U.S. Politics

The quiet, vicious racism of Scott Walker’s Wisconsin

The quiet, vicious racism of Scott Walker's Wisconsin

(Credit: AP/Mark J. Terrill)


Pity Scott Walker and the Republicans of Wisconsin. Here they have taken the time and energy to gain power partly by using racial dog whistles, and along comes a group of white nationalists to make the once-implicit coded language suddenly explicit. And it’s happening just as the political world turns its eyes to the state for today’s big primary. With a voter-ID law passed by the GOP-controlled legislature and signed by Walker and threatening to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of mostly minority voters in this election, the last thing the Koch brothers’ favorite governor wants is people who are going to say the quiet parts out loud.

Which is why Walker on Monday was condemning the robocalls from the American National Super PAC and its white nationalist founder William Johnson that have been flooding landlines in Wisconsin over the last few days. The call — narrated by an elderly woman in the soothing tones of your racist grandmother complaining over Sunday dinner about her new black neighbors — assures listeners that Trump “will respect all women and help preserve western civilization.” In the world of white nationalists, this is code for “Will keep the hordes of Latino immigrants and black welfare cheats from stealing your tax dollars and destroying America as you know it.”

As racist robocalls go, this was fairly mild, at least compared to Johnson’s efforts in earlier primaries. But it is worth noting that Walker’s upset, if only for the irony. After all, the lightning rod of a governor, a man so dull his idea of spicing up his food probably means pouring castor oil on it, built his power base in the state in the almost-exclusively-white suburbs of Milwaukee, one of the most racially polarized metropolitan areas of the country.

The New Republic took a deep dive into Walker’s world two years ago. What the magazine found was a city and its suburbs even more segregated than most, where the chairman of one county’s Republican Party could still refer to one mostly African-American neighborhood in Milwaukee, in 2014, as “the colored section.” Where white flight between 1960 and 2010 was so high it tripled the population of three formerly rural counties around Milwaukee, while the percentage of African-American residents in those three counties is under 2 percent. Where the black poverty rate within the city is the second-highest in the country.

This is the world that has coddled Walker as he traveled up through the ranks of the Republican Party. As a member of the state Assembly, the executive of Milwaukee County, and now governor, he has spent his entire career deeply slicing budgets for programs that benefit inner-city African-Americans, such as public transportation. He has also pushed for private-school vouchers that decimate public education and advocated for privatizing prisons, all while cutting taxes to ensure that funding levels for these civic outlays are unlikely to be restored anytime soon, if ever.

He has done all this in a climate of racial polarization fueled by talk-radio hosts like Charlie Sykes (whom Donald Trump, ironically, ran afoul of just last week). Local talk radio, according to the New Republic story, traffics in the same sorts of white resentment politics that have fueled the rise of national stars like Rush Limbaugh over the last thirty years. Talkers like Sykes (who regularly refers to Michelle Obama as “Mooch”) have grown rich spewing racial divisiveness. And one of their most regular guests, throughout his long career in Wisconsin politics, has been Scott Walker, who would verbally wink at Sykes’s listeners while talking about policies that would never harm the host’s mostly white audience.

Given this environment, why wouldn’t a white nationalist like William Johnson think he has found some fertile territory to shill for Donald Trump, who is basically one white bedsheet and pillowcase with eyeholes away from being a KKK Grand Wizard?

Yet Walker and some of his allies in the local media have rallied to condemn Trumpas a big-city know-nothing, a polarizing figure whom Sykes, in what surely will enter the pantheon of history’s least self-aware statements, complained is failing to adhere to Wisconsin’s “tradition of civility and decency.”

That this is all happening during the first election in which Wisconsin’s new voter-ID law is in effect only increases the irony. The law is part of the broader effort by Republicans both in Wisconsin and other states to limit the voting power of traditional Democratic constituencies. The Wisconsin law could disenfranchise as many as 300,000 mostly minority and student voters who want to cast votes today. Since this law is only possible because the Supreme Court eviscerated the Voting Rights Act, which was first passed to protect the voting rights of minorities, it is impossible to see it as a colorblind act that, as defenders of voter-ID laws so often tell us, is only here to protect against nonexistent voter fraud.

