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Joe Walsh is a one-term Republican congressman from Illinois and conservative radio host who is known for his inflammatory comments and tweets, including promoting falsehoods about former President Barack Obama and using racial slurs on his show.
“I felt a big part of my job [as a radio host] was to provoke and get people thinking about a number of issues. Oftentimes, I went over the line,” Walsh told PBS NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff in August.
A former social worker in inner-city Chicago, Walsh was elected to represent Illinois’ 8th Congressional District in 2010 as part of the tea party movement. He was defeated by Democratic challenger — now Senator — Tammy Duckworth in 2012, before turning to conservative talk radio in 2013.
Here is where Walsh stands on key issues in the 2020 presidential election.
As a congressman, Walsh voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but later spoke out against Republican efforts to repeal the plan in 2017 in the absence of a GOP alternative. As president, Walsh would repeal Obamacare — a program he says the country cannot afford — as part of a broader move to re-conceptualize health care coverage in America.
“We’ve got to get to a place…where Medicare and government-provided health care is always there for people in need, but the rest of the American people need to begin assuming the responsibility for the day-to-day costs of our health care,” Walsh told the NewsHour. “We cannot, as a nation, afford to pay for, in essence, government-run health care for everybody.”
Walsh believes in building a wall at the border, but told Woodruff he would not separate families. He said President Donald Trump’s moves have made a humanitarian crisis worse. “People coming to claim asylum — that has nothing to do with a wall.” Walsh also said that the United States has to devote resources to deal with asylum cases more urgently.
Walsh has been outspoken in rejecting Trump’s trade war with China. “I believe in free trade. Everybody loses in a trade war,” Walsh told Joe Scarborough on Morning Joe. Walsh also wrote in his op-ed in the New York Times: “Mr. Trump’s tariffs are a tax increase on middle-class Americans and are devastating to our farmers. That’s not a smart electoral strategy.”
Walsh told Woodruff that he does believe humans have played a role in climate change and that the Republican Party needs to acknowledge that a warming planet is a problem. That position is at odds with an earlier moment in his career, when Walsh worked for the libertarian Heartland Institute, which works to undermine the scientific consensus on climate change. He has also tweeted his own skepticism of climate change in the past.
Walsh has flipped on gay rights a few times over his career. During his unsuccessful 1996 campaign for a House seat in a liberal Illinois district, Walsh said that he would support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. “If there’s a more gay-friendly Republican around, I’d like to meet them,” he told the Windy City Times that year.
Fast forward to his reemergence as a tea party figure, when Walsh voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and said that children of husband-and-wife households perform better socially and academically. Now, Walsh told Woodruff that he accepts same-sex marriage as the law of the land and also believes that “anybody who can qualify to serve in the military — gay, straight or transgender — should be able to serve.”
On reproductive health issues, Walsh opposes abortion without exception.
Walsh believes in setting preconditions for negotiations with foreign leaders, including North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, Iranian leadership, and the Palestinians
“The United States should not be some objective mediator between Israel and the Palestinians,” Walsh said. “The United States is in Israel’s corner. We’re not in the Palestinian corner.”
Walsh also believes that U.S. soldiers need to come home from Afghanistan and slammed Trump’s now-canceled plan to bring Taliban leaders to Camp David. “I have no problem with negotiating some sort of deal to make sure that Americans come home, but you do not, you do not ever, ever allow anybody in the Taliban on American soil,” he said.
Alex D'Elia is a politics production assistant for the PBS NewsHour. She can be reached at Adelia@newshour.org or on Twitter @AlexDEliaNews
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