For more photos, click gallery, above.
Walker's ideological purity: Gov. Scott Walker's arrogance is part of what makes him such an excellent politician: He's ideologically pure. He sticks to his original goal and will not be swayed. He believes in what he's doing, to the point where the possibility that he might ever be wrong simply never occurs to him.(2/24)
- Emily Mills
The emperor has no shame: Walker handles questions about the prank call the way he's handled the crisis he's caused in Wisconsin: Admit nothing, avoid fact-based reality, operate as if you can get away with anything. (2/24)
- Bill Lueders
Walker's on Koch: Hundreds of demonstrators protested in front of the newly opened lobbying office of billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, seeking to draw attention to the support the wealthy Kansas firm has given Gov. Scott Walker. They weren't allowed inside the building, but they lined the entire block, chanting slogans that made puns of the Koch name, which is pronounced "coke": "Walker's on Koch!" (2/24)
- Joe Tarr
The world's largest commune: During the protesters' sleepovers at the Capitol, you're not surprised by anything you see. A guy in a devil costume passes by, followed by a guy blowing a huge conch shell, followed by Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz. (2/25)
- Dean Robbins
Collective bargaining for women: Protester Peggy Arnold notes that collective bargaining has benefited educators, "especially women educators," greatly over the years. "When I started teaching, women were paid less than men," she says. There were no provisions for maternity leave. "I have benefited from negotiated benefits." (2/25)
- Linda Falkenstein
Walker's 'troublemakers': Mayor Cieslewicz sent Gov. Walker a letter Friday, demanding an explanation to comments Walker made during a prank call about having "thought about" planting troublemakers among the demonstrators. Cieslewicz says he was "dumbfounded" when he heard the recording.
In his letter, Cieslewicz asks Walker to explain who made the suggestion, what was his immediate response, if he took any steps in that direction, and why he didn't reject the suggestion on moral grounds, rather than political ones. (2/25)
- Joe Tarr
Assembly win pleases Walker: Gov. Scott Walker is today a happy man. At his 5 p.m. press conference, he thanked the state Assembly, Democrats in particular, for "doing what we hope the Senate Democrats will do: showing up and having a debate."
The governor was right - if by "debate" he meant a humiliating ordeal in which every single one of the nearly 100 amendments they offered was shot down after a discussion in which Republicans did not participate, except to restrict debate, before holding a surprise vote at 1 in the morning. Now he wants the Senate Dems to take their lumps as well, and the prospect of seeing this sort of democracy in action pleases him greatly (2/25).
- Bill Lueders
The Hollywood contingent: Bradley Whitford, Madison native and West Wing star, gave a barn-burner of a speech to 70,000 protesters on Saturday. He tore into the governor for "using the budget as a Trojan horse to deny American workers a seat at the table," then started a call-and-response of "this will not stand!" (2/26)
- Dean Robbins
A line in the snow: Saturday morning, Rep. Tammy Baldwin spoke at a rally on Library Mall organized by Fair Wisconsin. "I have never been so proud to be a Wisconsinite and to represent you in the U.S. Congress than I am now," she said. Baldwin listed strides Wisconsin has made in securing the rights of women, children and gays, and she likened today's protest movement to those efforts.
"We have to draw a line in the sand!" she said. "You mean snow!" someone shouted in response, amid light flurries. (2/26)
- Kenneth Burns
Meet the Press can't break Walker: NBC's David Gregory interviewed Gov. Walker on Sunday's Meet the Press, pressing him on the union-curbing budget bill. Walker deftly handled Gregory's aggressive questions by insisting on the reasonableness of his position. The host seemed intent on finding the flaws in the governor's arguments, but he lacked the skill - or the intimate knowledge of the issues - to counter the well-practiced talking points. (2/27)
- Dean Robbins
Elections have consequences: The first thing the totalitarians do is to delegitimize elections. The results of Nov. 2, when Wisconsin elected a Republican Assembly, a Republican Senate, defeated the Democrat leaders of both, and replaced a Democrat governor with a Republican? Well, those results are tainted. "The people" were fooled by the Koch brothers. Their voices drowned out by Citizens United v. FEC. Because half the eligible electorate did not vote and we all know (don't we?) that the non-voters would have broken for Tom Barrett, Mike Sheridan, and Russ Decker.(2/28)
- David Blaska
Public locked out of the Capitol: Capitol Police had tried to close the building to protesters Sunday night but backed down when a couple of thousand people refused to budge. On Monday morning, though, the Department of Administration locked the public out of the Capitol.
