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Monday, April 04, 2022

OPINION CHARLES M. BLOW - Herschel Walker, the Worst Candidate, Trump-Approved

Herschel Walker, the Worst Candidate, Trump-Approved

Audra Melton for The New York Times

“Let’s just be blunt. No one, and I mean not one person, would seriously believe that Herschel Walker, the former football star and current leading contender for the Republican Senate nomination in Georgia, was at the top of his class at the University of Georgia.

Yet Walker has claimed just that for years, saying multiple times that he graduated in the top 1 percent of his class.

As CNN reported Friday, Walker never graduated from college. He left to play professional football. Furthermore, according to CNN: “A profile of Walker from 1982 in The Christian-Science Monitor and an article in The New York Times said he maintained a B average at the school. Walker himself told The Chicago Tribune in 1985 he maintained a 3.0 before his grades dropped.”

But wait, that wasn’t the only problematic boast Walker made about his grades.

In his 2008 book about suffering from dissociative identity disorder, Walker says that he grew up as a “fat kid” who stuttered (twin “sins” in his judgment), that his teachers looked through him as if he hadn’t been there and that the older children ridiculed him as “stupid.”

But, Walker wrote: “If I’m proud of anything I did in my high school career, it’s what I did in the classroom that I reflect on and relish the most. I did more than just shed the ‘stupid’ label placed on me as a result of my speech impediment. I shed it, erased it and rewrote it with the titles: Beta Club president and class valedictorian.”

CNN’s KFile reviewed Walker’s high school yearbooks and coverage of him in local newspapers at the time and could find no evidence to support the claim that he was a high school valedictorian.

No one wants to be insensitive about a speech impediment or any other disorder, but exaggerating is exaggerating, and lying is lying. It goes to the character of the man much more than any physical or psychological condition.

His consistent record of inflating his academic credentials isn’t the only thing to suggest that he’s highly problematic.

He has also been accused by his ex-wife of making multiple threats against her life. In 2005 she secured an order of protection against him.

As The Associated Press reported: “When his book was released, she told ABC News that at one point during their marriage, her husband pointed a pistol at her head and said, ‘I’m going to blow your f’ing brains out.’ She filed for divorce in 2001, citing ‘physically abusive and extremely threatening behavior.’”

Now, after months of not seriously challenging Walker, some Georgia Republicans are waking up to the reality that they may have made a grave mistake and that he is likely to lose if he advances to the general election.

And they have only Donald Trump to blame. Walker’s campaign was all Trump’s doing and at Trump’s urging.

Raphael Warnock became the first Black senator in Georgia’s history, as well as the first popularly elected Black Democratic senator from the South, because of Black voters, who voted him into office just one day before rioters stormed the Capitol. In fact, Black voters were the majority of the coalition that elected him, according to exit polls — the first time that was the case for any Black senator.

The results of Warnock’s race, along with Jon Ossoff’s simultaneous runoff election, tipped the balance of the Senate and sent shock waves through Georgia’s political establishment.

Within months, state Republicans were speculating about Walker challenging Warnock in 2022.

As The Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote last summer about what then was still a potential run by Walker: “Herschel Walker hasn’t lived in Georgia for decades. He’s never held public office, doesn’t attend the sort of Republican events that are mainstays on the political calendar and has bypassed the backslapping fund-raising circuit that helps decide winners and losers in the state’s premier races.”

But none of those obstacles got in the way. Trump weighed in last March, writing in a statement: “Wouldn’t it be fantastic if the legendary Herschel Walker ran for the United States Senate in Georgia?” The statement continued, “He would be unstoppable, just like he was when he played for the Georgia Bulldogs, and in the N.F.L. He is also a GREAT person. Run Herschel, run!”

Trump kept up the pressure. He told the “The Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show” in June that Walker had told him he was going to run, and Trump thought he would. The former president said, “I had dinner with him a week ago. He’s a great guy. He’s a patriot. He’s a very loyal person.”

But why? Why Walker? Sure, he was an old Trump friend and ally, but he wasn’t a politician and hadn’t publicly expressed a desire to become one.

Well, there were a few reasons, all of them part of a callous racial calculus, one in which Trump is well trained. First and foremost, Walker is Black. To many in the G.O.P., his race blunts the idea that Republicans are appealing to racists, relieves the pressure on Trump supporters for supporting a racist and gives them a shot at winning more of Georgia’s Black voters.

Walker could be a tool and a weapon. But no weapon — at least not this weapon — formed by Trump shall prosper.

Charles M. Blow joined The Times in 1994 and became an Opinion columnist in 2008. He is also a television commentator and writes often about politics, social justice and vulnerable communities. @CharlesMBlow  Facebook

Politics, public opinion and social justice“

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