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Why Herschel Walker’s fumble on energy policy matters

After boasting about his qualifications, the Georgia Republican tried to talk about energy policy. He failed spectacularly.


There was a debate on Saturday night for the six Republicans running for the U.S. Senate in Georgia, featuring five candidates and an empty podium. Former athlete Herschel Walker, of course, was the only contender who refused to show up.

The GOP frontrunner was, however, willing to appear on Fox News the next morning — Walker wasn’t asked why he won’t debate his intra-party rivals — where the first-time candidate with no background in elected office boasted that he’s “one of the people that’s more qualified than anyone to run” for the Senate.

Host Maria Bartiromo certainly offered the Republican an opportunity to prove his qualifications, asking what’s changed since Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock won his Senate seat early last year. Walker rambled a bit before sharing these insights with viewers:

“We have got an administration that is — that they’re not leaders. They’re almost — they’re waiting to — they’re more reactive, rather than proactive. And what I mean by that is, one of the first thing they did — and I think people need to know this — is they decided that they were going to give up our energy. By him going out giving up our energy, and now we’re not energy-independent anymore, which started the whole downfall.”

As my MSNBC colleague Ja’han Jones put it, Walker “delivered a meandering response that was detached from reality and syntax.”

In this case, Walker was likely told about partisan talking points referring to “energy independence,” which led him to believe U.S. officials “gave up our energy.” That’s wrong and nonsensical. In reality, the United States is still a net energy exporter. That was true before President Joe Biden took office, and it’s still true now.

A New York Times report recently added, “The country became a net exporter of petroleum in 2020, the first time since at least 1949. That remained the case in 2021. It became a net exporter of natural gas in 2018 and remains so today, with exports reaching record levels in 2021.”

There’s little to suggest Walker understands any of this.

Several years ago, I saw a BBC reality show called, “Faking It.” The premise of the program was straightforward: Regular people with no meaningful experience in a given field would take a crash course in a profession that is not their own. Coaches would quickly try to help contestants master difficult tasks, and then try to fool a panel of experts. The contestants would often do surprisingly well.

In Georgia’s Senate race, part of the problem is that Walker isn’t faking it well. When tested, the political rookie has shown he hasn’t yet reached the point at which he can pretend to be competent.

To be sure, many of the issues plaguing Walker’s Senate candidacy have nothing to do with what he’s said. Circling back to our earlier coverage, it’s become obvious, for example, that the Georgia Republican knows effectively nothing about public affairs. Voters have also learned about allegations of domestic violence and other dangerous personal behavior. His failures as a businessman have also been well documented. He hasn’t even told the truth about his educational background.

But his rhetoric certainly hasn’t helped.

Late last year, the first-time candidate tried to argue that the late-Rep. John Lewis was a senator who’d oppose the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. We learned soon after that Walker had falsely claimed the FDA had approved an unproven “dry mist” mystery treatment for Covid-19. The Republican then said it was “totally unfair“ to ask for his opinion about the bipartisan infrastructure law.

Last month, Walker suggested the existence of apes calls evolutionary biology into question and seemed to argue that in-vitro fertilization doesn’t work “because there has to be a God.”

There’s a reason the Georgian’s campaign team has tried to limit the retired football player’s public appearances and kept Walker “largely behind closed doors.”

The fact remains, however, that the political rookie might very well win anyway. Despite his confusion and lack of preparation, Walker has received the enthusiastic backing of Republican Party leaders, including Donald Trump and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

What’s more, the latest Emerson College Polling/The Hill poll, released last week, showed Walker leading Warnock, 49 percent to 45 percent.

In the BBC show I used to watch, those who struggled to fake competence failed their challenge. In American politics, those who fail to fake competence sometimes get to become powerful federal policymakers.