Of course it is unlikely that Walker and his allies see themselves as racists. But that does not change the racist effects of the laws they pass and the poison they spew at Milwaukee’s suburban commuters as they sit in traffic on a daily basis. Donald Trump has simply taken this inherent racism and brought it out into the open. In doing so, he has attracted the support of outright racists – excuse me, “white nationalists” – like William Johnson, and all of a sudden Wisconsin’s Republicans, like many party members nationwide, are doing their best impression of Captain Renault, proclaiming themselves shocked, SHOCKED to discover there is gambling going on here. Their act would be a lot more believable if they had not spent their careers advocating for a worldview that, stripped of the code words and dog whistles, is nearly indistinguishable from the one they now decry.

U.S. Politics

Republicans lied in Wisconsin: Here’s how you know the state’s voter ID law is a complete sham

Republicans lied in Wisconsin: Here's how you know the state's voter ID law is a complete sham

REUTERS/Yuri Gripas – RTR4NN60(Credit: Reuters)


No rule in politics is absolute, but, generally speaking, you’d be well served to keep this one in mind: If a politician is not willing to spend money on something they say they support, then their support is about as real as Santa Claus.

Unless you view politics as nothing more than an entertaining pastime for overeducated squares who weren’t cute enough to make it in Hollywood — i.e., you actually look forward to “nerd prom,” God help you — then the point of the whole endeavor is to get big things done.

And getting big things done not only requires money but, perhaps more importantly, requires conflict. This is often because someone’s going to have to pony up, I’ll admit. But that’s not always the case; and sometimes the rejection involves turning down money, too. (See: the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion.)

All of which is to say something that’s been said about politics countless times already, and will no doubt be said again and again and again: Talk is cheap. And cheap is something that public policy — if it’s good, at least — usually is not.

So when you read this report from Pro Publica’s Sarah Smith, what it should tell you, as if you didn’t know already, is that the legislature in Wisconsin couldn’t care less when it comes to improving its elections. Because that is not what its voter ID law is about:

On April 5, when voters cast ballots in Wisconsin’s Republican and Democratic primaries, the state’s controversial voter ID bill will face its biggest test since Governor Scott Walker signed it into law in 2011. For the first time in a major election, citizens will be required to show approved forms of identification in order to vote. The law mandates that the state run a public-service campaign “in conjunction with the first regularly scheduled primary and election” to educate voters on what forms of ID are acceptable.

But Wisconsin has failed to appropriate funds for the public education campaign. The result is that thousands of citizens may be turned away from the polls simply because they did not understand what form of identification they needed to vote.

Doesn’t look too good for those who argue that, contrary to Democrats’ claims, voter ID laws are not intended to suppress the Democratic vote, does it? Well, it gets worse.

Because this isn’t a case of bureaucratic miscommunication; this isn’t about the state government’s left hand not knowing what its right hand is doing. According to Smith’s reporting, the decision to provide a statewide education campaign with all of zero dollars was about as intentional-looking as it gets:

Wisconsin’s failure to fund these public-service ads comes after a clash between the Government Accountability Board, the nonpartisan agency responsible for producing voter education materials, and the Republican-controlled legislature. In October, the agency met with Republican State Senator Mary Lazich, who was a primary sponsor of the voter ID bill in 2011, to inquire after funding and received a tepid response.

The board told Lazich that it would need $300,000 to $500,000 from the state legislature to broadcast advertisements. The legislature had twice appropriated money for public information campaigns during the 2012 and 2014 election cycles, but the ads barely hit the airwaves before court injunctions delayed the law from going into effect.

According to Kevin Kennedy, the board’s director and general counsel, Lazich thanked the board for the information, but didn’t make any promises. Lazich did not respond to requests for comment from ProPublica.

