Here's Walden | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Here's Walden

Opinion about Greg Walden.

Small wonder that the March 27 Greg Walden town hall meeting in Bend garnered zero coverage in the region's daily newspaper.

Though the Bulletin stops short of calling the Congressman the "kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being" (quick, name the movie reference!), it continues to propound the official myth that he is just a regular guy willing to meet with anyone . . anywhere. So, why waste ink?

The Source Weekly, however, restored journalistic integrity to Central Oregon with a Jan. 19, 2012, cover story. It investigatedWalden's reluctance to hold unscripted, public meetings with voters in Bend and Medford, the two largest cities in his district.It interviewed members of the Bend 8, the group of citizens who resorted to peaceful civil disobedience at Walden's local District office as a way to encourage him to become more accessible.

KTVZ, to its credit, as well, saw the news value of this "once in a blue moon" town hall and did provide coverage. The station's own recent news poll on the topic attracted over 1300 respondents. 54% felt that Walden was "inadequately accessible." (This resultcomes from a region that typically gives his opponents no more than 25% of the vote.)

Even so, the March 27 event barely passed inspection, scheduled, as it was, at the last minute without announcement. (Apparently, KTVZ got wind of it.) It was held mid-afternoon in an acoustically difficult hall with only the Congressman's voice electronically amplified.

The KTVZ report, as broadcast, was edited in such a way as to give the impression the audience was dominated by conservatives. The station aired Walden's applause line expressing distaste at uncivil liberal talk radio, but ignored the applause that greeted an audience member who identified himself as one of the Bend 8. It neglected to note that two members of the audience had tried - but failed - to disrupt the meeting by yelling "Bullshit" at a questioner critical of Rush Limbaugh.

Mr. Walden - no slouch at playing to a room - realized right off the bat that this particular audience was predominantly progressive with well-prepared questions. Accordingly, headjusted his message and began to sound very much like the moderate Republican he claims to be - but whose voting record, of course, indicates otherwise.

His answers, though sometimes rambling, wereoccasionally quite surprising, even reassuring, in their candor. I found myself frequently applauding - even initiating applause.

Quite bravely (I thought), Walden acknowledged that Limbaugh's remarks would be out of place on the radio stations his family owns.

(The Marine veteran sitting next to me commented to me on the profanity: He admitted to owning the largest 4-letter word vocabulary of anyone he knew, but conceded he never usesthese words - and certainly would never use them in a public event.)

In response toa local environmentalist's commentson global climate change (accompanied by mutedhisses from the "Bullshit" section of the room),Walden validated his concerns that, indeed, warming was underway, and alluded to his own timber proposal--problematic as it is - as a way to quell carbon emissions from forest fires.

When he stated that the U.S. has the highest corporate tax rates in the world, one of the audience members (owner of a downtown shop) interrupted to say that some pay zero taxes. Instead of ignoring her, he acknowledged this fact and went on to say he was all about removing loopholes.

This same shopowner, after identifying herself as a small-businesswoman trying to operate in tough economic times, deftly segued into asking Walden how he could justify continued subsidies for a petroleum industry that is currently reaping historically high profits. Walden responded by promising that Congress was in the process of reexamining subsidies and corporate tax breaks.

In my question, I remarked that private insurance costs (20 to 30 percent overhead) are driving up the deficit at a much higher rate than Medicare costs, which are one-tenth as much.At the tail end of his rambling response, he actually envisioneda single-payer world in which laid-off claims adjusters would be hired by the Federal government.

Despite having just voted for the Ryan budget, which famously replaces Medicare with non-affordable vouchers, the Congressman stated that if Oregon's version of the program had been nationally adopted, Medicare would be self-sustaining.

When asked whether he would defund Planned Parenthood, Walden limited himself to saying "most of it," even though his choice for President, Mitt Romney, favors complete defunding.

Mr. Walden is a valiant advocate for veterans (along with Senators Wyden and Merkley). He relatedhow his "blood pressure spiked" when he discovered that the V.A. (due to a shortage of caseworkers) had delayed issuing housing vouchers for local homeless vets.

We ran a half hour over [the allotted] time; it was almost like catching up with an old friend. Unfortunately, we didn't get to the NDAA, immigration reform, labor rights, workplace safety, DOMA, and a host of other topics.

We may not be at the point where we can beat Walden in an election (although this year I believe his opponent may win a magical 40%), but it is SO important that he hear from us in the meantime. Without dialogue and interchange of ideas, we lose democratic wisdom and are likely to continue to stray along a path that leads to war and widespread economic misery.

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