco: tread lightly. Your statements about the power of the Israeli lobby come perilously close to classic antisemitic tropes about Jewish cabals manipulating the world's events. I'm not saying that you're making such a claim, just that it's not a huge jump from the former to the latter.


  • CRA on May 26, 2011 12:49 PM:

    I understand and condone Netanyahu's quest for defensible Israeli borders, but:

    In general, nations' borders rate poor through terrible, by any number of criteria. If latter-day Jews have a claim to what was ancient Israel, what other peoples may claim various parts of the world as autonomous nation-states? And if defensible borders are paramount, shouldn't many or most nations increase their defense spending and even alter borders to increase defensibility? --They'd be fools not to, Netanyahu should agree. I'd add that defense is to be balanced against other concerns; a nation that somehow manages to exploit poorly-defended resources for a long time wins, in spite of the poor defense.

    So, Netanyahu should negotiate borders as best he can, but I don't feel particularly sorry for an Israel with shitty borders and iffy security. Various people around the world are largely helpless if someone decides to attack them, steal their stuff, etc. as often happens. Distinct ethnic and religious groups are routinely denied political autonomy, and strongly encouraged to assimilate, or even persecuted. It might be that all such groups ought to be encouraged toward statehood. That doesn't sound like a conservative position.

  • mufler on May 26, 2011 12:49 PM:

    The truth is that if the second coming of Christ didn't depend on the fairly new requirement of a "Jewish return" then the State of Israel would be negotiating to survive. It's funny that the same people who spout the need for individual responsibility have created a welfare state called Israel which gladly takes our money knowing that the purpose behind the right wing religious support is to actually bring on the end of times and the complete destruction of the Jewish people using US tax payer dollars.

    Could Israel continue it's expansion without our tax dollars or would it be forced to coexist? I think it would find a way.

  • esther clark on May 26, 2011 1:04 PM:

    Most Israeli's favor returning to the 67 borders too. Its the Likud that doesn't.

    Walsh is mistaking one political party for the entire country.

    This would be the equivalent to a German speaking out in favor of Medicare and someone saying they were anti-American.

  • IL res on May 26, 2011 1:13 PM:

    I live in a gerrymandered neighborhood likely to be redistricted into Joe Walsh's district IL-8 (BTW, Dold in IL-10 is no better). Walsh is a complete jerk. He holds conference call town hall meetings every other week and encourages the crazies on the phone to CHEER for shutting down the government and defaulting on the debt. I have listened a couple of times just to learn how bad it is... I recognize the same names and voices as speakers. This guy is dangerous.

  • Tony Greco on May 26, 2011 1:17 PM:

    Zorro--You are completely off base. Were my remarks also tendentially "anti-Cuban?' It is absurd to deny that Jewish organizations wield disproportionate influence over US policy toward Israel. Are we not allowed to try to understand and explain that inarguable fact? I was offering an objective explanation of how it is that a small minority can be so influential. It has nothing to do with sinister cabals or the mythical power of the Jews, and I used the Cuban analogy to make precisely that point. It is a reflection of the nature of the U.S. political system. (Of any democracy, actually, but certain features of the US system make it especially open to the influence of minorities that feel intensively about a narrow range of issues.)

  • zandru on May 26, 2011 1:51 PM:

    Walsh isn't the only one

    Rep. Steave Pearce (right wing Republican, lower New Mexico) had a similar editorial in this morning's Albuquerque Journal (abqjournal.com). His was even longer, and lied about Middle East history, as is required when defending Israel.

    If one of the NM representatives were to write a big pro-Israel op-ed, one would expect it to be Martin Heinrich (D, son of refugees from Hitler's Germany). But it wasn't.

  • Kathryn on May 26, 2011 1:53 PM:

    Walsh should read Fareed Zacaria's column in Washington Post today, it's a primer for the game Netenyahu is playing. Of course he would not believe it, too full of actual facts. I'm sick of seeing Walsh's face and hearing his simplistic world view, he's just a big mouth tea partier. Oh that's right, all you need to get on Sunday talk shows is exactly that.

    Anyway for the rest of us, Fareed's column is very informative.

  • beejeez on May 26, 2011 2:02 PM:

    Moderate Jewish organizations need to get on board and get vocal in support of the president if indeed they're more representative of Israelis than is the Israel lobby. You can argue that President Obama's two-state policy does not vary significantly from longstanding U.S. practice. But let's face it, his mere mention of the 1967 borders immediately sent major Jewish supporters scurrying away, and allowed Netanyahu to grandstand with impunity and impudence before Congress. Obama had to know this would happen, so I believe he showed some guts here, sacrificing political capital to inch U.S. policy in a more constructive direction. He needs to be rewarded.

