Barry Saunders

Saunders: If this was a joke about starting a war with Mexico, who's laughing?

Sorry, Scott, but your boss didn’t sound as though he were joking about attacking Mexico.

Even if he were joking, though, it wasn’t even the most ridiculous thing he said that night.

Candidate Mark Walker, employing the old “you-didn’t-think-I-was-really-serious-ha-ha?” strategy, sought to distance himself from recently excavated comments he made in June about starting a war with Mexico.

Like you, I cringed, then laughed – or was it laughed, then cringed? – upon hearing the national media poke fun at a North Carolina Congressional candidate who said he is open to war with Mexico. The more one listens to Walker’s comments and sees that some people actually endorse them, though, the less funny the comments seem.

While speaking to a few dozen people attending the 6th Congressional District Candidates Forum at Rockingham Community College’s student center, Walker sounded as serious as a fighter jet firing missiles at little-bitty children seeking a better life in America. Now that’s serious.

For the record, that’s Rockingham County where he made those comments, not Rockingham the city – two different places geographically and, I pray, philosophically, judging from the support shown Walker’s comments.

Scott Luginbill, Walker’s deputy campaign manager, insisted when I spoke with him Monday that Walker was only kidding and that the news media, abetted by Walker’s Democratic opponent, are taking his comments out of context.

“I beg of you, go look at the tape for yourself. It was not in any way” an expression of Walker’s “foreign policy doctrine,” Luginbill said.

“The room is laughing. ... When he said ‘laser blitz somebody’ – not laser or blitz – he was meaning it kind of humorously to point out the severity of the issue. There was general laughter in the room. ... It was kind of a jovial moment, but it was meant to underline the severity of the humanitarian crisis down there” involving “narco-traffickers, drug cartels – they seem to be more in control of our borders than our border control agents.

‘Not endorsing war’

Luginbill added, “In the context of the question, it does not mean the country” should be attacked.

“It means narco-traffickers, people who are smuggling drugs, terrorists, human beings in the sex trade. ... In no way was that statement an authentic, comprehensive policy statement. Mark is not endorsing war with Mexico, and to insinuate that in any way is kind of ridiculous.”

In the primary election, Walker defeated fellow Republican Phil Berger Jr., who didn’t attend the forum in question. It’s clear why: He didn’t want to be called a liberal, as he would’ve been when compared to Walker.

Heck, Jesse Helms might be considered a liberal next to Walker, since I could find no evidence of Jesse voicing a willingness to attack Mexico as a way of securing our borders.

Oy. Walker will face Democrat Laura Fjeld for the 6th Congressional seat in November. The district runs along North Carolina’s northern border from Surry to Granville counties and includes parts of Orange and Durham counties.

To secure our southern borders from “ ‘ forners’ sneaking in with drug cartels,” Walker, a Baptist minister, said in response to a question, “if we gotta go laser or blitz somebody with a couple of fighter jets for a little while to make our point, I don’t have a problem with that, either.”

The moderator then said: “I hope you wouldn’t have any qualms about starting up a little war with Mexico.”

“Well, we did it before,” Walker said. “If we need to do it again, I don’t have a qualm about it.”

WWWJD? What Weapon Would Jesus Drop, eh, Mark?

Luginbill’s interpretation of the room’s mood differs from mine. There was no laughter, only supportive applause, when Walker spoke of lasering or blitzing a country to keep narco-terrorists out. Yes, when he said he’d have no qualms about starting a war with Mexico, some audience members and he laughed, but it was a nervous, sardonic laughter – not a “You so crazy to even suggest that” laugh.

Even more absurd than Walker’s Mexico comment, though, was his statement that a billion Muslims are running around beheading “infidels.”

One audience member lamented that the number of Muslims in America “has doubled” since 9/11 and asked Walker if the attitude of American Muslims is a threat to America.

“Absolutely. ... You know what the No. 1 name now is in Great Britain? ... Muhammed. And that’s where they’re headed, this way. ... I respect George W. Bush and some of the things he did, but I would beg to differ that Islam is a religion of peace, because you can’t have a religion of peace when you’ve got nearly a billion” – that’s with a “b” – “people chopping off heads all over the country.”

That received applause, too.

Double oy.

“So, then,” another audience member asked, “you’re against any form of Sharia law being implemented anywhere in the United States?”

“Absolutely. ... Good question.”

It was?

A highlight of watching Walker work his magic was when he boasted of his willingness to oppose his own party’s leadership.

“If you’re already there before you get there,” he said, “it makes me wonder how far you’re going to go once you arrive.”

Walker then stepped back from the podium with the self-satisfied look Patrick Henry must’ve had upon first declaiming “Give me liberty or give me death,” or JFK had after urging the nation to “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

It’s conceivable that Walker’s quote, which elicited rapturous applause in which he basked, will one day take its place with those and other hallowed political proclamations.

First, though, someone needs to figure out just what the heck it means.

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