It gets better (by which, again, I mean worse). Not only did Lazich essentially ghost the Government Accountability Board, but the board was unable to find some other ally in the legislature. Why? Because the legislature was in the process of destroying the board altogether:

After the meeting, the Government Accountability Board decided against making a formal funding request to the legislature, which had already introduced a bill to dismantle the agency.

“We weren’t sure we would have a receptive audience,” Kennedy told ProPublica.

Two days after the meeting, the Wisconsin Assembly voted to replace the nonpartisan board with two partisan agencies by the end of June 2016. Since 2012, Republicans have attacked the board after it investigated, among other things, whether Governor Walker coordinated with outside political groups during the recount battle that gripped the state. Judicial orders stalled the investigation, and the board eventually took itself out of the probe. Walker, cleared of wrongdoing, survived the scandal.

The whole thing is so shameless and tawdry, you could be forgiven for wanting to simply shake your head and think about something else. And if you did, you’d simply be following the state legislature’s lead.

After all, it’s not like there’s a problem, here — at least as far as they see it. With anywhere between 200,000 to 350,000 Wisconsin citizens potentially facing disenfranchisement, according to Smith’s report, the voter ID law is on pace to work exactly as intended. Not in word, but deed.

U.S. Politics

Fiscal Conservative Scott Walker Begs For Help Paying Off Million Dollar Failed Campaign Debt

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker | AP Photo/Morry Gash


Conservatives who were once asked to give money to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s doomed-from-the-start presidential campaign are now being asked to give money to pay off the massively expensive failure. The governor who prides himself on being “fiscally conservative” (except with his rich friends) penned a humiliating email to his supporters saying he was over a million dollars in debt after running for president briefly.

“As things changed dramatically in the presidential race, ‘Walker for America’ incurred a campaign debt and it is my hope that you and all of our supporters will chip in and make an online contribution of $10, $35, $50, $100, $250, or more so we can end this campaign in the black,” Walker wrote. “It is a lot to ask, I know, but we feel personally obligated to make sure that every small business that extended us their good faith and credit is repaid.”

While it is not uncommon for presidential candidates to drop out with lots of unpaid bills, Walker’s “blink and you miss it” campaign run spent an astonishing amount of money for a guy who had almost no chance of ever winning. He spent the $7.4 million with reckless abandon and even then barely made a dent in the polls. He was spending $90,000 a day to get people to like him and convinced absolutely no one. Impressive.

When he dropped out, his donors moved on. Walker moved on as well – or came back home with his tail between his legs, rather.

“While we are disappointed, there are always new ways to serve others and plenty of conservative reforms to enact in Wisconsin,” Walker wrote according to the Journal Sentinel. “For a kid who grew up in small-town America, whose family didn’t have a lot of money, the opportunity to run for president of the United States is an experience I will never forget.”

It’s probably not a great feeling to know that your campaign donations to Walker were little more than to give the kid from “small-town America” an experience. It may explain why his former supporters have been reluctant to help get him out of debt. Why throw good money out with the bad?

Walker’s is just the latest in a series of examples that suggest many Republican candidates aren’t in it to win it, but rather promote themselves, their books, their radio programs, and stoke their egos.

Mike Huckabee, for example, runs each and every election cycle as a long-con meant to secure endorsement deals and boost the ratings of his radio show. He knows as well as anyone that he has no shot of winning, but he does profit for his time in the spotlight. And we’ve documented the way Sen. Ted Cruz organizes his campaign like a massive pyramid scheme, using his campaign cash to buy his own book to game the best-seller list then selling it back to his own gullible supporters at a massive mark-up. It’s no wonder that many people – Democrats and Republicans alike – get the sense that this current gaggle of conservative clowns running for president are the most unserious group of candidates in United States history.

If Walker’s supporters had any sense they wouldn’t give him a dime. Let him sweat it out and hope that his own financial ruin serves as a lesson to those Republican grifters who seem to think something as important as the United States presidency is an opportunity to try out their latest get-rich-quick scheme. Walker should pay back his duped followers, but it shouldn’t be with the money of other duped followers. He should take his calls for personal fiscal responsibility to heart and fork over the money himself.

