Scott Walker's double-dealing exposed: How one of the right's worst talking heads just embarrassed him

The Wisconsin governor learns the hard way that Stephen Moore is not someone to be taken seriously

Published July 8, 2015 4:59PM (EDT)

Scott Walker                        (Reuters/Carlos Barria)
Scott Walker (Reuters/Carlos Barria)

There are few people in politics who are quite as hilarious as Stephen Moore. Formerly the Heritage Foundation’s chief economist (he’s now a “Distinguished Visiting Fellow” for the group) Moore has achieved greater notoriety as one of the worst pundits alive. The man is constantly, flagrantly wrong. He’s been blacklisted by a major newspaper for making too many embarrassing errors in his columns. He’s a climate change denier who draws his arguments against environmentalism from sci-fi monkey movies. He’s written anti-Obamacare Op-Eds that are literally 0 percent accurate. As an economic thinker he’s been no more successful – he has a string of bad predictions under his belt and a tenuous grasp of the field he’s supposedly an expert in.

But Moore is fortunate to work in conservative politics, where one can make a lucrative career out of being constantly wrong so long as you remain ideologically consistent. Moore is one of the high priests of supply-side economic theory and, as such, he’s in hot demand among top-flight Republican political candidates who want him to fix his seal of approval on their plans to "grow the economy" through massive tax cuts. He’s already helped Rand Paul craft a flat-tax proposal that promises to shoot "steroids" into the economy by slashing taxes on the wealthy.

And that brings us to Scott Walker. The Republican governor of Wisconsin is (not yet officially) running for president and he’s been cultivating a relationship with Moore and his supply-side buddies for months in an effort to establish himself as the “pro-business” Republican candidate. That’s trickier than it sounds, given that business-minded establishment Republicans like Moore are generally in favor of immigration reform, while the conservative base voters that Walker must appeal to are vehemently against it.

Walker’s been deliberately fudging his stance on immigration to avoid pissing off either group, but in public he’s been moving further and further to the right to align more closely with the anti-immigrant base. That rightward shift on immigration unnerved Moore, who told the New York Times last week that he asked Walker about it over the phone, and that Walker told him, “I’m not going nativist; I’m pro-immigration.”

It seemed clear from Moore’s retelling that Walker was telling two different constituencies two different things – something politicians do all the time. And it makes perfect sense that Walker would publicly shift right on immigration for the GOP primary while privately reassuring more moderate Republicans that he’ll tack back toward the middle once he secures the nomination. It’s cynical as all hell, but it makes sense. But Moore, in blabbing to the Times, ratted out Walker on his double-dealing.

And then things got weird. As the Times noted a few days later, Moore (under heavy pressure from the Walker campaign) not only recanted his quotation of Walker’s secret moderation on immigration – he denied that he’d even spoken to the governor at all: “On Sunday, after three days of pressure from Mr. Walker’s aides, Mr. Moore said that he had ‘misspoken’ when recounting his call with Mr. Walker – and that the call had never actually taken place.”

Breitbart News also asked Moore about his quote to the Times, and he served up this explanation, which makes precisely zero sense:

I did not have a conversation with Walker. It was my mistake. I kind of miscommunicated this to this reporter. What I really meant to say is that Larry [Kudlow] did. And when Larry had the conversation, we felt that he was going to be just fine and not going to be a problem on immigration. Everybody is kind of making a mountain out of a mole hill here.

So according to Moore, when he told the Times that he recently talked to Scott Walker on the phone, what he meant was that Larry Kudlow talked to him months ago over dinner. What’s hilarious about the glaringly obvious bullshit Moore is trying to peddle here is that even if one were to grant Moore the possibility that he misremembered this badly, he’s still outing Walker as a double-dealer on immigration reform: “We felt that he was going to be just fine and not going to be a problem on immigration.” No matter which Stephen Moore story you choose to believe, Scott Walker still comes out looking bad.

And that’s why it’s so remarkable that any political candidate would choose to associate themselves with this doofus. Not only is he constantly wrong, he’s a walking embarrassment and a political liability. But I suppose the rest of us should be thankful that Walker is inviting the Stephen Moore bull to bust up his campaign china shop.

By Simon Maloy

MORE FROM Simon Maloy