Freedl, David, Er, Newsweek
Byline: david Freedlander
He attacked Obama--and infuriated conservatives.
If you harbor any doubt about the power of words, just take a look at Greg Walden. Last week the eight-term Republican congressman from Oregon went on CNN and accused Barack Obama of "trying to balance this budget on the backs of seniors"--a reference to the president's proposed cuts to Social Security. Walden--who recently became chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, meaning he will oversee the GOP's effort to hold on to the House in 2014--was effectively attacking Obama from the left. And soon enough, conservatives were attacking him.
The Club for Growth, which punishes any Republicans who stray from its small-government orthodoxy, threatened a primary challenge. "We always knew Greg Walden had a liberal record, but he really cemented it with his public opposition to even modest entitlement reform," said the group's president, Chris Chocola. Asked about the rogue congressman at a press conference, House Speaker John Boehner replied, "I've made it clear that I disagree with what Chairman Walden said"--and added for good measure, "We'll leave it at that."
The sudden infamy was a big change for Walden, who prior to last week was not a household name in Washington. The congressman hails from the sprawling flatlands east of Portland, where he routinely garners wins by margins of 30 points or more--something Oregonians attribute to his relentless travel around the eastern part of the state. "People in that part of the world, they want you to take your time to talk with them, and Greg will travel to these small towns and stay until he has heard from everyone," says Greg Leo, executive director of the Oregon GOP, adding that Walden is one of the most gifted public speakers in state politics. …