With former congressman and far-right talk radio host Joe Walsh having entered the 2020 presidential race, President Donald Trump is now being challenged by two fellow Republicans in a GOP primary (the other is former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld). Walsh’s campaign is unlikely to inflict any real damage on Trump’s reelection campaign; the president is still wildly popular with his hardcore base. Nonetheless, interviews with Walsh are interesting to read, and the Tea Party Republican has a lot to say in a Q&A interview with journalist Olivia Nuzzi for New York Magazine.
Nuzzi covers a lot of ground in her article, asking Walsh about everything from his decision to run for president to bigoted anti-Muslim comments he made in the past.
“It’s not clear how much of an appetite Republican voters, 80% of whom approve of Trump, have for such contrast,” Nuzzi observes. “But Walsh is making a bet that the president is more vulnerable than the surveys suggest.”
Asked why he decided to jump into the race, Walsh said of Trump, “Because the guy’s a madman. The guy is completely unfit and unhinged. He lies every time he opens his mouth.”
Walsh acknowledged that he voted for Trump in 2016 because he “wasn’t Hillary (Clinton).” But after Trump took office, Walsh recalled, he realized that Trump was not only a “goof”— he was also “unfit.”
When Nuzzi asked Walsh about the Democratic presidential field for 2020, he indicated that he liked Sen. Elizabeth Warren as a person even though he obviously dislikes her political views.
“I hope that there’s a Democrat that can get elected,” Walsh told Nuzzi. “Joe Biden seems to be a safe pick; he looks kind of old and shaky to me. Elizabeth Warren, who I don’t like politically, seems to be the best, most energetic, sincere, committed candidate. I think she might not be able to beat Trump. I wish there was a stronger candidate. But you know what? Maybe it doesn’t matter. I think dislike of Trump is so profound; I mean, Republicans got their butts whipped in 2018.”
Walsh went on to describe the Trump/Democrats contrast as “bad versus wrong.”
“Trump’s bad for America,” Walsh told Nuzzi. “I think generally, the Democrats’ ideas are wrong for America. If I wasn’t going to run, I’m not voting for Trump either way. Would I vote for a Democrat? Maybe.”
When Nuzzi got into offensive things Walsh said in the past, the former congressman stressed that he doesn’t consider all Muslims jihadists. But he admitted that there were times he made Islamophobic remarks.
“Islam is an issue I’ve spoken out a lot about,” Walsh told Nuzzi. “I have always tried to be careful — I have not always succeeded — in distinguishing between Islam and Islamism. I believe Islamism is a bad, evil ideology. I don’t believe Islam is. So if you went through everything I said about Islam and Islamism, I’m generally harshly criticizing Islamism. There have been times where I’ve screwed up and conflated Islam and Islamism and said things about Islam in general that I would apologize for.”
Walsh went on to acknowledge that many “peaceful Muslims” are as disdainful of Islamists as he is.
“When you speak to most peaceful Muslims — the average, peaceful, normal, moderate, freedom-loving Muslim — they’ll tell you about the Islamists,” Walsh told Nuzzi. “That is where the radical Islamic ideology, the terrorism and all of that, comes from. I don’t think the average American is aware of the difference between Islam and Islamism.”
Nuzzi’s article concludes with her running a most unlikely scenario by Walsh: “what happens if you accidentally get yourself elected president?”
Walsh responded, “You know, nobody has asked me that. I think I’d be a great president.”
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