After critics mocked Republican presidential candidate and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for saying a wall between the U.S. and Canada was a "legitimate" idea, his campaign said Monday that he is not pushing for such a policy. "Despite the attempts of some to put words in his mouth, Gov. Walker wasn't advocating for a wall along our northern border," Walker spokeswoman AshLee Strong said in a statement.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) caused a bit of a stir on Sunday, suggesting he's open to building a new wall, not just along the U.S./Mexico border, but also along the U.S./Canada border. But as the Republican presidential candidate's comments started drawing fire yesterday, Team Walker tried walking it back. The Huffington Post reported:
So, which is it? Chuck Todd, host of NBC's "Meet the Press," noted that Walker and other Republican presidential candidates frequently talk about border security, but rarely turn their attention to the north. "Do you want to build a wall north of the border, too?" Todd asked.
The far-right governor, according to the video and the transcript, replied, "Some people have asked us about that in New Hampshire. They raised some very legitimate concerns, including some law enforcement folks that brought that up to me at one of our town hall meetings about a week and a half ago. So that is a legitimate issue for us to look at."
Did Walker "advocate" building a U.S./Canadian border wall? No, but he nevertheless said the construction of such a wall "is a legitimate issue for us to look at" -- despite the fact that it's clearly nothing of the sort. The GOP candidate could have characterized the idea as impractical and/or unnecessary, but instead he treated the border wall idea as if it were entirely credible.
Which is why it made headlines.
The larger pattern, however, is one in which these incidents happen more than they should. Walker has an unfortunate habit of saying something foolish, drawing criticism, and then quietly walking it back.
Two weeks ago, for example, the Wisconsin Republican said he "absolutely" supports ending birthright citizenship, which he then followed by taking three different positions over the course of just six days, eventually reversing course.
Before that, the governor said he wants Boy Scouts "protected" from gay people, only to say soon after that wasn't really what he meant. Not long before that, Walker said he'd heard British Prime Minister David Cameron criticize the White House, though the Republican candidate walked that back, too.
I'll gladly concede that running for president is incredibly difficult, and candidates often struggle when they find their words drawing much closer scrutiny than they're accustomed to. It takes great care and discipline to avoid pitfalls.
But as he sinks in the polls, Walker is stumbling in ways that are frustrating his supporters. This flap over a Canadian border wall is embarrassing, but it's worse when put in the larger context.