U.S. Politics

2 DOWN, 14 TO GO

U.S. Politics

Republican Obamacare replacement plans: A gift to the wealthy, a hit to the poor. As usual.

U.S. Republican presidential candidate and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker waves a U.S. one dollar bill as he formally announces his campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination during a kickoff rally in Waukesha, Wisconsin, July 13, 2015.   R
attribution: REUTERS


For people who’ve been paying attention, it pretty much goes without saying that the healthcare “reform” proposals by Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Scott Walker would hurt the poor and help the wealthy. That’s what they do, they’re Republicans. But not everyone has been paying attention, and not everyone is aware of how much Obamacare has actually done to level the economic playing field, at least in health care. So it’s definitely worth taking a look at what repealing that law would mean, and the New York Times’s Margot Sanger-Katz did just that.

One of Obamacare’s main effects has been to redistribute income. The law taxes wages, health insurance and medical devices, and raises insurance prices for wealthy, healthy people. It uses the money to subsidize insurance for people who are poor or whose health history made them poor insurance risks in the old system. As my colleague Kevin Quealy and I wrote last year, the law has had the effect of pushing back against income inequality. In addition to lowering the cost of buying insurance, federal dollars also reduce the out-of-pocket costs that low-income Americans now pay when they use those plans. […]Governor Walker’s plan appears to be less generous for many poor Americans. It would roll back the Medicaid expansion that has provided free insurance to low-income adults. It would distribute tax credits to those with private coverage on the basis of age, not income. […] [F]or people without a lot to spend on insurance, a comprehensive health plan may slip back out of reach. For others, an affordable plan might be so bare-bones that it wouldn’t kick in before a major health catastrophe.

Wealthier people, on the other hand, could fare better under this plan, as long as they’re healthy. They would get more federal money to buy insurance plans, and they would have the choice of buying cheaper, less comprehensive plans than those offered under Obamacare rules.

The Rubio plan, less detailed than Walker’s since it’s just an op-ed rather than a white paper, would do the same—provide some sort of tax credit for health insurance. But what it would also do is sweep away everything existing in Obamacare—all of the regulations that help keep prices down for the not-rich. That includes ending lifetime caps for how much insurance companies will pay out to keep you covered, or the provision that lets adult children stay on family plans up to age 26, or requiring all plans provide for preventive care services without any additional copays from patients. All of these things help keep healthcare costs down. The idea of getting rid of it all, as Sanger-Katz explains it, is that “[w]ithout all the rules, and without as many sick people in the system, insurance would be expected to become less expensive, and perhaps more inventive.” The problem is that we’ve tried that already, in the pre-Obamacare system. It didn’t work.

When you factor the massive cuts all Republican plans would make to Medicaid and the inevitable cuts that Medicare would experience once privatized (in Rubio’s plan and the Republican House budget), the hit to low- and moderate-income people is even bigger. That’s a feature, not a bug, in these Republican plans. Because, after all, there’s always the emergency room for those people.

U.S. Politics

Scott Walker Gets Punk’d At New Hampshire Campaign Event (PHOTO)



Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) is no stranger to blunders on his presidential campaign trail.

First, it was Philly — where he made some serious cheesesteak gaffes. On Monday, the candidate got punk’d by a man who appeared to be holding a sign supporting Walker — until he flipped it around.

A reporter at The Guardian got the photo:


Those behind the trick were Tyler McFarland, 23, and Giselle Hart, 20, who wanted to talk to Walker about climate change, according to The Washington Post.

Walker attended an event this weekend, hosted by the conservative brothers Charles and David Koch, where many conservative voters were expected to give $1 billion to campaigns.

But Walker’s bad day didn’t stop there. As the governor took questions from the press outside the event, a man, described by The Washington Post, as wearing a blacktop hat and carrying a white flower, approached Walker with a sign that read, “How can we make the world better.”

