Joe Walsh

Joe Walsh

Former representative, Illinois

Joe Walsh is a conservative talk radio host who served one term as a member of Congress from Illinois, from 2011 to 2013. He has been outspoken in calling for reducing government debt, cutting taxes, and strengthening border security. Originally a supporter of President Donald J. Trump, he now calls the president “completely unfit,” citing his “bigotry.” 

Walsh previously worked in a range of positions, including as a teacher and social worker, a political fundraiser, a libertarian policy analyst, and an investment banker. Born and raised near Chicago, he earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa in 1985 and a master’s in public policy at the University of Chicago in 1991.

China

Walsh’s comments on China have focused on criticizing Trump’s trade war and advocating for free trade. 

  • He opposes Trump’s escalating tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of Chinese imports, arguing that “everybody loses in a trade war.”
  • He says that the tariffs amount to a tax increase on the middle class and that Beijing’s retaliation is “devastating to our farmers.” He calls Trump’s claim that tariffs are paid by for by China “absurd.”

Climate and Energy

Although he once rejected the scientific consensus on climate change, Walsh now says that Republicans should admit it is a real problem. However, he has yet to form a concrete proposal to address it.

  • Walsh has recently admitted that climate change is driven by human activities. He now urges fellow Republicans to “acknowledge it’s a problem,” in contrast with Trump’s denials. 
  • He says his approach would focus on bringing together business leaders to discuss solutions to the climate crisis. 
  • However, he denies that climate change constitutes a national emergency.

Counterterrorism

While Walsh has taken few stances on counterterrorism policy, he has spoken often of the dangers of Islamic terrorism, which he feels policymakers have not taken seriously enough.

  • Walsh previously accused the Barack Obama administration of skewing intelligence to downplay the threat posed by terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and the self-proclaimed Islamic State.
  • He has opposed readmitting into the United States former citizens who renounced their citizenship to join terrorist groups.

Cybersecurity and Digital Policy

Walsh’s comments on cybersecurity have been limited to criticizing Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and denouncing Trump’s role in the controversy.

  • He says the Trump campaign “welcomed” and “tried to reward” Russian election hacking, which he calls grounds for impeachment.

Defense

Walsh has said he would withdraw troops from Afghanistan, but he criticizes Trump’s approach to peace talks there, as well as the president’s treatment of U.S. defense allies. 

  • Walsh calls for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, though while in Congress he supported a “surge” strategy of additional troops, similar to the one carried out in Iraq during the George W. Bush administration. 
  • He has criticized President Trump’s negotiations with the Taliban, particularly the possibility of inviting Taliban representatives to the United States for talks. 
  • He says he would steadfastly support the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which Trump has repeatedly criticized. Walsh claims that Trump “bear hugs” the leaders of adversarial states such as Russia and North Korea while he “stiff-arms our allies.”
  • He pledges to reverse the ban on transgender personnel in the military. “Anybody who can qualify to serve in the military—gay, straight or transgender—should be able to serve,” he says.

Diplomacy and Foreign Aid

Walsh emphasizes the benefits of traditional U.S. alliances and criticizes President Trump for undermining long-standing relationships.

  • Walsh says Trump “embarrasses our allies” and “embraces tyrants abroad.”
  • He supports talks with U.S. adversaries such as North Korea and Iran, but says that, unlike Trump, he would set preconditions for meeting with their leaders.

Economic Policy

Walsh was elected to Congress on a platform of opposing federal spending and government debt, and he criticizes Trump’s economic policies for increasing the deficit. 

  • Walsh says Trump has been “reckless” on economic policy, pointing to budget bills he signed that “ballooned” the yearly federal deficit, which is now approaching $1 trillion.
  • He says he went to Washington as a part of the Tea Party wave in 2010 “to raise hell about the debt and about deficits.” The first bill he introduced in Congress was a balanced budget amendment.

Immigration

Walsh’s approach on immigration mirrors Trump’s restrictionist views, but he argues that the president has failed to implement his own policies and has, as a result, deepened the crisis at the U.S. southern border.

  • Walsh says Trump has failed to make the case for strong borders, saying his “bullying” rhetoric has instead alienated Americans. 
  • He says the situation at the border is a “bigger mess” now than when Trump was elected. He wants to be “tougher” on those who cross the border illegally but opposes the family separation policies pursued by the Trump administration.
  • He supports expanding the U.S.-Mexico border wall, criticizing Trump for breaking his campaign pledge to do so. “Not one foot of the wall has been built,” Walsh says.
  • He pledges to devote more resources to hearing asylum cases, arguing that asylum requests have nothing to do with illegal border crossings. “It’s our responsibility to hear those claims,” he says.

Middle East

Walsh favors strong ties with Israel and has harshly criticized Islam as well as Muslim states in the Middle East. He has been critical of some U.S. military interventions.

  • Walsh criticizes previous administrations for trying to act as an “objective mediator” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying Washington is “in Israel’s corner. We’re not in the Palestinian corner.”
  • He has long made inflammatory anti-Islam comments, routinely calling Obama a Muslim and using the label as a slur. He says these statements came from his “disgust” over Obama’s anti-Israel policies.
  • He has apologized for some of these comments, and says “Islamists” are the problem, “not all Muslims.”
  • As a member of Congress, he voted against Obama’s 2011 military intervention in Libya, arguing that the president would need a new Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) instead of relying on authorizations from 2001. 

North Korea

Walsh has criticized Trump’s meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, arguing that the president’s approach has emboldened Pyongyang and led to more missile tests.

  • Walsh says Trump has made “propaganda” for Kim and undermined the U.S. negotiating position by reducing U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises. 
  • He says that, unlike Trump, he would require preconditions for negotiations with Kim and other adversarial foreign leaders.

Russia

Walsh condemns Trump’s warm relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, suggesting that Trump has been compromised and is “a danger to this country” because of his pro-Russia policies.

  • Walsh says his final break with Trump came because of the 2018 Helsinki summit, where Trump met with Putin and said he accepted the Russian leader’s denials of interfering in U.S. elections.
  • He says Putin “must have something” on Trump, pointing to Trump’s efforts to have Russia readmitted to the Group of Seven.
  • He says the Trump campaign “welcomed” and “tried to reward” Russian election hacking, which he calls grounds for impeachment.

Trade

Walsh is a longtime advocate of free trade and criticizes Trump’s use of tariffs as economically disastrous. 

  • He opposes Trump’s escalating tariffs, arguing that “everybody loses in a trade war.” 
  • He calls the trade war “narcissistic” and says that Trump is overstepping his constitutional authority. 
  • He contends that the tariffs amount to a tax increase on the middle class and are “devastating to our farmers.”

Venezuela and Latin America

Walsh’s views on Latin America have centered on criticizing the policies of leftist governments in the region.

  • Walsh criticizes Venezuela’s economic model, arguing that the humanitarian crisis currently sending millions of the country’s residents fleeing is the end result of socialism.
  • As a member of Congress, he cosponsored the Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act, which sought to highlight the presence of Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies in Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay.

This project was made possible in part by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York.

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