The Republican U.S. Senate candidate from Georgia, Herschel Walker, last week sent out what might be the saddest tweet in the history of American politics. It's emblematic of a campaign that is among the saddest in recent political history.
While criticizing his opponent, incumbent Democratic Sen. Rafael Warnock, for "calling law enforcement 'thugs and bullies,'" Walker tweeted that he "was proud to serve the blue as an Honorary Agent and Special Deputy Sheriff of Cobb County for many years."
Herschel Walker's Campaign Knows He's a Liar and They Don't Care
Attached to the tweet was a picture featuring Walker's certification as a "Special Deputy Sheriff." It looked very much like a designation that law enforcement might hand out to children. Or, as one member of Congress put it, "My son got a Paw Patrol badge. Think that gives you both the same authority."
Last June, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote about Walker's tendency for exaggeration when it comes to his alleged law enforcement background, and quoted a former DeKalb County District Attorney pointing out that an "honorary" deputy is "like a junior ranger badge."
This isn't Walker's first mistruth about his law enforcement background. In 2017 Walker claimed, "I've been in criminal justice all my life." In 2013 he said, "I spent time at Quantico at the FBI training school. Y'all didn't know I was an agent?"
None of these statements are true. Repeatedly, news outlets have pointed out Walker's tendency for exaggeration, and yet that didn't stop him from repeating the lie again and exposing himself to even more ridicule.
Walker's campaign is increasingly a train wreck, but one that emits sadness and wonderment-not only because those closest to Walker aren't stepping in to rescue him, but because he has a 50/50 chance of actually getting elected.
Walker is a lousy candidate who is manifestly unqualified for the job he is seeking. Before announcing his candidacy last year he never evinced any interest in public policy or government service. The only reason he's even in the running for a Senate seat is that he was a star running back at the University of Georgia and won the Heisman Trophy four decades ago. The last time Walker was relevant, the Soviet Union was still going strong. Of course, there's also the fact that Donald Trump endorsed him for the job.
To be sure, there are plenty of bad candidates this election cycle who are new to the world of electoral democracy (I'm looking at you, Pennsylvania Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz and Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters)-and who have won their nominations because of Trump's support.
What's different about Walker are the legitimate and increasingly awkward questions about whether years of playing football affected his mental acuity. Walker isn't simply clueless about the issues he would have to tackle were he to be elected. He holds childlike views and struggles to communicate in even a semi-coherent manner.
Over the summer, for example, he criticized the Green New Deal by telling supporters that it was a policy rip-off. Why? According to Walker, America has some of the cleanest air in the world (that's not actually true), "but since we don't control the air, our good air decided to float over to China's bad air so when China gets our good air, their bad air got [sic] to move. So it moves over to our good air space." Walker's solution? "We got to clean that back up."
This is not how air works.
According to a report by Georgia Public Broadcasting, Walker had been complaining about China and India's "bad air" for weeks.
In the spring, he publicly wondered why if evolution is real, there are still apes in the world.
He responded to the Uvalde shooting by proposing "a department that can look at young men that's looking at women that's looking at social media" when asked about new gun laws proposed in Congress (the place where Walker aspires to hold a job) "what I like to do is see it and everything and stuff."
Walker also famously got caught lying about the number of children he has sired-after years of preaching about the evils of absentee parenting. He claimed to have one child, but, in reality, he has four.
And that's not the only time Walker has been caught telling untruths. He's repeatedly and extravagantly lied about his business experience (he owes millions of dollars in unpaid loans), and his academic record (he falsely claimed to be his college valedictorian, even though he left college early to play in the NFL).
Then there are the most ominous aspects of Walker's past-like the allegation that he held a loaded gun to his wife's head and threatened to blow her brains out.
Concerns about Walker's penchant for lying and his mental adroitness are not merely being raised by his political opponents. They are coming from inside the house.
According to a blockbuster Daily Beast piece from earlier this summer, emails and texts from his own campaign advisers show them "discussing how they don't trust Walker-both to tell the truth to them and to handle campaign events properly-and harboring concerns that he isn't mentally fit for the job."
"He spouts falsehoods 'like he's breathing,' said one adviser. "He's lied so much that we don't know what's true," said another. One source even called the campaign "a shitshow on a train in the middle of a wreck," which, truth be told, doesn't make a lot of sense but also doesn't sound very good.
The Beast's report further suggested that aides have "ridiculed his intelligence," "fear his mood swings and instability," and don't trust him "to speak coherently" or tell them the truth.
Anyone who follows Walker's bizarre statements would likely draw a similar conclusion. In his public events, Walker either regurgitates the same four or five talking points about the evils of Democrats, or he goes off on often incoherent tangents. However, it seems no one around Walker-neither his campaign aides nor his family and friends-seem inclined to intervene and speak out publicly about the dangers of electing him to the Senate.
Even more extraordinary (and disturbing) is that Walker remains not just a viable candidate for the U.S. Senate, he is running neck and neck with Warnock. According to a new poll out this week, he leads Warnock by 3 points.
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It's hard to say what is sadder: that a majority of Georgia's voters are prepared to send a candidate as utterly ill-equipped as Walker to Washington, or that his fellow Republicans are so desperate to win back control of the Senate that they are ignoring his mountain of personal deficits.
Does anyone who has watched Walker on the campaign trail believe that he has the basic cognitive ability to effectively represent Georgia in the U.S. Senate? Does anyone expect him to actively participate in writing bills or debating senate legislation?
Walker's bid for the Senate is yet one more troubling example of where the Republican Party is headed. The mere ability to cast a vote for Mitch McConnell as Senate majority leader, and demonstrate rhetorical support for Donald Trump, are all the qualifications one needs to become a Republican senator these days. Experience in government, interest in public policy, the ability to speak coherently on governing issues, and basic competence are not required. Indeed, as Trump showed, the less experience one has, the greater the appeal for Republican voters.
As sad as Walker's campaign has become, what is even sadder is what it portends for the country. A political party that is content with having someone like Herschel Walker in the U.S. Senate is not a political party that cares about the responsibility of governing America.
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