Firebrand Walsh challenges Trump

Controversial former congressman calls president ‘unfit’

Joe Walsh speaks at a Chicago rally in 2013 shortly after leaving Congress. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

Joe Walsh speaks at a Chicago rally in 2013 shortly after leaving Congress. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

By Ted Cox

A controversial former congressman and conservative radio host is challenging President Trump for the Republican nomination as he seeks reelection next year.

Joe Walsh made the announcement Sunday with a video posted on Twitter.

Walsh rode the so-called Tea Party wave of fiscal conservatives to Congress in 2010, representing a district in the northern suburbs of Chicago, but lost his reelection bid to Tammy Duckworth in 2012.

No stranger to controversy, Walsh accused President Barack Obama of being a “Muslim” and a “traitor,” and he backed Trump for president in 2016, once tweeting, “If Trump loses, I'm grabbing my musket.”

But the Mundelein resident, who’s gone on to play host to a syndicated radio talk show that airs weekday afternoons on WIND 560-AM, had a falling out with Trump after the president kowtowed to Russian leader Vladimir Putin at an infamous summit meeting in Oslo, and he’d recently stepped up his attacks on Trump. Earlier this month, he published an opinion column in The New York Times saying, “There’s a strong case for President Trump to face a Republican primary challenger,” especially from the conservative right wing of the party alienated by the huge federal deficit Trump ran up after his tax cuts were approved by Congress at the end of 2017.

Although Walsh said he was calling for a fiscal conservative to challenge Trump, he answered that call himself Sunday, and he didn’t mince words.

“It’s time to be brave,” he said, sounding his campaign slogan. “There is someone in the White House who we all know is unfit, someone who lies naturally ever time he opens his mouth, and someone who places his own interests above the nation’s interests at every turn.

“We cannot afford four more years of Donald Trump,” he added, “no way.”

Walsh called on voters to “finally say publicly what we all know privately. We’re tired. We’re tired of a president waking up every morning and tweeting ugly insults. We’re tired of a president who sides with Putin against our own intelligence community. We’re tired of a president who thinks he’s above the law. We’re tired of a president who’s tweeting this country into a recession. And we’re tired, we’re so damned tired, of a president who is teaching millions of American children every day that it’s OK to lie and it’s OK to be a bully. Enough!”

He rejected a “conventional” political campaign, saying, “These are not conventional times. These are urgent times, and — let’s be real — these are scary times.”

Walsh told the Chicago Sun-Times he’d be running in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary next year, and he called his insurgent campaign a “referendum” on Trump’s presidency.

Later Sunday he tweeted in search of support from his old Tea Party base, pointing to the $1 trillion federal deficit projected for next year and adding, “Thank you @realDonaldTrump. What say you Republicans? My fellow Tea Party patriots? Cat got your tongue?”

He did get support from former White House press secretary Anthony Scaramuci, who’s also become an outspoken Trump critic, who tweeted, “In an hour of darkness we pray for humility and courage.”

As of late Monday morning, Trump hadn’t responded to the Walsh challenge, although he was busy in France at the G-7 summit.

Trump had already faced a GOP challenge from former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, a centrist Republican, but Walsh insisted the president was more vulnerable to a conservative attack from the right. Weld said Sunday he was “thrilled” Walsh was jumping into the race, and he also encouraged disgraced former South Carolina Congressman Mark Sanford to join the fray.