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For someone who is supposedly so "unintimidated," Gov. Scott Walker sure needs a lot of time to make us his mind. His decision-making process on major issues is starting to resemble a Rube Goldberg machine. We need complex flow charts to understand the governor’s positions on a slew of important issues.
Maybe he’s been reading too much T.S. Eliot: "In a minute there is time for decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse." Except, I actually think he knows exactly where he stands on these issues; he just thinks it’s not politically helpful to say. And that’s worse. I suspect the plan is for the Legislature to be the lightning rod and take the arrows while Walker looks studiously non-controversial.
Now, Walker won’t say whether or not he would veto a "right-to-work law." The Legislature pulled that rabbit out of the hat right after the election. Walker told the media that right-to-work would be a "distraction." Democrats then said, well, end the distraction and say you would veto right-to-work legislation if it reaches your desk. That’s a fair challenge.
Walker responded, in the media, that the reason he won’t announce whether or not he would veto such a bill is because "the issue has not become a distraction, he contended."
Wait, what??? So, the governor is saying right-to-work is a distraction, but he won’t say whether he will veto it because it’s not yet a distraction. Um, OK … way to lead. Walker’s comments about right-to-work being a distraction ARE the distraction. And who cares if it’s a distraction if it’s the right thing to do. That’s what I want to know: Does Gov. Walker think this is the right thing to do? You can’t even argue in this one that Walker’s dodging it because he wants to maintain a strict economic emphasis. This one affects the economy.
For the record, I generally support right-to-work legislation. I don’t believe union membership should be compulsory, nor union dues either, especially since the money and support goes to organizations largely supporting one political side. If studies universally showed disastrous results occurring in other right-to-work states, that might be one thing, but they don’t – they are mixed at best. So I side with freedom, not forced membership.
Opponents argue that it’s unfair for employees to benefit from a union’s work if they don’t help pay for the union; frankly, I wish there could be a provision whereby workers who don’t belong to the union don’t get the union-negotiated benefits. (When I was a newspaper reporter, by the way, we weren’t forced to join the union. Other employees pressured us to do so, though. Weird, then, that the newspaper editorial board opposes right-to-work for everyone else.)
I do not, however, agree with Senate leader Scott Fitzgerald’s comments that he might try to exempt only some unions that support Republicans. That’s just wrong, and it provides an unseemly overlay that takes this one from the realm of principle into the world of political (similarly, I thought Act 10 should have applied to cops and firefighters too). I also don’t agree with rushing right-to-work legislation through. Give people time to weigh in this time. And I don’t like the fact, at all, that Republicans didn’t run on this in the last election and then sprang it on the public. Those are questions of process, but they are certainly troubling ones. So I support right-to-work, but not in the exact way they are going about it.
Back to Walker. It would be nice if the governor would articulate his position as clearly, and exert some leadership on this issue, and others, not give us perpetual "I’m running for president so I don’t want to engender controversy" gobbledygook. Weird coming from a guy who is branded as being impervious to controversy.
Such parsing gobbledygook has become a pattern, though. I don’t think this will matter much, when it comes to people’s support for Walker. As I’ve written before, Walker is so well defined in the public’s imagination as some stalwart and bold leader that he could announce he isn’t sure whether or not he supports the Green Bay Packers instead of the Bears and might make up his mind after a couple months of thinking about that, and people would say, "He’s so decisive!"
I expect clear answers from our leaders. I want them to tell us clearly where they stand on issues that matter and are transformative to our state.
Yet, we have seen this song-and-dance before.
Remember the governor’s incoherent stance on gay marriage? When a federal judge struck down Wisconsin’s gay marriage ban, the governor hemmed and hawed and was apparently the only person in the entire state who couldn’t formulate an opinion on this topic creating seismic changes in our state.
Instead, he said it "really doesn’t matter what I think now" and "I don’t comment on everything out there." Asked whether he was changing his position on gay marriage he told the media, "no. I’m just not stating one at all."
Then there’s the Kenosha casino. The governor has refused to make up his mind, and it’s costing state taxpayers a lot of money – money going to a Michigan law firm because, apparently, no Wisconsin firm is qualified to help the state research this endlessly researched matter.
In the past, he said he’d make decisions by dates that came and went. In October 2013, he told the media, "I could take a year to a year and a half on this. I’m not planning on doing that." Yes, that’s more than a year ago.
Meanwhile, Kenosha needs the jobs, and Menominee remains the state’s poorest county. According to Open Book Wisconsin, the website the state created to provide transparency in expenditures, the Michigan firm has received more than $1.2 million from April through October.
The Kenosha jobs would be unionized. Sheldon Adelson, whose support all wannabe GOP presidential candidates desire, has opposed the Hard Rock Seminole enterprise in Florida, where he wants to expand his casinos. The Menominee vote overwhelmingly Dem. The Potawatomi are perceived as Republican friends. So, I think the casino is already dead. I support the new casino, but I’d respect it more if Walker would stop the Michigan payments and just say no, than this.
And then there was the matter of the "secret router." Did Walker know about the secret router installed in the county executive’s office and that was used to circumvent open records’ laws? He’s refused to give a clear answer on that, too, pronouncing it "old news." And then there’s the muddled messaging on immigration. Although he’s now joined other states to sue Obama over this issue, he’s had to walk back comments before, such as when Politico reported in 2013 that Walker "supports a pathway to citizenship to illegal immigrants" causing Walker to run to Wisconsin media to proclaim that he actually hadn’t taken a position yet.
I actually think Walker opposes gay marriage and amnesty, wants to kill the Kenosha casino, and will NOT veto right-to-work legislation. Wish he’d just come out and say it. In the words of Machiavelli, "But they took that middle course which is pernicious in the extreme, when the question to be decided affects the fate of men."
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 Patch.com, Milwaukee Magazine, Wisconsin Public Radio, El Conquistador Latino newspaper, Investigation Discovery Channel, History Channel, WMCS 1290 AM, WTMJ 620 AM, and Wispolitics.com. 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 Milwaukee.com, 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.