In an interview preceding the president's State of the Union address Tuesday, two U.S. representatives from Obama's home state -- the fiery, unpredictable Tea Party-affiliated Republican Joe Walsh and the unabashedly progressive Democrat Jan Schakowsky -- exchanged jabs over the president's jobs record.
"When the president says a fair shake for everyone, it crystallizes his viewpoint which is he believes in an America where everybody's equal," Walsh said, in response to a question regarding Obama's statement that all Americans "must do their fair share."
"Where everyone achieves equal results. Where, to exaggerate, everyone makes $70,000 [per year]. If he says the word 'opportunity' tonight, 'equal opportunity' tonight, I'm going to smile and shake my head because this is a president who doesn't believe in equal opportunity," Walsh continued. "[Obama] believes in equal results and that is a mile away from a society that reveres equal opportunity, where people can succeed and become wealthy, where people can fail, where they can start businesses and they can fail."
In response, Schakowsky told WBEZ that the president has "laid out a blueprint for an America built to last."
"We see that the wealthiest Americans are actually getting the biggest share, almost all of the share of the growth in this country and we are, unfortunately, right now a downwardly mobile society. This has been going on for a long time because of an attack on the middle class," Schakowsky said.
When the topic of how regulations from agencies like the EPA came up, Walsh contended that the president "has spent three years giving speeches ... and regulating the heck out of businesses in every single industry in this country. ... He's no longer believable."
Schakowsky countered that Obama's policies have led to job growth in the private sector "with no help from the Republicans … They have said no, no and no to this president and the Democrats and that's why we're in this mess."
Later Tuesday, Walsh said "I just don't think [the president] is relevant anymore" in an interview on MSNBC.
Both Walsh and Schakowsky have attracted controversy from their opposing parties for statements they've made in the press and Tuesday was not the first time the two have argued over the president and other issues.
In July, the two faced off over the debt ceiling in an explosive interview on Fox Chicago, after which Schakowsky questioned whether Walsh was "kidding" or "crazy" when he suggested that the president lied about the threat of default, according to WBEZ.
In September, Schakowsky attracted conservative ire when she said, in an interview on WLS Chicago's Don Wade and Roma radio show, that Americans "don't deserve to keep all of [their money] and it's not a question of deserving because what government is, is those things that we decide to do together." The comments were blasted by Fox News, Andrew Breitbart's Big Government and other conservative blogs.
Walsh, meanwhile, is coming off a year of bizarre public relations hiccups, most notably his November meltdown at a meeting with constituents in Gurnee, Ill., where he screamed, "Don't blame the banks ... that pisses me off," in response to a question about the lack of regulations that contributed to banks being able to bet against their own customers. The confrontation, which Walsh blamed on an empty stomach, was the subject of an ad released by Democrat Tammy Duckworth, who will be challenging Walsh in the 8th District congressional race.
WATCH Schakowsky and Walsh debate the U.S. debt ceiling last summer:
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