In Madison, the governor gets buffaloed
MILWAUKEE So it turns out I'm not the only person in Wisconsin without caller ID.
Then again, I never get any calls from Buffalo bloggers pretending to be one of my billionaire sugar daddies. Unlike our brand-new governor.
Brand-new, and already famous. And already infamous.
It takes a certain kind of talent to go, in just a few short days, from unknown to superstar to dupe to punch line. But that's Scott Walker. Our Scott.
We're so proud.
You've no doubt heard by now of the famous phone call. You've probably even heard some of the juicy parts -- such an amazing mix of preening and sucking up and playing tough. It's Scott the Tactician and Scott the True Believer and Scott the Transformative Historical Figure, all wrapped up in one highly self-satisfied package.
"This is our moment," Scott tells the man he thinks is David Koch, the mega-wealthy industrialist and promoter of conservative causes -- and conservative candidates who toe the line. Scott looks in the mirror in the governor's office and he sees Ronald Reagan, the Ronald Reagan who won the Cold War by firing the air-traffic controllers. (Don't ask.)
"This is our moment," says Scott.
The Titanic had a moment, too. Moments aren't always good for you. But they can be oh-so-helpful to the rest of us. So clarifying.
Lots of folks seized on the evidence that, the governor's frequent public protestations to the contrary, this fight about "the budget" isn't really a fight about "the budget" at all. It's a fight about the unions. The governor wants to get rid of them. Hobble them first, and then get rid of them.
But for me? My snippet to savor came when Fake Koch told Real Scott that he'd been thinking about supporting the governor's union-busting efforts by "planting some troublemakers" among the demonstrators. Up to that point, the protesters -- tens of thousands a day -- had been remarkably well-behaved. (Think "Cairo at the Capitol.")
The governor's caller was offering to fix all that. And the governor's reply?
"You know, the, well, the only problem with that -- because we thought about that. The problem -- the, my only gut reaction to that is right now the lawmakers I've talked to have just completely had it with them, the public is not really fond of this. The teachers union did some polling of focus groups, I think, and found out that the public turned on 'em the minute they closed school down for a couple days. The guys we've got left are largely from out of state, and I keep dismissing it in all my press conferences saying, 'Eh, they're mostly from out of state.' My only fear would be is if there was a ruckus caused is that that would scare the public into thinking maybe the governor has gotta settle to avoid all these problems..."
Lots of words in there, yes? But here are a few you never heard:
"That could get innocent people hurt." Or...
"That would be deceptive." Or...
"That would be dishonest." Or...
"That would be unethical." Or even that old standby...
"It would be wrong."
No sign of those. The reason Scott Walker nixed the "troublemakers" -- the "only" reason, as he said himself -- was his concern that if it went too far, if it caused a "ruckus," it might scare the public and force him to settle for something less than the unions' unconditional surrender.
But any words of concern for the potential victims of this ginned-up "ruckus"? Nope. Any sense that his moral moorings might come loose by approving this kind of dirty trick? Nope.
Maybe he was concerned. Maybe deep down inside, he did feel the twinge of moral compromise. But you couldn't expect Scott Walker to say such things right out loud, could you? To the billionaire who writes all those checks?
Not even to the imitation billionaire.
That's our Scott.
Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at email@example.com.