Ever since Gov. Scott Walker's controversial budget bill inspired an uprising of Wisconsin unions and public employees, many people have wondered, "Who is this man?" After being on the job for only a month, Walker has turned the state upside down. What kind of person would want to touch off a civil war?
Well, now we have a slightly better idea, courtesy of a prank call from a journalist impersonating Walker ally David Koch. The recording allows us a glimpse of Walker in an unguarded moment, speaking candidly.
It would be unfair to make definitive judgments based on this 20-minute conversation, but we can at least throw out some theories about the governor after hearing the evidence.
He Has No Interest in Compromise
"[I]f they think I'm caving, they've been asleep for the last eight years 'cause I've taken on every major battle in Milwaukee County and won, even in a county where I'm overwhelmingly overpowered politically, and 'cause I don't budge….
[H]ell, I'll talk to them. If they want to yell at me for an hour, you know, I'm used to that, I can deal with that. But I'm not negotiating."
He's Willing to Play Politics with People's Jobs
"The other thing is I've got layoff notices ready. We put out the at-risk notices. We'll announce Thursday, and they'll go out early next week. And we'll probably get, five to six thousand state workers will get at-risk notices for layoffs. We might ratchet that up a little bit, you know…. If they want to start sacrificing thousands of public workers who'll be laid off, sooner or later there's gonna be pressure on these senators to come back."
He Was Either Being Polite to a Donor or He Really Did Consider 'Planting Some Troublemakers'
Prank Caller: "But what we were thinking about the crowds was planting some troublemakers."
Walker: "You know, the, well, the only problem with that - because we thought about that…."
He Has No Respect for the Other Side
"This is Madison, you know, full of the '60s liberals. Let 'em protest.' It's not gonna affect us…. I think it's actually good if they're constant, they're noisy, but they're quiet, nothing happens, 'cause sooner or later the media stops finding 'em interesting."
He's Pleased with How Things Are Going
"And I've gotta tell you the response from around the country has been phenomenal. I had Brian [Sandoval], the new governor of Nevada, called me the last night. He said he was out in the Lincoln Day Circuit in the last two weekends and he was kidding me, he's new as well as me, he said, "Scott, don't come to Nevada because I'd be afraid you beat me running for governor."
He's Cunning, Part 1
Here's Walker discussing the Republicans' plan for luring 14 fugitive Democratic senators back to Wisconsin so they'll have a quorum for voting on the bill.
"The Senate organization committee is going to meet and pass a rule that says if you don't show up for two consecutive days on a session day, in the state Senate, the Senate chief clerk -- it's a little procedural thing here, but -- can actually have your payroll stopped from being automatically deducted into your checking account, and instead, you still get a check, but the check has to be personally picked up. And he's instructing them -- which we just loved -- to lock them in their desk on the floor of the state Senate."
He's Cunning, Part 2
"[A]n interesting idea that was brought up to me this morning by my chief of staff, we won't do it until tomorrow, is putting out an appeal to the Democrat leader that I would be willing to sit down and talk to him, the assembly Democrat leader, plus the other two Republican leaders. Talk, not negotiate - and listen to what they have to say if they will in turn - but I'll only do it if all 14 of them come back and sit down in the state Assembly. They can recess it, to come back if we're talking, but they all have to be back there. The reason for that is, we're verifying it this afternoon, but legally, we believe, once they've gone into session, they don't physically have to be there. If they're actually in session for that day and they take a recess, the 19 Senate Republicans could then go into action and they'd have a quorum because they started out that way."
He Has Grandiose Plans for Wisconsin
"I had all of my cabinet over to the residence for dinner. Talked about what we were gonna do, how we were gonna do it. We'd already kinda built plans up, but it was kind of the last hurrah before we dropped the bomb. And I stood up and I pulled out a picture of Ronald Reagan, and I said, you know, this may seem a little melodramatic, but 30 years ago, Ronald Reagan, whose 100th birthday we just celebrated the day before, had one of the most defining moments of his political career, not just his presidency, when he fired the air-traffic controllers. And I said, to me that moment was more important than just for labor relations or even the federal budget, that was the first crack in the Berlin Wall and the fall of Communism because from that point forward, the Soviets and the Communists knew that Ronald Reagan wasn't a pushover. And I said this may not have as broad of world implications, but in Wisconsin's history - little did I know how big it would be nationally - in Wisconsin's history, I said this is our moment, this is our time to change the course of history."