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Clowns to the left of him ... jokers to the right

As is the case with most things these days, the blame for the kerfuffle, the hubbub, the brouhaha, the uproar, the contretemps, the tempest in a teapot, the mountain in a molehill, the snafu, the oopsie, the embroglio, ... the mess that Greg Walden found himself caught up in last week can be placed squarely on one culprit.


Yep, because of you, Jackson County's representative in the U.S. House became an overnight media sensation this week with comments on CNN critical of President Barack Obama's budget proposal — specifically that those seniors lucky enough not to get wheeled before the Death Panels are going to get less money for scratch tickets and Canada mints.

Or something like that.

The Washington Post suddenly declared him "the most important person in the budget debate," even though, the Post said, Walden isn't known by many people outside (or inside) the nation's capitol.

Not so, you know him ... which is why it's particularly surprising, stunning eve, to find our man in Washington of a kerfluffle, etc., of your making.

The New York Times, never one to miss a chance to clarify confusion at The Washington Post, helped out by identifying the Republican from Hood River as "the first member of the House to contract swine flu in 2009."

Suddenly, Greg Walden found himself sitting next to Philip Nolan in the middle of an ocean of blowback, as media types of all stripes competed to be his Edward Everett Hale.

Good ol' "Morning Joe" Scarborough over at MSNBC said that Walden's comments should be condemned by the leaders of the GOP; the White House called his comments "flagrantly ridiculous and cynical"; The Daily Beast called for Walden to face a primary challenger; and the conservative Club for Growth went so far as to call him "… horrors! "… a "liberal" who, among other things, "voted against blocking taxpayer subsidies for Viagra."

All that's left, after Walden was taken to the woodshed by House Speaker John Boehner, is to see whether this electile dysfunction lasts for more than four hours or just peters out.

Rep. Walden, by the way, was right in noting that the president's proposals on Social Security will have a negative financial impact on seniors — although, why does whether he was correct matter, when The Daily Beast is nipping at your heels?

What to do? What to do? Perhaps Walden, who doubled-down in an interview with the Mail Tribune, might consider placing a call not toa spin doctor ... but to Ali Razeghi.



Ali Razeghi "… the Iranian would-be scientist who purportedly has invented a time machine the size of a tablet computer that can "predict five to eight years of the future life of any individual, with 98 percent accuracy."

Fire up that baby — perhaps using the free WiFi at the Ashland Plaza — and Rep. Walden would have known better than to spend Wednesday afternoon talking to Wolf (I Finished With Minus-$4,600 on "Celebrity Jeopardy") Blitzer.

But enough about Greg Walden. Let's talk about you.

"No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public," H.L. Mencken wrote. (Or maybe not: some folks say Mencken actually said "taste" instead of "intelligence," but either works.) Whichever he said, it's a truism confirmed once again by your representative's 15 minutes of infamy.

For, you see, this is indeed your fault.

If Rep. Walden — heretofore quietly toiling in Congress on such unexciting matters as policymaking — had simply stated the technical truth that seniors would be receiving Social Security checks at a slower rate or growth, it never would have made the news.

By calling it a "shocking attack on seniors," however, Walden walked headfirst into a whirlwind that sent everyone scurrying for the immediate reactions and sound bites and commentaries only the Internet and 24-hour news networks can provide.

Why? Because, if there's one thing information providers have learned over the past decade, it's that the American people by and large (here's where you come in) have abdicated their ability (or desire) to think.

When President Obama's "brain-mapping" endeavor gets going, maybe it can rediscover how to reboot the neural pathways.

Look around you. Why else would the city of Medford contemplate spending a quarter of a million dollars on a disaster preparedness position that would ensure that our $50,000 bus station doorway doesn't fall down during an earthquake?

Why else would Ashlanders already be asking where the "beauty" can be found in the barely completed redesign of the Plaza brought about by the city beautification committee? Why bother burying that time capsule, when not only will it be dug up in 2113 as the city reconfigures the Plaza to someone else's idea of "beauty" ... but when in truth it should have been buried empty to signify the inability of Ashlanders to agree on anything.

And, most importantly, why have you allowed politicians and media manipulators to convince the middle class and the poor to look at each other as the cause for the nation's budget woes — while at the same time defending the "right" of the rich to remain above the fray.

We get the information we deserve, force-fed by those who don't want you looking behind the curtain. The details have long since stopped being the story; heck, the story itself has long since stopped being the story.

What registers wins and losses these days is what the persuaders can convince you that you see once those problematic facts and figures are stuffed into the pockets of the emperor's new clothes.

"If you're the one doing the pointin'," Todd Snyder reminds us, "nobody's looking at you."

So, as everyone with an agenda points at Greg Walden this week, stop surfing the Web, take your eyes off the TV and your ears off the radio and ask yourself why he's in the middle of this ... and how you helped put him there.

Mail Tribune news editor Robert Galvin can be reached at rgalvin@mailtribune.com.