Several staffers stood in front of the man, the Post reported, but he eventually jumped on a rock and screamed, “Scott Walker will do anything to get elected! Because that’s what politicians do!”


U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: July 3, 2015

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File


1. BP agrees to $18.7 settlement for Gulf oil spill
BP has agreed to pay $18.7 billion to settle all claims against it in connection with the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, officials saidThursday. The settlement, which still must be approved by a federal judge, would be the largest environmental settlement ever. States and cities along the Gulf Coast have said the spill chased off tourists and fish, and cost them a fortune in taxes. The payments would include $5.5 billion under the Clean Water Act, $7.1 billion for environmental harm, $5 billion to the states, and $1 billion to local governments.

Source: The New York Times

2. Ex-Senator Jim Webb of Virginia launches bid for Democratic presidential nomination
Former Virginia Senator Jim Webb announced Thursday that he wouldrun for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. Webb is a former Republican who served as secretary of the navy under Ronald Reagan. He offers voters a more conservative option to Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, who has appealed to liberals since launching her second bid for the White House in April. Webb has an uphill battle ahead, as he lacks the former secretary of state’s name recognition.

Source: The Washington Post

3. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker takes step toward entering presidential race
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Thursday took the first step toward officially joining the 2016 presidential race by filing papers with the Federal Election Commission. Walker is expected to formallyannounce his candidacy for the Republican nomination on July 13 with a speech in his hometown of Waukesha, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee. Walker, who won over many conservatives by taking on unions in his state, led a 16-candidate GOP pack in the latest Quinnipiac poll in Iowa.

Source: CBS News

4. Aetna to buy Humana for $37 billion
Health insurer Aetna said Friday that it would buy smaller rival Humana for $37 billion in the insurance industry’s biggest deal ever. Antitrust regulators will have to review how the acquisition would affect competition. If the deal goes through, the combined company will have about $115 billion and 33 million members, nearly as many as No. 2 carrier Anthem. The deal could be the start of a wave of consolidation that was on hold before last week’s Supreme Court ruling upholding ObamaCare subsidies nationwide.

Source: Reuters

5. Thousands evacuated after train carrying toxic chemicals derails in Tennessee
Five thousand people in Tennessee were ordered to evacuate their homes on Thursday after a CSX train carrying toxic chemicals partly derailed outside of Knoxville. Fifty-two people sought treatment at local hospitals; 25 of them were admitted. The train was carrying acrylonitrile, which authorities said was a “highly flammable and toxic gas.” The crash ignited a fire, which firefighters rushed to extinguish so 30 mph winds would not cause the blaze to spread.

Source: NBC News

6. Alleged terrorist mastermind killed by U.S. airstrike in Tunisia 
U.S. officials said Thursday that Tunisia’s most wanted jihadist — Seifallah Ben Hassine, also known as Abu Ayadh — was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Libya last month. The strike targeted another al Qaeda leader. Ben Hassine’s death, if confirmed, would mark a major success for Tunisia, which has been battling insurgents in its western border region. Last Friday militants massacred 38 people, most of them British, in an attack on a beach resort. Ben Hassine was suspected of masterminding several terrorist attacks and assassinations.

Source: The New York Times

7. Navy Yard report of gunman proves to be a false alarm
A shooting scare at the Washington Navy Yard ended Thursday with no shots fired. D.C. police and federal law enforcement agents swarmed the facility. They were already on alert for terrorist threats ahead of the Fourth of July weekend. The Navy Yard and the surrounding area were closed for three hours, but investigators found no evidence of a gunman. Authorities said the search was a good test of lessons learned in a 2013 massacre at the Navy Yard.

Source: The Washington Times

8. ISIS militants destroy ancient statues in Syria
Islamic State militants smashed artifacts from the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, the Islamist group said in a statement posted on social media sites Thursday. ISIS militants captured a man smuggling at least six ancient statues through Aleppo province and took him to a self-proclaimed Islamic court in the ISIS-controlled city of Manbij. The court ruled the relics violated ISIS’ interpretation of Islam. Militants then destroyed them with sledgehammers, and publicly lashed the smuggler.

