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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Sept. 19, 2014

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In Milwaukee Buzz Commentary

Sen. Ron Johnson made news during Senate hearings recently.

Recent news masks our civility


If you ask people in Wisconsin what people here are like, you will probably get a fairly simple answer.

Despite some of our political differences, we are basically a pretty civilized people. We work hard. We enjoy great recreation. Families are important to us. We care about educating our young and caring for our elderly. We like music and the arts. We love good food and an occasional beer.

That's the kind of image that we'd like to send to the rest of the world. All those groups that are determined to promote Wisconsin's image follow pretty much along those lines.

But it is also possible, lately, that the image of Wisconsin is that we are a state full of wackos. It may not be permanent, but we might be embarrassed for a little while.

For example, in the last several months three of Wisconsin's brightest lights have been featured on CNN.

Most recent is the appearance of our cowboy sheriff, David A. Clarke, who discussed his very public radio call for people to get guns to protect themselves from the "wolf at the door" because law enforcement might not be able to get there on time.

Clarke had people shaking their heads, as much about the way he said it as about what he said. It's as if the director of this radio spot told Clarke to "sound like Stallone or Arnold, make it sound real menacing." Just the tone of his voice gives you chills.

Right before Clarke we had the laughable display by our Sen. Ron Johnson, during the Senate hearing that featured questions about Benghazi and the grilling of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who has more experience and knowledge of world affairs in her little finger than Johnson has in his entire body.

At one point, under relentless grilling by Johnson, Clinton put him in his place. Johnson was wrapped up in the typical minutiae that characterizes the not-so-loyal opposition. He kept badgering her about the initial reports of the attack.

"With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans," Clinton responded, raising her voice at Johnson, who continued to interrupt her.

"Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk last night who decided to kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator."

Johnson responded after the hearing by covering himself in glory by claiming she was too emotional to answer the question.

"I'm not sure she had rehearsed for that type of question ... I think she just decided before she was going to describe emotionally the four dead Americans, the heroes and use that as her trump card to get out of the questions," Johnson said to BuzzFeed after the Senate hearing. "It was a good way of getting out of really having to respond to me."

And the third block in this wacko ward is State Sen. Glenn Grothman who issued a formal press release claiming that Kwanzaa was not a real holiday.

I have a friend named Bob Geline who lives in New York and I checked with him on the reaction to our trio of talkers.

"The sometimes jaw-dropping remarks of some Wisconsin politicians are regrettable, but I don't think that they do lasting damage to the state's image," a Geline, a Wisconsin native, Emmy-winning broadcast business journalist and media coach who has lived in New York for the past 40 years.

"If outlandish statements really mattered, no state in the union would be safe. I don't think anyone who's thinking seriously about locating a business or expanding in Wisconsin, moving there for a job, going to school or taking a vacation is going to change their decision based on what some yahoo of the political right or left said yesterday."

He may well be right that the impression left by these national media appearances doesn't do any permanent harm, but I think it at least causes some temporary embarrassment.

Talkbacks

fetlarpo | Feb. 1, 2013 at 6:41 p.m. (report)

It would be nice to see other points of view other than the usual reheated left overs.

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RadioRetaliation | Feb. 1, 2013 at 12:32 p.m. (report)

Well said Dave. Ron Johnson is way in over his head.

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dasfix | Feb. 1, 2013 at 12:21 p.m. (report)

Dave, do you see the comments below your article? You say people are civil around these parts."Devidia" is clearly a rational minded person. And Dave, because Sen. Johnson's opinion doesn't coincide with yours he is a "Wako"? You sir, are trying to supress oposition opinion with your public pulpit. You do not look at both sides of the argument, nor do you give any rational response that offers a solution. You are not a journalist in any way, shape or form. You name call. Fine, are a fat, angry, bad eye browed, liar. Does that make my comments more or less valid? In reference to the line of questioning and towards Sec Clinton, so if someone dies we look for a cause of death (aka autopsy), this hearing was a public autopsy of the situation that occured where 4 people died. Sec. Clinton asked "what difference does it make how/why they died"? Well, how do you figure out how to prevent death without looing at how and why someone died? IF I subscribed to her train of thought I would just say I'm against death and we should stop death without understanding how death occurs. Doesn't that sound like a "wako"? That's just insane to accept that as an answer, let a lone idolize the person who says this.

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AndrewJ | Feb. 1, 2013 at 9:02 a.m. (report)

@mikeb: No. He'd be writing an article about how Condi Rice should be run out on a rail, aghast that American lives were lost and the response is a ridiculous "What does it matter at this point?" I'm sorry... what does it matter?? I can't think of a worse response. A man was executed and dragged through the streets. How can it NOT matter? I guess we shouldn't expect anything less from Hillary. I mean, how much did her good friend Vince Foster matter?

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CoolerKing | Feb. 1, 2013 at 7:19 a.m. (report)

During his election campaign, the press asked Johnson what his plans would be if he was elected. And he responded that he wasn't going to play that game because the press would criticize him. Well, what ARE his plans? I can't think of anything substantial he's done since being elected...except for this.

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