For much of the year to date, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) stumbled so badly on foreign policy, it rattled confidence in his presidential candidacy.
When he said union-busting and the Boy Scouts helped prepare him to lead on national security, it seemed as if Walker may not be up to the job. When he said Reagan firing air-traffic controllers was “the most significant foreign policy decision” of his lifetime, it seemed Walker didn’t even understand what “foreign policy” means as an issue.
Last month, President Obama called the Wisconsin governor out by name, telling NPR that Walker’s views might be more sensible “after he’s taken some time to bone up on foreign policy.” Even Walker’s allies struggled to defend him – the best Bill Kristol could come up with was dismissing the governor’s missteps as rookie errors committed during “spring training.”
To his credit, Walker recognized the degree to which he had a problem, and did something about it – in March, the GOP governor started receiving a “crash course” in international affairs. Soon after, the unannounced candidate was eager to show off some of the basics he’d learned.
But yesterday, there was a reminder that Walker’s tutorials aren’t necessarily going well. On “Face the Nation,” CBS’s Bob Schieffer whether he still thinks Reagan firing air-traffic controllers is “the most significant foreign policy statement of your lifetime.” Walker stuck to the same ridiculous line.
“I came of age during the Reagan administration. I was I think I believe just turned 13 two days before his election in 1980. And for me, looking at that kind of leadership, he set the tone, not just domestically with that action; he sent a message around the world as – as you just read off, I think not only to our allies, this is – was someone who was serious that that could be trusted. But in combination with our adversaries, they sent a clear message, not to mess with him.”
Walker first embraced this line in February, before repeating it in March. It still doesn’t make any sense.
As we’ve discussed before, Walker was born in 1967, which means his “lifetime” includes a wide variety of foreign policy decisions from U.S. officials: two wars in Iraq, a series of START treaties, Nixon going to China, the end of the war in Vietnam, the Camp David Accords, the war in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, Iran/Contra, the U.S. role in negotiating the Northern Ireland peace process, the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, the Iranian hostage crisis, etc.
According to the governor of Wisconsin, none of these was quite as “significant,” in terms of U.S. foreign policy, as Reagan firing air-traffic controllers. I find it very difficult to imagine even the most enthusiastic Walker supporter arguing that this is in any way coherent.
For that matter, Walker’s understanding of the firings’ impact is plainly silly. Firing striking workers let the whole world know “not to mess with him”? I hate to break it to the governor, but after the air-traffic controllers lost their jobs, plenty of foes messed with us anyway. The fact that Walker doesn’t know that isn’t a good sign.
Let’s make this plain: if Walker seriously considers the firing of air-traffic controllers “the most significant foreign policy decision” of the last 47 years, it’s not unreasonable to wonder how, exactly, Walker defines “foreign policy.”