There are two entirely different ways to be horrified by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker comparing his battle with state unions to the fight against ISIS. If you haven’t heard, when he was asked how he’d combat the so-called Islamic State in Syria and Iraq at the Conservative Political Action conference Thursday, he replied: "If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world."
From the left, you can be disgusted by Walker comparing legal protests by labor unions and their supporters to the barbaric, blood-thirsty terrorism of ISIS. From the right, you can be appalled that Walker is clueless enough to suggest that standing up to peaceful protesters is remotely comparable to fighting a multi-national terror threat. Many people probably have both reactions; I know I did.
I’m not sure it’s enough to break the fever on the right that has delirious admirers seeing Walker as the 21st century Ronald Reagan. That might take a bigger dose of Walker idiocy – but it’s probably coming.
Once again, Walker’s hard-working communications staff had to clean up his mess with an emailed statement, just as they did last week after he said he didn’t know if President Obama is a Christian. Spokesperson Kristin Kukowski told reporters:
Governor Walker believes our fight against ISIS is one of the most important issues our country faces. He was in no way comparing any American citizen to ISIS. What the governor was saying was when faced with adversity he chooses strength and leadership. Those are the qualities we need to fix the leadership void this White House has created.
Walker himself tried denying that he’d compared Wisconsin protesters to ISIS. "You all will misconstrue things the way you see fit," he whined to reporters after his speech, "but I think it's pretty clear, that's the closest thing I have in terms of handling a difficult situation, not that there's any parallel between the two."
It wasn’t just the stunning equation of peaceful protesters to ISIS that made Walker seem unready for the presidency during his CPAC speech. There he was, dead-eyed as usual, trying to claim that getting regular briefings from the FBI should count as foreign policy experience. He's learned to punctuate his unremarkable remarks with a lame, Bill Clinton-style thumb-poke of faux-sincerity. It actually seemed sincere the first couple hundred times Clinton did it. Walker looks like he’s still practicing in front of a mirror. His light-blue shirt is baggy, his tie is too long, his hair is messy, not tousled; he looks like he’s running for Badger Boys State, not the presidency.
It turns out CPAC wasn’t the first time Walker has tried his “standing up to unions means I can whip ISIS” line. He made a similar argument at the New York event where Rudy Giuliani upstaged him by claiming President Obama doesn’t love America, according to Larry Kudlow, an event co-sponsor:
Walker argued that when Reagan fired the PATCO air-traffic controllers over their illegal strike, he was sending a message of toughness to Democrats and unions at home as well as our Soviet enemies abroad. Similarly, Walker believes his stance against unions in Wisconsin would be a signal of toughness to Islamic jihadists and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
If Kudlow is correct, that undermines Walker's claim that he was merely citing the protests as an example of a "difficult situation" he's faced. He thinks somehow ISIS in Iraq and Syria will be cowed by his battles on the steps of the Capitol in Madison.
The right seems befuddled by Walker’s CPAC speech. The Blaze crowed that “Scott Walker pulls thunderous applause at CPAC,” while the National Review Online’s Andrew Johnson kvelled “Scott Walker hit all the right notes.”
But former Texas Gov. Rick Perry quickly criticized Walker’s remarks. And NRO’s Jim Geraghty was appalled:
That is a terrible response. First, taking on a bunch of protesters is not comparably difficult to taking on a Caliphate with sympathizers and terrorists around the globe, and saying so suggests Walker doesn’t quite understand the complexity of the challenge from ISIS and its allied groups.
Secondly, it is insulting to the protesters, a group I take no pleasure in defending. The protesters in Wisconsin, so furiously angry over Walker’s reforms and disruptive to the procedures of passing laws, earned plenty of legitimate criticism. But they’re not ISIS. They’re not beheading innocent people. They’re Americans, and as much as we may find their ideas, worldview, and perspective spectacularly wrongheaded, they don’t deserve to be compared to murderous terrorists.
I couldn’t put it better myself.
Walker is already complaining that this is another “gotcha” moment by the media, in the wake of those “gotcha” questions about whether Obama loves America or is truly a Christian as he publicly declares. As Digby reminds us, the Urban Dictionary aptly defines a “gotcha” question as one Sarah Palin is too dumb to answer.
Claiming fighting protesters prepared you to fight ISIS when asked about fighting terror? That’s an answer even Palin might have been too smart to give.