The past week offered Scott Walker some great opportunities to demonstrate that he could be something other than the divisive and self-centered person we’ve come to know and loathe. But boy, did he miss those chances by a mile. There is no comparison between the graceful, gracious, and humane man who is our President and the wrecking ball who allegedly governs the State of Wisconsin.
— Early last week, Mr. Walker signed two bills expanding so-called “gun rights,” not quietly, behind closed doors, but in a ceremony at the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office with Sheriff David Clarke, Rep. Van Wanggaard, Rep. Joel Kleefisch, and several others in attendance. He held a brief press conference afterwards. One bill repealed Wisconsin’s 48-hour waiting period for gun purchases; the second bill permits off-duty, retired, or out-of-state law enforcement officers to carry guns in schools. Both the timing and the location of the signing ceremony demonstrate Walker’s inability to think about anything other than his own needs.
First the timing: Walker’s statement was classic: “If we had pulled back on this, I think it would give people the erroneous opinion that what we signed into law today had anything to do with what happened in Charleston.” The massacre of nine people in Charleston took place on June 17; Walker’s signing ceremony was just one week later. It seems to me that the easy availability of guns in this country did have something to do with what happened in Charleston; apparently that did not occur to Mr. Walker. He did not even have the good sense to wait until all the victims had been buried to sign the bills.
Second, the location: Milwaukee is currently beset by one of its worst periods of gun violence in years, if not the worst. Sheriff Clarke has told people they should arm themselves. Choosing Sheriff Clarke’s office in Milwaukee County for the signing ceremony is almost a recommendation that people should go out to get their guns now to prepare for gun violence. Per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett called the repeal of the waiting period an act of hypocrisy. [He] said that if the governor and lawmakers really cared about gun safety, they would focus on applying instantaneous background checks to private gun sales in addition to licensed sellers. ‘What they’re interested in doing is currying favor with the NRA,’ Barrett said at a news conference. ‘And bragging about how they have made it easier for people in this state to carry guns.'”
Mayor Barrett is absolutely correct.
–The Supreme Court this week upheld Obamacare subsidies in a 6-3 ruling. Rather than accept the ruling of the Court, Scott Walker continued his attack on the ACA, declaring that “Republicans in the House and Senate must redouble their efforts to repeal and replace this destructive and costly law.” He then aired the usual falsehoods about Obamacare failing people, dramatic fee and premium increases, and people being unable to see their doctors. And on Sunday, Mr. Walker said in an interview with Hugh Hewitt that if necessary, he would “absolutely” “urge [his] Republican colleagues” to limit filibusters by Democrats in order “to repeal Obamacare root and branch.” Heaven forbid, after all, that the 183,000 Wisconsinites who receive coverage through the exchange should continue to get that health care insurance!
–The Supreme Court also declared this week that same-sex couples have the same right to marry as their opposite-sex couple counterparts, because marriage is a fundamental right.
In response, Scott Walker declared, “I believe this Supreme Court decision is a grave mistake. Five unelected judges have taken it upon themselves to redefine the institution of marriage, … .” Walker opined that the country needed a conservative president[sic] “who will appoint men and women to the Court who will faithfully interpret the Constitution and laws of our land without injecting their own political agendas (emphasis supplied)” and called for a constitutional amendment to reaffirm the ability of states to define marriage.
This is both a graceless and an ill-informed response. Once again, Mr. Walker has dismissed, apparently without empathy, the concerns of millions of Americans who have not heretofore been permitted to marry because they love someone of the same sex. He has also shown contempt for the division of powers of our government. These “five unelected judges” were granted their power by Article III, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, which provides in part, “The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, ….” The justices of the Supreme Court have the responsibility to interpret laws, regardless of whether Mr. Walker likes the outcome or not. (We have not heard anyone complaining before about the “five unelected judges,” have we, no matter how many 5-4 decisions there have been. Citizens United was a decision favorable to Mr. Walker; no complaints there, were there? I’d also note that Mr. Walker completely missed the irony of calling for a non-partisan judiciary, considering his recent appointment of conservative darling Rebecca Bradley to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.) The amendment process is quite cumbersome as well, and unlikely to succeed for an issue that is becoming less and less troublesome for the majority of Americans.
–Finally, WEDC was in the news again, and not in a favorable light. Last week’s document dump revealed that WEDC failed to review formally 27 awards totalling $124 million. Mr. Walker’s response? The agency “didn’t cut corners.” “Obviously there’s been a few cases where they weren’t as highly effective as we’d like,” Walker said at a news conference Wednesday. The agency, said Walker, “did a review by staff, just not the traditional staff review” of the awards in question.
A better response would have been for Mr. Walker to acknowledge, “Yes, we really did a lousy job. We should have had genuine economic development people in charge of WEDC from the beginning, instead of amateurs who were political acolytes. And now we are really, honestly, truly going to get a professional in charge, and won’t let political decisions rule the day.”
But that would be taking responsibility, which Mr. Walker never does.