Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) late Thursday tried to downplay a comment he made about being prepared to confront Islamic State terrorists thanks to his experience fighting union protesters.
In response to a question from an audience member at at the Conservative Political Action conference earlier in the evening, Walker brought up the massive protests in Wisconsin in 2011 over a law he signed stripping public-sector unions of their power to collectively bargain.
“I want a commander-in-chief who will do everything in their power to ensure that the threat from radical Islamic terrorists do not wash up on American soil. We will have someone who leads and ultimately will send a message not only that we will protect American soil but do not take this upon freedom-loving people anywhere else in the world,” Walker 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.”
Following the remarks, the National Review’s Jim Geraghty wrote that he took no pleasure in defending the union protesters, but that Walker gave a “terrible response” to the Islamic State question. A spokeswoman for Walker’s political committee later sent Geraghty a statement downplaying the governor’s mention of the protesters.
“Governor Walker believes our fight against ISIS is one of the most important issues our country face,” the statement to Geraghty from Walker spokeswoman Kristen Kukowski said. “He was in no way comparing any American citizen to ISIS. What the governor was saying was when faced with adversity he chooses strength and leadership. Those are the qualities we need to fix the leadership void this White House has created.”
In an interview with Bloomberg Politics’ Mark Halperin and John Heilemann after the CPAC speech, Heilemann gave Walker a golden opportunity to deny that he was equating violent extremists with union protesters.
“You’re not actually comparing ISIS terrorists to the protesters in Wisconsin, right?” Heilemann asked him. “You’re not trying to make that comparison in either direction, that the protesters are equivalent to terrorists or that the terrorists are equivalent to protesters?”
“Not by a landmine — by a landslide out there difference, a Grand Canyon-sized difference,” Walker replied. “My point was just if I can handle that kind of pressure, that kind of intensity, I think I’m up for the challenge for whatever might come if i choose to run for President.”
By the time Walker gave an interview to Fox News’ Sean Hannity, he’d entirely removed the protester mention from his talking points on the Islamic State. Walker told Hannity that the U.S. needs to “take [the Islamic State] out entirely,” comparing the violent extremists to a virus that infects a computer.