  • A Conservative Teacher on May 26, 2011 2:14 PM:

    As another Joe once said, "You're a liar." It does not pain you to personally attack a Republican. It does not pain you to spin lies and question his motives.

    On the other hand, it may actually cause you pain to respond to his accusations and his points and defend Obama's actions as being 'pro-Israel'. That would, I am sure, cause you some pain, because to contort yourself and your logic to refute Walsh's arguments would be a neat trick.

  • Jim Pharo on May 26, 2011 2:29 PM:

    I think we should declare war on all those who "side with peace." How ridiculous of liberals to prefer peace...

    As Bugs Bunny would have said of this clown, "what a maroon." I pray that's not racist...

  • c u n d gulag on May 26, 2011 2:50 PM:

    Ignore "A Conservative Teacher."

    That asshole is even dumber than Joe Walsh.

    And I really hope to God that an imbecile like that isn't really a teacher infecting our youth with his doses of idiocy.

    Troll on home, asshole, troll on home...

  • Liberty60 on May 26, 2011 3:04 PM:

    An Open Letter to American Jews, from a card carrying Christian:

    Dear American Jews- I know a lot of you are being approached by my fellow Christians, who offer you sincere professions of love and affection for Israel;
    However, I should warn you that the love they have for Israel is the sort that creepy ex-boyfriends have, the kind where he writes letters describing how he wants to die in your arms on a pillow made from your hair.

    Its supposed to sound romantic and loving, but its actually based on a nighmarish murder-suicide plan.
    You see, in the rightwing Christian mind, Jews are the sacrificial lamb, to be offered up to Jeebus and Santa when they come riding in glory at the Rapture.

    So please, for your own safety and security, when approached by conservative Christians with a glassy eyed stare and fixed smile, do not engage them, simply shut the door, and draw the bolt.

  • Zorro on May 26, 2011 3:10 PM:

    Note that, when President Obama gave a speech to AIPAC- the very embodiment of a large pro-Israeli group having disproportionate influence on US policy- he received rousing support from them. And the pro-Israel, pro-peace group J Street- of which I am a member- strongly supports the President in this.

    Long story short: generalizations are generally wrong.


  • Anonymous on May 26, 2011 3:49 PM:

    There is no such thing as the "Hebrew Theological Seminary."

    There is a school in Skokie called "Hebrew Theological College." However, Walsh doesn't claim to have taught there. He claims to have been an "instructor" at "Hebrew Theological Institute," see http://walsh.house.gov/index.cfm?sectionid=2§iontree=2

    But a google search reveals that there is no such thing as "Hebrew Theological Institute."

    A puff-piece article on him says that the Hebrew Theological Institute is in Morton Grove, which is one town over from Skokie, http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20110329/news/703299999/print/

    but there is no listing for the Hebrew Theological Institute in the Morton Grove directory.

    Hebrew Theological College has a program called the Blitzstein Teachers Institute, but it's not in Morton Grove.

    So where did Walsh really teach, and when?

  • Guest on May 26, 2011 8:23 PM:

    "Is it anti Semetic to point out that no other country dictates foreign policy to the US."

    No, but this is getting pretty close:

    "I just do not understand why, given that the Jewish community only represents 3% of the population and therefore not going to going cause big changes is the final vote."

  • Michael on May 27, 2011 9:46 AM:

    It is important to note that a great deal of the political support for Israel (I.e.: Zionism) in the US is not coming from Jews. Christain Zionism is a powerful force. See coverage in even pop media like USA Today (http://content.usatoday.com/communities/Religion/post/2011/05/israel-netanyahu-palestine-christain-zionism/1).

  • John on June 03, 2011 10:38 AM:

    I live in joe's district. he has done nothing but party, raise tea party funds and attack the president. We are stuck with a bankrupt math mangling loudmouth idiot can be a representative for all the people in his district. As delusional as they come, the vote total, more people voted NOT for joe, he still thinks he speaks for us who find him repulsive, stupid, mean and a total wreak when it comes to money management. He failed with a 40k a year budget for himself and his family, yet he thinks he has the stuff to work on a country's budget.

    So much of the money he gets are from out of state interests, talks one way, votes the other.

    I would guess his big plan is to end up on the FOX staff of talking morons.

  • Pat Strandberg on July 14, 2011 3:51 PM:

    This guy is just another GOP joker. He is just another GOP nut, following in the steps of Palin, Bauchman, Gingrich, and others spewing nonsense, rewriting history and generally doing their best to cloud over the real GOP agenda = Get rid of Barack Obama at all costs. Anyone that doesn't understand fiscal policy should shut up and defer to those who do. The IMF, Moody's, Congressional Budget Office, etc. etc. KNOW much more about fiscal policy and how it works in the day to day workings of our government. Jokers like this will be swept out of office in 2012. :) Pat