Stanley Kutler: Gov. Walker Does ‘Something Big’

Roundup: Historians' Take

[Stanley Kutler is the author of “The Wars of Watergate” and other writings.]

The tea-party-enabled Wisconsin Legislature is working overtime to protect its governor. On the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that protests at military funerals are protected speech, two of the more benighted majority Republican state legislators offered their version of protected speech. They introduced a bill to prohibit telephone callers from lying about their identity as well as giving a false number, subject to a $10,000 fine. The Wisconsin legislators said that “while the use of spoofing is said to have some legitimate uses, it could also be used to frighten, harass and potentially defraud.”

The bill’s authors predictably insisted the proposal was unrelated to last week’s now-viral prank call to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in which the governor, believing he was talking to David Koch, the prominent moneyman for conservative causes, bragged about his unwillingness to budge in his stand against public employees. “I would be willing to sit down and talk to the [Democratic and Republican legislative] leaders. ... [T]alk, not negotiate,” he emphasized. The governor is not reticent about his anti-union credentials. He thanked “Koch”—“one of us”—for “all the support,” and added that “it’s all about getting our freedoms back.” There we have Scott Walker unplugged, defrocked just as the Wizard of Oz.

Walker also urged the “Koch” brother to urge other newly elected Republican governors to advance similar agendas for “our freedoms.” This is their moment. “You start down the list,” he said, and “there’s a lot of new governors that got elected to do something big.”

Elected “to do something big,” Walker said. How interesting. Are we now to believe that Walker campaigned in 2010 to destroy public employee unions; that he would have public employees contribute more to their pension and health insurance plans; that he would “take” $28 million from the Group Health Insurance fund, a $1.1 billion segregated fund used to pay state employees’ insurance premiums, in order to meet the state’s obligations for its share of insurance premiums through June 30; that he would privatize state-owned power and heating plants, without requiring public bidding; that he would launch a study to essentially privatize the state’s healthy pension plan? No, indeed—Walker simply never offered such fare as an electoral platform....

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