Jack Ohman

Charming politician who’d take health care from 24 million people

Rep. Greg Walden, a warm and amusing Republican, has led efforts to repeal Obamacare. Walden and his wife lost a baby due to a congenital heart defect in 1994, which caused Walden to step away from politics for a time. Now he’s the lead guy on “repeal and replace.”
Rep. Greg Walden, a warm and amusing Republican, has led efforts to repeal Obamacare. Walden and his wife lost a baby due to a congenital heart defect in 1994, which caused Walden to step away from politics for a time. Now he’s the lead guy on “repeal and replace.” The Associated Press

Rep. Greg Walden, chairman of the House Energy Committee, is a very nice man.

When I lived in Oregon and drew cartoons for the paper in Portland, one thing you could get anyone to agree on in Oregon politics was that Walden was really nice.

Talented, too. Amusing. Warm. Charming. Low key. He has a beautiful, dulcet radio voice, which he used to great effect as the owner of a radio station in Hood River.

One time we were speaking at an event in Portland, and he outperformed me. I told him he outperformed me. He smiled warmly and did his best stentorian radio announcer voice impression, to great comedic effect. So likable and nice.

We met, I believe, in 1992 when he was an Oregon state legislator. He had been lining up to run for governor. But he and his wife had lost a baby due to a terrible congenital heart defect in 1994. The state mourned with him. He stepped away from politics. Too much strain. I got it.

Walden returned in 1998 and was elected to Congress. He remained affable and hard-working. Some Republicans muttered he was too liberal. He was a little, you know, thoughtful on some issues, and he cared about people.

In every election cycle after that, political types in Oregon figured Walden would run for governor. He never did, and Oregon has slipped from red to purple to now blue.

Walden rose to become chairman of the National Republican Campaign Committee, the guy who decided where and how to spend House GOP money to elect more Republicans.

House Speaker John Boehner loved the guy. Who didn’t? Never loud or strident, Walden was such a nice guy. Everybody said so, including me.

When President Barack Obama got the Affordable Health Care Act passed, Walden spent time trying to dismantle it. When Donald Trump was running for president, Walden, the nice guy, would say that he was disgusted by this remark or that action, but he gamely stuck with Trump.

Now he’s the lead guy on “repeal and replace.” People credit Walden with coming up with the phrase. He worked it for seven years.

Now that Walden, the very warm and kind man, has gotten this hollow mockery of a bill out of the House and it heads to the Senate, where, I am sure, other nice men and women will take up the cause. Warm. Funny.

And 24 million Americans, many of them also warm, funny and amusing, stand to have their health care taken away.

I’ve decided Walden isn’t so nice after all. Sorry, Greg. The amusing announcer guy voice won’t cut it now.

But maybe he can use that funny voice to cheer up someone whose family member died because he helped cut their insurance. Or maybe they’ve got cancer, or a terrible congenital heart defect, and they’re just, well, sorry. Use the voice. I’m sure they’ll find it amusing.

Jack Ohman: 916-321-1911, @JACKOHMAN

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