Kleefisch and Johnson's big cop out
Apparently Republican candidates for Lt. Governor and U.S. Senator in Wisconsin that'd be former TV news anchor Rebecca Kleefisch and millionaire businessman Ron Johnson, respectively have decided to take a page out of the national GOP playbook.
It's the one titled "Keep Your Mouth Shut," apparently.
On the one hand there's Johnson, who continually refuses to release his campaign's daily schedule to news outlets like the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and, perhaps more troubling, to answer many questions about where he actually stands on important issues. When asked what federal programs he meant specifically when he spoke of spending caps and cuts, Johnson went for the dodge: "I'm not going to get in the game here and, you know, start naming specific things to be attacked about, quite honestly."
Instead, Johnson's sticking to the decades-old (tried and untrue), nebulous calls for "smaller government" and "tax cuts." Thrilling stuff.
As for Rebecca Kleefisch, she's not just dodging the press and public, she's ducking out entirely, refusing to meet challenger Tom Nelson in any of the debates proposed. Her reasoning? "Because the Nelson and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett are only interested in running away from their records and using false television ads to distort the record of Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker."
Oh yes, heaven forbid a candidate for a major political office actually explain their real feelings and ideas about the issues that will directly affect their constituents. Kleefisch and Johnson apparently want Wisconsin voters to send them into these influential positions on trust alone, not substance.
Politico contributor Jonathan Martin apparently noticed this predominantly (but not exclusively) GOP candidate habit of avoiding debates and hiding from the press, too. In his recent article, "Year of the missing candidate," Martin includes Johnson as one of many politicians deciding that images of them running from cameras would be less damaging to their chances than images of them making some verbal gaffe or another.
"Call it the political equivalent of Dean Smith's 'Four Corners' offense: As the election grows near, and some of the media-shy candidates draw close in the polls, they're effectively running out the clock," writes Martin.
Even the Feingold campaign has refused to release his daily schedule, lest they be hounded by "trackers" operatives from challenger's campaigns armed with cameras that show up at events hoping to film the opponent's macaca moment.
But that's relatively small potatoes when compared with those who've opted to avoid debates, town halls, or press conferences all together and speaks to some very weak candidates, and certainly not people I'd like to have representing me.
As I see it, there are two big problems with this strategy:
First off, voters have a right to understand the values and positions of a candidate that will affect their judgment when crafting and passing laws that impact us all. I'm sure I'm not the only one sick of vague platitudes and bullet points with no real substance or detail. I'd like to know what your actual plan is, what you believe, and if you're willing to stand up and fight or find common ground when necessary.
Secondly, if you're afraid that your candidate will make some terrible slip of the tongue, racist or sexist statement, or generally ignorant statement FIND A BETTER CANDIDATE. Should we expect someone so cowardly that they feel it necessary to avoid public speaking to really put their nose to the grindstone and do the hard work of representing us in government? I don't think so.
A big part of being an effective politician is being able to make a good case for the positions you support (or oppose). That involves public speaking in front of constituents back home as well as the traditionally shirty politicians with whom you have to work to get anything done. It also involves being able to argue and debate effectively, something self-professed "rookies" like Johnson could typically cut their teeth on with the press and regular folks during a campaign.
Instead, Johnson, Kleefisch and a whole host of other current candidates for office nationwide have decided that people will be more likely to vote for them if they just stop trying. I find that incredibly insulting, and would be hard-pressed not to get a little shirty myself if I ever came across a voter who agreed.
One thing Johnson does support is church money
Even though Johnson himself is not a Catholic, before stepping down so he could run for Senate, he did serve on the financial council for the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay. And while a member of that group, he also took the time to testify before the Wisconsin State Senate in opposition to a bill that would have lifted the statue of limitations on complaints filed by victims of clergy-related sexual abuse.
This fun factoid has been circulating in public since June, when the MJS printed an article detailing Johnson's role in seeing that piece of legislation killed.
Since then Johnson has backpedaled a bit and claimed that he was only concerned about the financial impact such a bill might have on various other Catholic non-profit organizations not protected by the federal government. A new TPM article on the subject notes that he "sought to warn legislators of those consequences in order to correct legislative language so that any bills that passed would punish the perpetrators."
But that's not what his sworn testimony says. In it, he urged senators to "defeat this legislation" all of it -- which they eventually did. That essentially shut the door on any hope victims may have had of finding some justice for what was done to them.
Curious that this is the one thing on record regarding a firm stance taken by Johnson before deciding to run for office. It's more than a little messed up.
Missed headline opportunity: Kathleen Falk'ed Up. The GAB says she'll have to resign in December, not April as she'd planned, in order for a special election to be held for her office. Oopsie daisy. The campaign and election should still be one of the most interesting we've seen in the county in some time.
Maybe it's time we made learning bicycle rules of the road part of the curriculum when people take driver's education classes to get their licenses? It could very well cut back on instances like this one, at least, and maybe save some lives.