I have known Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker since he was a young state legislator. We used to talk a good deal about our differing views on how to reform things: campaign finance rules, ethics regulations, social-welfare programs.
We seldom reached agreement. But I gave him credit for respecting the search for common ground. And for understanding that a disagreement on a particular matter is never an excuse for ending the search—or for disregarding others who are engaged in it.
But that was long ago. Scott Walker has changed a great deal—and not, I fear, for the better.
He is deep into a political career that has seen plenty of ups and downs; and, now, he is grasping for a top rung on the ladder: the Republican nomination for the presidency in 2016.
On Thursday, at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Walker was asked how he would respond to ISIS, and the “radical Islamic terrorism” he had condemned in his speech to the group. Walker told the crowd: “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the globe.”
That was an unsettling statement. Even conservative commentators who are inclined to praise Walker acknowledged that it was “a terrible response.” National Review’s Jim Geraghty explained that “taking on a bunch of protesters is not comparably difficult to taking on a Caliphate with sympathizers and terrorists around the globe, and saying so suggests Walker doesn’t quite understand the complexity of the challenge from ISIS and its allied groups.”
Former Texas governor Rick Perry, who knows a thing or two about making mistakes on the campaign trail, said, “I think, you know, some of the statements that he’s made are obviously problematic for him.”
“You are talking about, in the case of ISIS, people who are beheading individuals and committing heinous crimes, who are the face of evil,” Perry continued. “To try to make the relationship between them and the unions is inappropriate.”
Walker is “walking back” as quickly as he can, and griping once more that the media will “misconstrue” his message. Unfortunately, this is not the first time he has suggested that his “experience” with Wisconsinites who disagreed with his assault on workers and public education and public services has somehow prepared him to stand strong on the global stage.