Just a month ago, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) was asked how he’d confront terrorist threats as president. The Republican governor quickly turned to his political fights against union members in his home state. “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world,” Walker said.
The governor took some heat for seemingly comparing union members to ISIS, which missed the point, and wasn’t even true. What mattered about the response is that, in Walker’s mind, union-busting in Wisconsin was preparation for combating ISIS and global terrorism.
The ridiculousness of the governor’s answer raised concerns among powerful Republican players – if this is his response to an obvious question in the midst of crises abroad, Walker may not have a mature understanding of what international leadership requires.
His answer to a similar question this week won’t help matters. The Capital Times in Madison reports today:
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who achieved the rank of Eagle Scout as a teen, has taken that motto seriously. His Eagle Scout status has him so prepared, he indicated this week, he’s ready to serve as commander in chief of the U.S. military.
The issue came up at a Chamber of Commerce event in Arizona this week, where Hugh Hewitt asked the governor, “Does the prospect of being commander in chief daunt you? Because the world that you describe when you’re talking about safety is going to require a commitment to American men and women abroad, obviously at some point. How do you think about that?”
Walker replied, “That’s an appropriate question.” And things went downhill from there.
The video is online here, and I’d encourage folks to check it out to fully appreciate the tone and context, but asked about the challenge of the presidency and national security, Walker didn’t talk about union-busting, but he did draw a parallel between the responsibilities of the Commander in Chief and being an Eagle Scout. From the Capital Times report:
“As a kid, I was in Scouts. And one of the things I’m proudest of when I was in Scouts is I earned the rank of Eagle,” Walker said. “Being an Eagle Scout is one of the few things you get as a kid that, you are not the past, it’s something you are.”The governor said whenever he attends an Eagle Scout ceremony, he tells the young man being honored that he’s not there to congratulate him, but to issue a charge – that once a Scout obtains the Eagle ranking, he is responsible for living up to that calling for the rest of his life.He then drew from his Eagle Scout experience discussing his military philosophy. “America is an exceptional country,” Walker said. “And I think, unfortunately, sometimes there are many in Washington who think those of us who believe we are exceptional means we are superior, that we’re better than others in the world.“And to me, much like my thought process of being an Eagle Scout is, no, being an exceptional country means we have a higher responsibility … not just to care for ourselves and our own interests, but to lead in the world, to ensure that all freedom-loving people have the capacity, who yearn for that freedom, to have that freedom.”
On a structural level, governors running for president have built-in advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, they’ve (hopefully) demonstrated an ability to competently oversee an executive branch, which should be excellent preparation for the White House. On the other hand, governors generally have very little experience with federal, international, and military policymaking, which can be a disadvantage.
This isn’t unique to Walker or anyone else; it’s just the nature of the office and its duties. It’s up to governors, in general, to make the case that their state-based leadership and good judgment prepares them for national office. The public has frequently been receptive to the message – of the six most recent U.S. presidents, four have been governors (two Democrats, two Republicans).
None of them ever suggested union-busting and the Boy Scouts were preparation for the White House.