On the first day of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) appears to have delivered the most memorable line. Unfortunately for him, that’s not a compliment.
As a governor, Walker’s portfolio has been light on foreign policy compared to the senators in the race, and he offered little in specifics when asked how he’d confront the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria while generally pledging to protect America from attacks. But he did suggest that his battles with unions over collective bargaining rights might help prepare him for the job.“If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world,” he said.
I’ve seen some on the right argue that Walker wasn’t necessarily drawing a moral parallel between unions and ISIS, and as defenses go, it’s a fair point.
But what the governor did argue, unambiguously, is that he believes union-busting in Wisconsin prepares him for combating ISIS and global terrorism. And that’s plainly ridiculous.
National Review’s Jim Geraghty, who isn’t exactly a knee-jerk liberal, explained, “That is a terrible response… [T]aking on a bunch of protesters is not comparably difficult to taking on a Caliphate with sympathizers and terrorists around the globe, and saying so suggests Walker doesn’t quite understand the complexity of the challenge from ISIS and its allied groups.”
Keep in mind, Walker has spoken quite a bit about ISIS and the terror threat in recent months, and he’s had plenty of time to formulate his views and his talking points. This wasn’t some curveball about whether President Obama is a Christian; this was a question about one of the more pressing issues on the planet.
And yet, once again, the Republican governor seemed wholly unprepared.
By last night, Team Walker seemed to realize the candidate had made a mistake and his communications director issued a statement saying he “was in no way comparing any American citizen to ISIS.” Rather, “What the governor was saying was when faced with adversity he chooses strength and leadership.”
But these empty platitudes – show me a candidate opposed to “strength and leadership” – don’t address the underlying problem with Walker’s comments. He genuinely seems to believe that undermining organizing rights of Wisconsin workers has prepared him to be a war-time president, ready to take on foreign foes.
Indeed, it’s gone largely overlooked, but yesterday wasn’t even the first time he’s raised this argument. Just last week, Walker said his anti-union record “would be a signal of toughness to Islamic jihadists and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.”
The Wisconsin Republican went so far as to argue that Reagan sent a powerful signal to the USSR and Iran in 1981 when he fired striking air-traffic controllers. As Walker put it, once Reagan sent those workers to the unemployment line, U.S. foes suddenly “knew not to mess with us.”
This foolish understanding of history is completely at odds with reality, but it nevertheless makes Walker’s worldview clear: in his mind, battling unions is an effective component of a national security posture.
It’s almost as if the governor is trying to prove he’s not ready for prime time.