Last weekend I noted that the Rudy Giuliani flare up had revealed some critical ways in which Scott Walker may simply not be ready for the big leagues of a national campaign. In brief, a series of entirely avoidable, unforced errors during a period in the campaign that lacks even a chunk of the intensity that a presidential candidate faces when the game really gets underway. None of those missteps in themselves will end up hurting Walker. But they point to shortcomings as a candidate that could sink him later. Now we have another example, just a week later.
As you have probably seen in his CPAC pitch for himself as a presidential contender, Scott said that if he could stand up to the state’s teachers unions he could stand up to ISIS. Specifically, after explaining how he as president would stand up to ISIS, he said, “We need a leader with that kind of confidence. If I can take on a 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world.”
In saying this, Walker managed to come of as offensive, callow and silly, all at the same time. Not only did he, even at a general level, compare tens of thousands of citizens of his own state to the most bloodthirsty of terrorists – he said something that made himself sound silly even to many voters primed to see teachers unions and the 2011 protestors in the worst possible light. I love me some teachers unions, but when it comes to ferocity and brutality, I’m sorry, ISIS they ain’t. In one sentence, Walker found a way to come off as a douchebag to people across the political spectrum – with each group, for a slightly different reason. A true accomplishment.
Some will say this is the liberal media ganging up on Walker. Don’t buy it. A lot of conservatives were quick to pile on about what a stupid thing this was to say, as Catherine Thompson reports here. And potential rivals will of course have at him out of self-interest if nothing else. Everybody could see this was just dumb.
Will this sink Walker’s candidacy? Of course not. But again, unforced errors again and again. At a minimum, when you’re running for president you want to spend your time on message – saying why you should be president – not frittering away days explaining or walking back stupid things you said. And Walker seems to say those things a whole lot.
You can’t take away that Walker won three elections in four years in Wisconsin while pushing through major conservatives reforms (the latter part is key). You can’t do that without real political skill. On the big stage, though, he’s starting to seem like a bit of a dolt.