The protesters felt tricked. "Now that we see the games they're willing to play, it affirms why we wanted to stay here last night," said UW student Derria Byrd. (2/28)
- Joe Tarr
Nervous but committed: On Monday night, it was clear that Walker's lockdown of the Capitol had succeeded in turning a raucous, days-long occupation of the Capitol into a quiet collection of nervous but committed resisters. (2/28)
- Jason Joyce
State Journal still off base: The key test is not whether the Wisconsin State Journal's editorials and commentary take sides, but whether they are reasonably fair and informed by the facts. At times I wonder whether the State Journal's editorial writers and columnist Chris Rickert even read the paper's news coverage. (3/1)
- Bill Lueders
Protests surge during budget address: Two stories above the Capitol's State Street doors, the curtains were drawn on the Assembly chambers where the governor delivered his budget address. That didn't stop the thousands of assembled demonstrators from cheering and chanting as loudly as they could, in hopes of making their presence heard inside.
"Shame! Shame! Shame!" (3/1)
- Kristian Knutsen
Hearing on Capitol access: The defense, argued by Department of Administration Secretary Michael Huebsch, maintained the DOA felt it needed to implement standards for access in order to maintain a "professional working environment" for Capitol staff.
"The rules about the Capitol being closed for certain hours are not new rules," he said. "They were relaxed for a certain period of time, and that was disruptive, but now it's back to normal business."
Plaintiff attorney Peg Lautenschlager disputed his claims, bringing forward witnesses who testified to protesters' cleanliness and good behavior. "I think it's important for the court to recognize that what the DOA has put on paper is not what's playing out at the Capitol doors," she said. (3/1)
- Alison Bauter
'This budget is so overreaching'
Walker's address leaves many stunned
This afternoon, at the Wisconsin State Capitol, I witnessed what at times appeared to be the greatest governor in the history of this or any other state showered with affection as he announced a bold new plan to rescue Wisconsin from the brink of economic ruin.
Scott Walker was feted with more than a full minute of thunderous ovation, with whistles and hooting and cheers, as he entered, and again at the end of his 30-minute address. He received long rounds of applause and a few standing Os while he spoke. The balconies were filled almost entirely with people who applauded him at every turn.
What's that you say? Oh, those people. The ones who sat sullen through the whole thing? Who never rose or applauded? You mean the Democrats.
Yes, the Assembly Dems never quite got in the spirit of things. Before the speech began, Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca made some dispiriting remarks about how it was hard for many of his fellow Democrats even to attend, on account of how the Capitol was in lockdown - in apparent violation of state law as well as a restraining order issued by a Dane County judge this morning.
As chants of "Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame!" seeped into the chamber from the protests outside, Walker proclaimed himself an optimist, saying, "I believe that after our budget repair bill passes, tempers will cool and we will find a way to continue to work together to help grow our economy."
Yes, of course, when the Legislature finally delivers to Walker everything he wants, that's really going to smooth things over with the malcontents who have been making such a fuss.
Walker said his budget would "provide real tax relief for homeowners across the state by [locking] in property tax levies at the local level." But, on the other hand, his "budget repair bill" gives local governments and school districts the "tools" they need to survive this - by going after the benefits of teachers and local government employees, just as he has done.
Then school and local officials can experience the same almost-universal support and popularity in their communities that Walker enjoys as governor.
- Bill Lueders
The location for the Democratic Assembly leaders' response to Gov. Scott Walker's budget address was symbolic of how little regard their Republican colleagues must have for them.
They were forced to use the office of the minority leader, Rep. Peter Barca (D-Kenosha). Rep. Tamara Grigsby (D-Milwaukee) apologized for the small quarters, saying, "We weren't allowed access to a larger room."
With such little power, what chance do the Democrats have in beating back against Walker's budget, which calls for severe cuts to education and human services?
The main strategy Democrats are banking on is that the already historic mobilization against Walker's agenda will continue and grow. Rep. Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) said: "This budget is so overreaching there are going to be many more citizen groups outraged. These are such deep cuts in health care and education.... This is not a Wisconsin people will recognize."
At his own press conference a few blocks away, Mayor Dave Cieslewicz was no less bleak about Walker's budget. "It divides taxpayers and teachers, officials and their employees. It's even more divisive than I expected. I didn't see the recycling mandate going away. That's absolutely senseless. This is an extreme budget offered by a very ideological governor."
- Joe Tarr
Maya Cole, president of the Madison school board, sounded equally grim following Walker's budget address.
"It's disappointing to hear him say he's helping kids," she says, "and on the other hand he's basically cutting every opportunity for us to help kids when it comes to K-12 education.... I think what he's doing is just disgraceful."
Madison school superintendent Dan Nerad also admitted that it had been "a difficult day." He said Walker's budget will cause a $20 million cut in revenue for the district in 2011. If the governor's budget repair bill passes in its current form, the amount would be about $11 million.
"This district has been making reductions for over 15 years," Nerad said. "A year ago we had a reduction of 15% in state aid. This year's it's an 8% reduction in state aid. While we know that we face a budget deficit, we also need to know that our kids are educated well if our state is to stay strong."
Cole is contemptuous of Walker's promise to give districts "the tools" they need to deal with their budgets.
"The tool he's giving us," she says, "is the ability to lay off or cut."
- Dean Robbins