I assume you’ve heard plenty about this story by now, but have you listened to the whole tape or read the transcript for yourself? You should check it out if you haven’t.
There’s lots of juicy stuff in here, but forget all the talk about baseball bats and provocateurs. The caller tries to bait Walker with these suggestions, but he doesn’t bite. He’s sucking up to the boss, so he doesn’t contradict him, but he does deflect the baseball bat line, and he explains his reasoning for not wanting to provoke the protesters:
My only fear would be if there’s a ruckus caused is that would scare the public into thinking maybe the governor has to settle to avoid all these problems. You know, whereas I’ve said, hey, we can handle this, people can protest, this is Madison, you know, full of the ’60s liberals. Let ’em protest. It’s not going to affect us. And as long as we go back to our homes and the majority of people are telling us we’re doing the right thing, let ’em protest all they want. So that’s my gut reaction. I think it’s actually good if they’re constant, they’re noisy, but they’re quiet, nothing happens. Sooner or later the media stops finding them interesting.
It’s not a ringing defense of the right to assemble, but it’s a plain statement that he doesn’t agree with sending in the troublemakers. Good for the Madison police chief who’s speaking up about this, but it’s not the main story- it’s a distraction.
One more distraction is at the very end of the call, where the fake Koch invites Walker to California to show him a good time, and lets it be known that he has vested interests in the outcome. It would be an ethics violation if Walker took him up on the trip, but it’s purely hypothetical. People are quoting Walker’s first few words after the “vested interests” comment, but in the context of his full response, they’re pretty much filler:
Murphy: [Laughs] Well, I tell you what, Scott: Once you crush these bastards I’ll fly you out to Cali (California) and really show you a good time.
Walker: All right, that would be outstanding. Thanks for all the support in helping us move the cause forward, and we appreciate it, and we’re doing it the just and right thing for the right reasons and it’s all about getting our freedoms back.
Murphy: Absolutely. And, you know, we have a little bit of a vested interest as well. [Laughs]
Walker: Well that’s just it, the bottom line is we’re gonna get the world moving here ’cause it’s the right thing to do.
Twice the fake Koch tries to bring it around to money or rewards, and twice Walker comes back by talking about doing it because it’s the right thing to do. Anyone who’s quoting the “Well, that’s just it” part out of context is lying to you.
So what’s worth paying attention to?
The good stuff is how he lays out the pressure tactics and trickery he’s got lined up. The discussion of national strategy will make a good opposition ad when he claims to have the state’s interests in mind.
Walker does solicit “Koch” to get “a message put out” for his supporters in swing areas, presumably in an election. Koch controls political funds that can’t legally be spent in coordination with candidates or parties. There could be a campaign finance violation here, but the language is probably too imprecise.
My favorite, however, is that Walker thinks the definitive moment of Reagan’s presidency was when he fired the air traffic controllers. This was apparently the first crack in the Berlin Wall. I kind of follow his logic, but no.
(Aside: Reagan didn’t defeat the Soviet Union. George Kennan did it in the embassy with a telegram.)
The whole thing is very interesting and very worth reading, both for the inside view of Walker’s strategy and for a demonstration of the poor quality of candidate the teabaggers can drum up. My sense is that Walker knows how to fight, but governing is completely beyond him. His administration will largely be a failure, but he could inflict a lot of damage on the way down if he’s not stopped.