President Obama sat down yesterday with NPR’s Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep, and not surprisingly, the discussion focused on the preliminary international agreement with Iran. Inskeep noted the political environment surrounding the debate, including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) vow to destroy the global framework if elected.
The host asked, “If you conclude a deal and Congress has not formalized it, will that, as a practical matter, be within the power of the next president to withdraw from the deal on day one?” Here’s the president’s entire reply:
“Keep in mind, Steve, that there is long precedent for a whole host of international agreements in which there’s not a formal treaty ratified by Congress, by the Senate, in fact, the majority of agreements that we enter into around the world of that nature, including those in which we make sure that our men and women in uniform, when they’re overseas, aren’t subject to the criminal jurisdiction of those countries.“And, you know, I am confident that any president who gets elected will be knowledgeable enough about foreign policy and knowledgeable enough about the traditions and precedents of presidential power that they won’t start calling to question the capacity of the executive branch of the United States to enter into agreements with other countries.“If that starts being questioned, that’s going to be a problem for our friends and that’s going to embolden our enemies. And it would be a foolish approach to take, and, you know, perhaps Mr. Walker, after he’s taken some time to bone up on foreign policy, will feel the same way.”
The substance is clearly on the president’s side. The Wisconsin governor’s posture is an ignorant mess, and if Walker is able to get up to speed on the basics, the Republican candidate might even realize how ridiculous his recent rhetoric has been.
Walker responded with the predictable palaver about Obama’s “failed leadership,” and this morning’s statement made no effort to walk back the bizarre position the governor tried to articulate last week. Indeed, the Wisconsin Republican still seems to believe he can improve the United States’ “standing in the world” by thumbing his nose at America’s allies and abandoning international agreements negotiated in part by American diplomats.
But from a purely electoral perspective, I also found it interesting to see the president reference Walker by name – again.
Remember, it was less than a month ago when the Obama White House raised eyebrows by challenging the Wisconsin governor’s policy agenda directly.
President Obama took a direct swipe at Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, a Republican and likely presidential candidate in 2016, for signing a so-called right-to-work bill that will limit the power of private-sector unions.The jab by Mr. Obama, in a statement emailed from his office on Monday evening, had the effect of elevating Mr. Walker’s decision to sign the bill, which has been highlighted as an example of the governor’s tacking further to the right ahead of a presidential campaign.
Less than a month later, the president was comfortable mocking Walker, by name, for his child-like understanding of international affairs.
It’s may just be a coincidence – in yesterday’s case, the NPR host did reference the governor in his question – but it will be interesting to see how, and to what degree, the White House delicately weighs in on the 2016 race. I guarantee Team Walker will spend the day telling donors, “We’re obviously the campaign that worries Obama the most, otherwise he wouldn’t be going after us.”
To which every other campaign will tell its supporters, “The White House is only focused on Walker because he’s the one Democrats want to see get the nomination.”