By Jessica McBride Special to Published Jan 26, 2015 at 4:26 PM Photography:

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Jim Doyle has vanished from the public stage (he’s supposed to be teaching this spring at UW-Madison), but has he really disappeared? Doyle is like a political Forrest Gump, popping up in each and every scene of importance.

It would be fun to be a fly on the wall in Doyle’s class on "the politics of state policy issues." I’m curious what he thinks about the fact that Scott Walker blames him for everything. Pretty soon, Walker will blame Doyle for his bald spot.

Yes, I know that was a low blow. The kitchen cabinet did that. But Scott Walker is simply obsessed with blaming Doyle, like how some liberals ridiculously blame George W. Bush for everything when people criticize Obama – such as prematurely withdrawing the troops from Iraq. It’s supposedly Bush’s fault that the ruthless ISIS filled the vacuum because Bush invaded Iraq in the first place. Which is true, except that Obama needs to own the ramifications of his own policy choices now. After all, Bush is painting bathtub scenes in Crawford, and Obama’s onto his second term. Really, it’s joint blame, but blaming Bush for ISIS is skipping a key step, as if Obama did nothing himself in two terms capable of affecting the equation.

Jim Doyle’s political ghost is similarly hovering over the Walker narrative. He is the Ghost of Politics Past intruding into the present.

Remember the gubernatorial debate? Even Doyle’s hair (or lack thereof) received air time. Doyle was mentioned so many times that it was clear that Walker preferred to make Doyle the proxy candidate for the record and accomplishment lacking Mary Burke. Walker mentioned "Jim Doyle" more than he mentioned taxes and pensions, which is saying a lot (I don’t really know that for sure. I didn’t count. It’s just hyperbole. But let’s just say that he name-dropped Doyle a lot).

Dare to criticize Walker for ringing up a massive projected budget deficit? People will just say, "Doyle did it" and point out that Walker inherited a bigger budget deficit from Doyle. Which is true, except Walker did lots of stuff since then that also affected the equation.

And now it’s supposed to be Doyle’s fault that Walker turned down thousands of jobs in Kenosha.

It’s almost making me miss Janet Reno ("the buck stops here"). Tammy Baldwin is too, by the way. Instead of letting go and allegedly trying to silence a staffer, she should explain what she knew when on the VA opioid scandal and take some responsibility. The "buck doesn't stop here" seems to be an increasing trend among Wisconsin politicians. Does anyone own their own decisions anymore?

I find the proxy Doyle war completely disingenuous. However, it works. On comment thread after comment thread, people gave Walker a pass for giving up all those jobs (and the profit-sharing revenue) from a Kenosha casino by repeating over and over again, "It’s Doyle’s fault."

I’m surprised that Walker hasn’t found a way to blame Doyle yet for the "secret router" or the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa (actually, Walker just said it was John Chisholm's fault). 

What’s next? It will be Doyle’s fault when Walker slashes the UW budget because Walker inherited Doyle’s big budget shortfall. But, hey, Walker’s been elected three times in four years, as he keeps reminding us, and Doyle is about as politically relevant today as Bill Proxmire. Walker has made policy decisions that created the current landscape, and I think he needs to own them. I’d respect him more if he would.

Let’s deal with the casino. As everyone knows, Walker killed the plans for a Hard Rock casino in Kenosha. With it went thousands of jobs but also the millions the Menominee had promised to pay Wisconsin taxpayers in annual revenue. I think it’s fairly obvious that this is not a decision that will "save the taxpayers money," but Walker painted it that way (although it would have saved the taxpayers money paid to that Michigan law firm if he’d just said no a year ago).

Lots of people bought the argument that the fact Kenosha won’t now get these jobs is "Doyle’s fault."

There is a kernel of truth to this. Doyle’s compact with the Potawatomi was ridiculous because it contained a no-compete clause that said the Potawatomi would be reimbursed if a competitor casino was built within 50 miles. What was Doyle thinking? He held all of the cards and created a monopoly for a single tribe. Walker is right: The Doyle compact provisions were a problem. There’s a reason they called him "Diamond Jim." Doyle’s compact was bad.

But then it became Walker’s bag to hold. It’s utterly disingenuous for the governor to claim he had to kill all of these jobs because Wisconsin might be on the hook for millions. That’s because the federal government rejected an amendment from an arbitrator, saying that Wisconsin wouldn’t be on the hook for it after all. True, the Potawatomi sued. But the Menominee entered into a compact this month guaranteeing that if the Potawatomi succeeded in overturning the federal decision, the Menominee would pay the state back for any losses incurred.

So Walker rejected millions of dollars and thousands of jobs because he was worried the state might have to pay money the Menominee had already guaranteed THEY would pay if for some remote reason the Potawatomi prevailed in overturning the federal decision (and the Menominee were willing to put up bonding to prove it). How dumb does he think we are?

Pretty dumb. Because people just hear things like "Doyle did it," and they believe it. I don’t know for sure why Walker killed the casino, although I can speculate. I just know that he’s not dumb enough to kill an economic venture based on a reason so flimsy and unlikely. Walker has more chance of being president than Wisconsin had of paying millions to the Potawatomi.

I hope Walker didn’t kill the casino because those Iowa social conservatives demanded he do so if he wants to be president. Hope he didn’t kill it because Sheldon Adelson has been an opponent of the Hard Rock Seminole casino operations in Florida in the past, and Walker wants his support and money to be president. Hope he didn’t kill it because the Pots are Republican friends, and the Menominee vote Dem.

I just know the reason he gave for killing it made no sense.

It was Jim Doyle’s fault? No, it wasn’t. If Doyle made a bad compact (and he did), Walker had the power to get out of it. He should have treated the Potawatomi like he would treat a union boss. They wanted to hijack the state economy to force a monopoly and withhold money because they said the state was violating the compact? Fine, but a new compact won’t have blackjack tables, then. There was a myriad of ways around this.

I want the governor to do what is best for the Wisconsin economy, and I think this casino was best for the Wisconsin economy (including the impoverished Menominee).

But even if it wasn’t, Jim Doyle didn’t do it. Stop blaming Jim Doyle for everything. It’s getting old. These are Walker’s decisions now, and he needs to own them.

Jessica McBride Special to

Jessica McBride spent a decade as an investigative, crime, and general assignment reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and is a former City Hall reporter/current columnist for the Waukesha Freeman.

She is the recipient of national and state journalism awards in topics that include short feature writing, investigative journalism, spot news reporting, magazine writing, blogging, web journalism, column writing, and background/interpretive reporting. McBride, a senior journalism lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, has taught journalism courses since 2000.

Her journalistic and opinion work has also appeared in broadcast, newspaper, magazine, and online formats, including, Milwaukee Magazine, Wisconsin Public Radio, El Conquistador Latino newspaper, Investigation Discovery Channel, History Channel, WMCS 1290 AM, WTMJ 620 AM, and She is the recipient of the 2008 UWM Alumni Foundation teaching excellence award for academic staff for her work in media diversity and innovative media formats and is the co-founder of Media, the UWM journalism department's award-winning online news site. McBride comes from a long-time Milwaukee journalism family. Her grandparents, Raymond and Marian McBride, were reporters for the Milwaukee Journal and Milwaukee Sentinel.

Her opinions reflect her own not the institution where she works.