Former Rep. Joe Walsh Goes From Floor Speeches in Congress to Talk Radio in Chicago

Rep.-elect Joe Walsh, R-Ill. speaks to the media during a news conference at the GOP headquarters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
National Journal
Cameron Smith
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Cameron Smith
Aug. 25, 2013, 8:30 a.m.

“Based on my two years in the House, I’d say it’s safe to say I was very out­spoken,” said former Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill. “I made a point to be very dir­ect.”

Walsh, 51, a tea-party act­iv­ist who ac­know­ledges that the term “light­ning rod” ap­plies to him­self, said that not long after los­ing in Novem­ber to now-Rep. Tammy Duck­worth, D-Ill., he was ap­proached by an AM ra­dio sta­tion in Chica­go dubbed “The An­swer” about do­ing a talk show.

“I’m guess­ing that them con­tact­ing me had something to do with my time on the Hill,” said Walsh, who was known for his col­or­ful lan­guage and no-com­prom­ise ap­proach to gov­ern­ing in his one term.

“I’m here to raise hell,” said Walsh of the three-hour show he hosts dur­ing the even­ing com­mute in the Chica­go area. “The Illinois Re­pub­lic­an Party is a damn joke. I’ve been go­ing hard on them. I go after D.C. and Chica­go, too. I go after [Chica­go May­or] Rahm Emanuel hard. One-third of each show is loc­al and the oth­er two-thirds is na­tion­al. So I get to go after every­body.”

The trans­ition to ra­dio was “on one level seam­less, on an­oth­er hard,” Walsh said. “Sit­ting in a stu­dio by my­self, learn­ing to speak in a dif­fer­ent en­vir­on­ment is tough. But I find it to be a great plat­form. I find the in­ter­ac­tion to be great. And to be hon­est, it’s not just tea-party act­iv­ists listen­ing in. My hunch is some of my listen­ers hate what I say.”

Walsh said that the rule of thumb is two hours of prep per hour of show, and said that he keeps up to date by read­ing on­line pub­lic­a­tions and speak­ing with his former col­leagues in Con­gress.

The ra­dio show also provides Walsh with a ven­ue to ad­voc­ate for his Grow Up and Be Free PAC, an or­gan­iz­a­tion that Walsh calls a “grass­roots move­ment” for people who look at the gov­ern­ment and say, “Don’t take care of me, I want to take care of my­self.” Ac­cord­ing to Walsh, the PAC also sup­ports worthy can­did­ates with money for cam­paigns.

“The battle lines are between people who be­lieve in free­dom and lim­ited gov­ern­ment and those that be­lieve in de­pend­ence,” said Walsh. “We’re see­ing a civil war in pub­lic policy. I’m do­ing the grass­roots army, the PAC, be­cause we’ve been trained for the gov­ern­ment to give us crap. I’m try­ing to re­train the pub­lic.”

Walsh ad­ded, “I miss the fight on Cap­it­ol Hill. It’s taken a couple months to get used to it. I could run again next year. I could run again in two years. Who knows? I’ve been trav­el­ing the state con­tinu­ing the fight for free­dom-based liberty can­did­ates. I star­ted a PAC, I’m grow­ing the move­ment. You bet­ter be­lieve I’m gonna jump back in at some point.”

Na­tion­al Journ­al Daily‘s Where Are They Now series catches up with law­makers who left of­fice in Janu­ary to find out what they are do­ing. It will run throughout Au­gust.

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