Source: CNN

9. Van carrying fireworks explodes, closing freeway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas
A van filled with fireworks exploded Thursday in California five miles from the Nevada state line, shutting down a freeway connecting Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The Chevrolet box van caught fire on the shoulder of the highway. “The fireworks were exploding inside,” San Bernardino County Fire Department spokeswoman Tracey Martinez said. “The truck burned to the ground.” Southbound traffic was stopped for an hour as firefighters tried to extinguish the blaze. It was not immediately clear whether the fireworks were legal.

Source: Los Angeles Times

10. Washington woman dies of measles in first death from the disease since 2003
U.S. health officials revealed Thursday that a Washington woman recently died of measles — the first death from the disease in the U.S. since 2003. Measles is highly contagious, but it is extremely rare for a patient to die from it. Officials did not immediately say whether the woman had been vaccinated, although they said her immune system was compromised due to medications she was taking. Over the last year, measles cases have soared to an all-time high of 644 since the U.S. was declared to be measles-free in 2000.

Source: The Associated Press

Harold Maass

U.S. Politics

“Scott Walker, Please Come Home” says Major Wisconsin Editorial

Gov. Scott Walker speaks during the North Carolina Republican Party convention in Raleigh, N.C., earlier this month | Associated Press


The headline just says it all. Things are so bad here in the Legislature that the newspaper is begging Scott Walker to come home, if only for a short time.This isn’t from The Onion, but from the most highly read Wisconsin newspaper, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. One that has endorsed Scott Walker, tends to ignore his bad news, and prints his talking points like Gospel.

But here in Wisconsin, the budget he proposed last winter is foundering, and not because of Democratic opposition but because his Republican colleagues can’t come to terms. Last week, Republican leaders were sniping at each other over whether Assembly Republicans wanted to delaythe reconstruction of the Zoo Interchange to build pressure for increasing the gas tax or vehicle registration fees.The impasse is apparently over how to pay for the transportation budget and how to finance a deal for a new arena in downtown Milwaukee. These are big issues, and they deserve Walker’s attention. In addition, as an editorial on Friday on this page noted, there are a host of items in the budget that simply shouldn’t be there. Mainly, they’re non-budget items sneaked into the budget with little discussion or public input, a practice that candidate Walker decried in 2010. In an informal Journal Sentinel poll last week, readers overwhelmingly were giving the Legislature an F grade on its handling of the budget.

(bolding is mine)I’ve also written about the mayhem that Republican Legislators brought to the budget process while Walker has been out campaigning (unannounced) for President. And, in an editorial last week, the newspapers’ editorial staff seemed to agree.

But there’s another problem with this budget: It’s so full of non-budget dead weight that it’s kind of amazing it doesn’t just sink of its own accord.On their own, many of these items are worthy of discussion and may be even worthy of passage. But most are policy matters that have little or nothing to do with the state’s fiscal books. They deserve full and separate consideration — including public hearings and a healthy public debate — before they become law. Instead, they’ve been quietly inserted into the budget, often in the wee hours, to avoid public scrutiny. Citizens should demand they be removed from the budget; legislators should have the decency to do so.

(bolding is mine)

It’s bad enough that Walker has not only completely flip flopped on his 2010 campaign promise to not use the budget for non-budgetary items, but crammed his policy agenda into each and every budget (starting with busting the unions of all public employees in Wisconsin in his infamous Budget Repair Bill).  Now Republican Legislators have followed Walkers’ lead inserting every item on their policy wish list into the budget this year.

For example, in 2010, Gov. Scott Walker’s  campaign website proclaimed he would “Strip policy and pork projects from the state budget. The budget process should be about funding essential government services based on the taxpayers’ ability to pay. It should not be about horse trading for special interest groups or establishing talking points for the next campaign.”The governor was right then, but his office turned its back on that sound good government philosophy by loading up this budget with policy items, including items on education, long-term health care and natural resources. And then the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee got into the act.

