When Republican presidential hopeful Scott Walker was reduced to saying “there is no such thing as a hypothetical” this week, it was in response to a specific question: what does he believe is the best way to deal with the refugee crisis, as Syrian families arrive in Europe seeking safety?
“I’m not president today, and I can’t be president today,” the Wisconsin governor replied. “Everybody wants to talk about hypotheticals; there is no such thing as a hypothetical.”
In other words, asked about a major international development on Tuesday, a prominent presidential candidate not only didn’t have a position, he said he shouldn’t have a position. It’s as if Walker considered the issue itself somehow out of bounds.
On Wednesday, that posture changed. Wisconsin Public Radio reported:
Gov. Scott Walker said Wednesday that the United States should not take in Syrian refugees. Instead, he said America should take focus on taking out the so-called Islamic State, also known as ISIS, to solve the humanitarian crisis in that country.Walker was criticized Tuesday for dodging a question on whether the U.S. should admit more Syrians fleeing extremist violence and a bloody civil war. Wednesday, while speaking with reporters at the Governor’s Small Business Summit in Eau Claire, he clarified his answer: “No, we shouldn’t be taking on any more Syrian refugees right now.”
As Walker sees it, using military force – or more accurately, using more military force – against ISIS targets throughout Syria will encourage Syrians to remain in their country, thereby alleviating the refugee crisis.
It’s a debatable position, to be sure, but it also raises the related question of why Walker changed his mind from Tuesday to Wednesday.
Indeed, as the far-right governor struggles to get ahead in the race for the GOP nomination, Walker’s pattern of stumbling only reinforces doubts about his strength as a national candidate. TPM’s Caitlin MacNeal noted a series of issues and controversies – Kentucky’s Kim Davis, whether sexual orientation is a choice, evolutionary biology, President Obama’s patriotism and religion – on which Walker couldn’t or wouldn’t share his position publicly.
There are a variety of other issues – birthright citizenship, Boy Scouts, building a Canadian border wall – on which Walker managed to state an opinion, but soon after, that position proved untenable, forcing him to “clarify” his actual beliefs.
Asked about Walker last week, an Iowa Republican told Politico, in advance of this week’s incident, “For the last two months [Walker] hasn’t made a single policy pronouncement that he or his staff hasn’t had to clarify or clear up within two hours.”
The “two hours” metric was obviously an exaggeration, but otherwise, this critique seems to be holding up pretty well.