By Dave Begel Contributing Writer Published Jan 31, 2013 at 4:37 PM

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.

Dave Begel Contributing Writer

With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.

He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.

This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.

Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.