Walker has found it to be a great strategy for getting policy items passed since there are so many of them that most go unnoticed in an 1800 page budget. And even those that do get noticed, like his recent attempt to change the mission statement of our State University system, are only occasionally removed when lame excuses (“the University requested the change” – lie) and placing blame elsewhere (“it was a drafting error” – lie) don’t work. The rest simply pass right on through with no debate and no discussion.

Loading up the budget with non-budgetary items is no way to run a government. Walker acknowledged that in 2010.

Yes, he acknowledged that in his campaign. By now, however, we know that Walker says one thing during a campaign and then does something else after he’s elected;  and this should serve as a warning to Republican primary voters. He doesn’t keep his promises.What you get with Walker is government by surprise. Well, not so much “governing” either. It become more like imperial “ruling” than governing. Using his elected office to repay donors and batter real or imagined enemies.

Walker has serious problems back home which have worsened with him away. WEDC, his “job creation agency” is awash in corruption, the budget has turned into a carnival side show, and Republicans, who dominate the State Legislature, are bickering like toddlers over who gets to toss more goodies into the State Budget.

As terrible as Scott Walker has been as Governor of Wisconsin, his absence has created a leadership vacuum that far too many Republicans are fighting to fill. And that chaos is being noticed.

In the Sunday editiorial, they’ve finally remembered Walkers’ campaign pledge last year that he “only wants to be Governor”.

When he was running for re-election last year, he told a group of Journal Sentinel opinion writers and reporters that he really wanted to be Wisconsin’s governor, and that he would act as such in his second term. He would actually govern. I don’t think he’s doing that; and that’s certainly the perception of many in the public, who think he’s running for president full-time. Maybe he’s working behind the scenes, but if he is, it’s so far back that no one knows he’s there.

Walker wants the Presidency so badly that he’s not even pretending to be Governor anymore. And when your media pals and supporters notice that, it isn’t good.Your media pals need you so come on back home, Governor. Fluffing you up is hard enough already considering how much damage you’ve done to the state. And the current evident corruption and mayhem make your media poodles have to work even harder.


GOP Presidential Candidates 2016

Republican “Survivor”: A Proposal for Culling the G.O.P. Field

Voters (and viewers) can’t be expected to take fifteen or twenty Republican primary candidates seriously.
Voters (and viewers) can’t be expected to take fifteen or twenty Republican primary candidates seriously. CREDIT PHOTOGRAPH BY ANDREW HARRER/BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY


A couple of weeks ago, I was driving along the Belt Parkway, listening to Sean Hannity’s radio show, when the right-wing commentator said something that surprised me about the ever-expanding field of Republican primary candidates. This is getting ridiculous, Hannity complained—how are they all supposed to fit on the same stage for a debate?

Hannity’s fears have proved to be well grounded. On Wednesday, the former senator Rick Santorum, who had been the runner-up to Mitt Romney in the 2012 G.O.P. primary, announced his candidacy. On Thursday, it will be the turn of George Pataki, the former governor of New York. Who knows whom Friday will bring? Lindsey Graham? Rick Perry? Donald Trump? Herman (999) Cain? Ted Nugent?

Here, in alphabetical order, are the eight Republican candidates who, by Thursday, will be officially running: Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Pataki, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Santorum. Then there are Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, two front-runners who have all but announced that they are in. Currently in the “exploratory” stage, we have Graham, Trump, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, and the benighted Chris Christie. That makes fifteen, with other outlying possibilities, too.

The number turns out to be too high for Roger Ailes, Hannity’s boss at Fox News. The network (along with Facebook) is set to host the first televised G.O.P. debate, in Cleveland, on August 6th, and it has said that it intends to limit participation to the top ten candidates in the polls, plus those who are tied. “It was a difficult call based on political necessity,” Howard Kurtz, the veteran media reporter, who now works for Fox, explained in a post on Tuesday. “With 17 or 18 Republicans gearing up to run, you simply can’t have a viable debate with all of them. Each candidate would receive a miniscule amount of time. No sustained questioning would be possible. And it would be bad television.”

