The first observation is that neither of the surprises should surprise anyone at all. Former NFL football star Herschel Walker is about as vulnerable a political candidate for high office as one can imagine, even in the “Get Trump!” era. I’ve covered much of this already. He’s exaggerated his scholastic achievements, hidden the fact that he has several children conceived without the formality of marriage, admitted bouts with mental illness and a suicide attempt, and vaguely acknowledges committing domestic violence.
Walker has no political experience or relevant achievements that would make him a qualified candidate for the U.S. Senate in Georgia. He’s a local celebrity and has personal charisma; he is also an African-American in a state with a lot of black voters (and football fans). That’s about it. In the United States of America in the Age of the Great Stupid, that can also be enough.
It was irresponsible for the Republican Party to present such a cynically-chosen nominee to the voters of Georgia, incompetent for voters to check his name in the primary, and certifiably stupid for the GOP to store a substantial amount of their chances of taking back control of the Senate on such a shaky vessel.
Yesterday, they all got what they deserved…October Surprise #1 came in the costume of a report published in The Daily Beast. It’s a news aggregating site that works for the Democratic Party, but if the report is factual, that’s irrelevant. The Beast claims that paid for his then-girlfriend to have an abortion in 2009. The woman so far wants “to remain anonymous out of privacy concerns.” More on that in a minute. Her story is that she and Walker had “conceived the child while the two were dating, and mutually agreed not to go ahead with the pregnancy,” in the words of the New York Times. The woman says Walker, married at the time, reimbursed her for the cost of the abortion.
Walker is a vocal opponent of abortion now. The woman provided the DB with a copy of a $700 check from Walker, a receipt from the abortion clinic and a “Get Well!” card from the candidate. The site published a photo of the card, allegedly with Walker’s signature.
Walker’s response was to tweet a statement and threaten to file a defamation lawsuit against The Daily Beast. “I deny this in the strongest possible terms,” he said. “It’s disgusting, gutter politics.”
- Unless Walker is an idiot, and he might be, his denial should be legitimate. If the story is true, the response is easy and obvious: Yes, it’s true, I did pay for an abortion 13 years ago, and it has haunted me ever since. I had not thought critically or carefully about the moral, ethical and human implications of killing a fetus in the womb then. I have since, and I realize that I was wrong. My whole life has been a journey through mistakes and wrongful acts on the way to enlightenment and becoming a better human being and one capable and qualified to represent the people of Georgia. My journey regarding abortion is an important part of that enlightenment.” End of scandal. There is nothing wrong, hypocritical or shameful about a politician changing his or her position over time: look at Barack Obama and same-sex marriage.
- However, if Walker is lying about the episode never happening , it is further evidence that he’s both an untrustworthy phony and an idiot. In that case, he should be metaphorical toast.
And O.J. should have been convicted…
- Anonymous hits on politicians and others like this are no longer given as much credibility as when they were allowed to bring down the Presidential candidacy of Herman Cain, in part because Cain’s response made him look guilty. The tactic has been abused, especially since #MeToo discredited itself. The public, rightfully so, doesn’t like anonymous accusers, and accusations neatly timed to do maximum damage in elections (or confirmation hearings) are generally and justifiably regarded as dirty politics. If Walker can show that the accusation is false, or if the woman never agrees to come forward to have her story tested, this October Surprise could be a dud.
October Surprise #2 is more complex. Christian Walker, Walker’s 33-year-old son, went on a Twitter rampage against his father last night, tweeting,
“Every family member of Herschel Walker asked him not to run for office, because we all knew (some of) his past. Every single one. He decided to give us the middle finger and air out all of his dirty laundry in public, while simultaneously lying about it. I’m done…I know my mom and I would really appreciate if my father Herschel Walker stopped lying and making a mockery of us. You’re not a ‘family man’ when you left us to bang a bunch of women, threatened to kill us, and had us move over 6 times in 6 months running from your violence…I don’t care about someone who has a bad past and takes accountability. But how DARE YOU LIE and act as though you’re some ‘moral, Christian, upright man.’ You’ve lived a life of DESTROYING other peoples lives. How dare you.”
Herschel Walker tweeted in response, “I LOVE my son no matter what.”
- Christian is a “TikTok influencer;” whether than means that he has any influence over Georgia Senate voters is dubious. (Ann Althouse is a TikTok addict!)
- Humble Talent, the esteemed commenter here who alerted me this morning to the Walker drama, writes in a comment, “I’m torn….On one hand, you should probably support your family, even if it’s only with silence. On the other…. How much support does the family he abandoned owe him?” I think that’s how many voters see this, and how they see family member attacks on politicians generally (and I put George Conway’s Trump-bashing in this category as well, since his attacks came while his wife was a key Trump aide). I’d answer Humble’s conflict this way: they don’t owe him any support, but direct attacks and efforts to hurt him look disloyal, vengeful, spiteful and mean, because they are.
- The main significance of both “October Surprises” at this point is that they give the news media more ammunition to try to take down Walker to support the Democratic Party.
- Handling these twin crises for his campaign will show just how capable politically Walker is. In the end, he might benefit from them. It’s a test.