Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker laughs as he is introduced prior to his speech at Chatham House in central London, Feb. 11, 2015.
Photo by Lefteris Pitarakis/AP

Walker connects union-busting to his foreign policy

Updated
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) was in New York City last week, hosting a series of meetings and events, though one gathering became infamous following the remarks of a certain former mayor.
 
The Republican governor’s remarks were largely overlooked in the uproar, which is a shame – what Walker told the crowd was nearly as outlandish as what Rudy Giuliani said at the same event.
…Walker argued that when Reagan fired the PATCO air-traffic controllers over their illegal strike, he was sending a message of toughness to Democrats and unions at home as well as our Soviet enemies abroad. Similarly, Walker believes his stance against unions in Wisconsin would be a signal of toughness to Islamic jihadists and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
The next morning on CNBC, Walker added, “When [Reagan] fired the air-traffic controllers early in his presidency, there’s not a person, not just an American, but around the world, that as an ally didn’t know we were serious and would stand with them. But equally, if not more importantly, in – in USSR at that time and the Soviet Union, now Russia, and Iran, and elsewhere, they knew not to mess with us.”
 
Look, the governor’s anti-union efforts have paid political dividends for him. When Walker went after labor in Wisconsin, he delighted the right. When unions launched a recall campaign, the governor not only prevailed, he collected contact information for anti-labor donors nationwide, who were eager to defend Walker and keep him in office, and created a foundation he’ll exploit throughout 2015 and 2016.
 
But if the Wisconsin Republican seriously believes an anti-labor agenda is part of an effective foreign-policy posture, he’s delusional.
 
First, like too many in his party, Walker doesn’t remember the Reagan era as well as he thinks he does. The Republican president fired thousands of striking air-traffic controllers in 1981, but if this was intended to “send a message” to the Soviets, it didn’t make it to Moscow. Russia’s war in Afghanistan, for example, was unaffected, and Reagan’s anti-labor move didn’t stop a Russian fighter jet from shooting down Korean Air Lines Flight 007 in 1983, killing 269 people, including a member of Congress.
 
Indeed, Reagan’s “message” didn’t seem to connect with an international audience at all. The fact that the GOP icon fired air-traffic controllers didn’t have any effect on the attack on U.S. Marines in Beirut, and it didn’t stop frequent assaults on U.S. diplomatic outposts abroad.
 
America’s enemies “knew not to mess with us” because Reagan fired air-traffic controllers? Please. Let’s at least try to be grown-ups. No U.S. foe, anywhere on the planet, suddenly felt intimidated because the president put thousands of striking workers on unemployment in 1981. They “messed with us” plenty following the move.
 
Second, all of this matters, not just because Walker doesn’t remember the 1980s very well, but also because Walker is under the impression that he can intimidate “Islamic jihadists and Russia’s Vladimir Putin” by undermining labor unions more than Reagan did. Clearly, foreign policy isn’t the governor’s forte, but this is both childish and dangerously wrong.
 
But the effects on working people in Wisconsin will apparently be the same.
After saying in his re-election bid that he wouldn’t push so-called right-to-work legislation, Gov. Scott Walker committed Friday to signing it, acting after GOP leaders fast-tracked the proposal for a Senate vote next week.
 
Walker as a lawmaker sponsored the labor legislation two decades ago and as governor was careful never to say he would veto it, but as recently as September he said he wouldn’t be “supporting it in this session.” That changed Friday as Walker’s fellow Republicans in the Legislature made clear they would act on the issue at a time when the governor has won a second term and is spending more time outside the state pursuing the presidency.
To borrow the governor’s reasoning, what will “Islamic jihadists and Russia’s Vladimir Putin” think about Scott Walker publicly committing to one course of action, and then choosing to do the exact opposite soon after?
 

Labor, Ronald Reagan, Scott Walker and Wisconsin

Walker connects union-busting to his foreign policy

Updated