Not everyone associated with the Republican Party is happy about Fox’s decision. Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Wednesday, Bill Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, accused Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, of colluding with Fox to cull the field prematurely. “There are fourteen candidates who are serious people,” Kristol said (doubtless prompting a protest call from Trump). “I think they all deserve to be on the stage.” He proposed that they have two debates, with the candidates split up randomly. “Republicans would be interested. They wouldn’t turn off the TV halfway through.”

Kristol raises a good point. If Fox applied its proposed criteria on the basis of current polling data collated by Real Clear Politics, Santorum, who won eleven state primaries in 2012, would barely make the cut. Fiorina, the only female candidate, who has reportedly impressed Republican audiences in Iowa and New Hampshire, would miss out. So would Graham, Jindal, and Kasich, all experienced elected officials. That doesn’t seem fair, or even particularly democratic. So what to do?

The G.O.P. needs a procedure that affords all of the candidates an opportunity to impress while also acknowledging that voters (and viewers) can’t be expected to take all fifteen or twenty candidates seriously. One solution might be to turn the early stages of the G.O.P. primary into a version of “Survivor,” the long-running reality-television series.

Here’s how it could work. Following Kristol’s suggestion, Fox and Facebook would hold two debates on August 6th, with the candidates drawing lots to decide whether they appeared on the first or the second one. Each would receive the same amount of airtime, and the questions in the two debates would be broadly similar.

For the second debate, which CNN is scheduled to host from the Reagan Library, in Simi Valley, on September 16th, things would be different. A limit of twelve candidates would be imposed. Rather than follow the “Survivor” template literally, and have the candidates themselves decide who gets to appear at the debate and who doesn’t, it would be best to rely on surveys of likely Republican voters. The top dozen candidates in the poll of polls on September 9th, a week before the debate, would make the cut; everybody else would miss out. I’d leave it to the network executives and the R.N.C. to decide whether this debate would need to be split in two, like the first one. (CNN has suggested an alternative format for its event, using the full slate of candidates, in which the top ten candidates appear in one debate and the rest in another.)

The winnowing process wouldn’t end there. For the third debate, which will take place in October, there would be another cut, to ten candidates, with the poll of polls again deciding who is invited. And for the fourth debate, in November, there would be a final cut, to eight candidates.

By that stage, the G.O.P.’s Iowa caucus would be on the horizon—it’s now slated for February 2nd, but may well move up a bit—and the field might be starting to narrow of its own accord, regardless. But for now, and for the next few months, there are too many candidates, and some way of treating them equitably needs to be found.

My solution perhaps isn’t the best. Quite probably, it would favor candidates who have raised enough money to launch advertising campaigns and boost their poll numbers—but the current system does that anyway. Another possible objection is that focussing attention on the minor players would blur the message of the front-runners. I doubt that would happen. Bush, Rubio, and Walker would still get the bulk of the media’s attention.

On the upside, shifting to the “Survivor” model would afford everyone an opportunity, and it would inject a bit of excitement into the race early on. Over to you, Reince!

John Cassidy

2016 Hopefuls · Gov. Scott Walker

Scott Walker: Mandatory Ultrasounds Are ‘Just A Cool Thing’ For Women

AP Photo / Gerald Herbert

Such an uninformed clown…


During the interview with conservative radio host Dana Loesch, Walker defended a bill he’d signed in 2013 that required women get the ultrasounds.

“The thing about that, the media tried to make that sound like that was a crazy idea,” Walker said. “Most people I talk to, whether they’re pro-life or not, I find people all the time who’ll get out their iPhone and show me a picture of their grandkids’ ultrasound and how excited they are, so that’s a lovely thing. I think about my sons who are 19 and 20, and we still have their first ultrasounds. It’s just a cool thing out there.”

He also lauded the bill’s effects.

“We just knew if we signed that law, if we provided the information, that more people if they saw that unborn child would make a decision to protect and keep the life of that unborn child,” Walker said.

Listen to the audio below, from Right Wing Watch:


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