‘Thanks a million!’ the governor says

Gov. Scott Walker reminds me of the central character in an ancient morality play. A hero of great promise succumbs to hubris, “exaggerated pride and self-confidence,” which leads to his downfall.

I’m talking, of course, about the governor’s 20-minute phone conversation with a Buffalo, N.Y., website reporter posing as multi-billionaire conservative businessman David Koch.

It was a rare insight into who the governor is off mic. The picture wasn’t pretty. We heard a fellow full of braggadocio – and at least some self-delusion. The people were with him, he said, despite throngs of protestors circling the capitol and soon-to-follow polls showing disapproval of his plans.

The Republican Rasmussen poll in a March 2 survey found 57% disapproval of Walker’s job performance and 43% approval.

Among independents, who favored Walker by a large margin in last November’s election, 62% now believe he is leading the state in the wrong direction,  the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute found in a Feb. 27 survey.

Asked whether Walker should “stand strong” or negotiate with the Democrats, 65% of Wisconsinites in the WPRI survey wanted him to negotiate. Only 33% said he should stand strong.

More disturbing, however, was Walker’s statement that he considered sending troublemakers into the crowds of protesters around the capitol, presumably to stir up violence.

The phony David Koch (Ian Murphy of the Buffalo Beast) suggested it, and Walker replied, “You know, well, the only problem with that – because we thought about that.”

The problem with it in Walker’s view wasn’t that it would be wrong – that in becoming governor he swore to uphold the laws of Wisconsin – but that it wouldn’t achieve the desired political result.

“The guys (protesters) we’ve got left are largely from out of state and I keep dismissing it in all my press comments, saying ehh, they’re mostly from out of state,” Walker tells the phony Koch. “My only fear would be if there’s a ruckus caused, is that would scare the public into thinking maybe the governor has to settle to avoid all these problems.”

The first part of the statement is a flat out falsehood. Take a drive to Madison and a walk around Capitol Square and you’ll realize that the vast majority of protesters (I’d say more than 95%) are from Wisconsin. I talked to a social studies teacher from Cambria and a retired minister from Spooner; listened to a community activist from Tomahawk and watched a parade of firefighters from Beloit or Janesville led by bagpipers.

The out-of-staters carried signs identifying their union locals. They were a very small percentage of the crowd.

The governor’s admission that he and his advisors considered inciting a disturbance is profound and should be roundly denounced by all political leaders of any party.

Somehow, the governor has been let off the hook on this. Really, governor? You and your inner circle considered sending hooligans into a crowd of Wisconsin nurses, government workers, prison guards, firefighters, police officers, teachers, university workers, students, pipefitters, painters, carpenters, steelworkers and auto workers (many there with their children) to incite violence?

I’ve been painfully plodding through “The Coming of the Third Reich,” a fairly new history of the rise of Nazism in Germany by Richard J. Evans. Any hint of adopting the tactics of the Nazi storm troopers who created mayhem at rallies of opposing political parties is beyond the pale for me.  It is simply unacceptable in our democratic society – especially for a state governor.

Walker’s apologists say he was only humoring a billionaire contributor, and clearly rejected the idea of planting troublemakers. If that’s true, he lied to the phony Koch by saying he considered sending in the goons. It’s no good any way you look at it.

The transcript of the call reveals how little the phony Koch had to talk.

He asked about the latest developments and our governor was off and gushing, detailing how he planned to trick the missing 14 Democratic senators into returning, bragging about his TV appearances, and how he “dropped the bomb” about his plan to bust the public employee unions to his cabinet the night after the Packers won the Super Bowl.

Now he says Wisconsinites elected him to do what he’s doing, but there are a lot of prison guards, firefighters, police officers and teachers who voted for him who didn’t know that ending collective bargaining was part of his plan.

A political pundit whose name escapes me said Walker, in the phone call, sounded like a middle manager reporting to the CEO.

I agree. And considering the money David Koch and his older brother, Charles, spent to help get him elected, Walker probably thought they deserved a report.

The Koch Industries PAC contributed $43,000 to Walker’s campaign. The PAC gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, which spent $65,000 assisting Walker. The governors association also spent $3.4 million on TV ads and mailers attacking Walker’s opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

The call ends with the phony Koch offering to fly Walker “out to Cali” (California) after he has crushed his political opponents.

Again, the governor has a lapse in ethics. He doesn’t say, thanks, but no thanks. I can’t accept gifts for political favors. He says, “All right, that would be outstanding.”

“Thanks a million!” he says in parting.

That’s probably close to what Walker has gotten from the Koch brothers, another pundit has suggested.

There’s a lot to dislike about both the governor’s budget repair bill and his proposed 2011-13 budget. You can learn more about the bills online at www.madison.com or www.jsonline.com.