Mr. Walker likes to present himself as a man of courage, based on his record in Wisconsin, but maybe facing down public-sector unions doesn’t tell you all that much about the bravery of a Republican governor. On two occasions in recent days, he has proved himself incapable of saying basic truths that might offend some of his potential voters: First, that evolution is real, and second, that an honorable politician criticizes his opponent’s policies, not his patriotism.
This is an ugly tale.
Indeed, a personal barometer of any given political news story is what we might refer to as the “GMA Test”α. That is to say, when last week’s news percolates to get a mention on Good Morning America, one might rest assured that the story has arrived. Whether or not anyone will care is an entirely separate question, but there is more going on here than just Rudy Giuliani being an idiot, or Scott Walker a coward.
For instance, there is Bobby Jindal, who wants to one-up them both.
But let us start with the basic outline, from Dana Milbank of the Washington Post:
As the world now knows, Giuliani, the former New York mayor, said at a dinner featuring Walker, the Wisconsin governor, that “I do not believe that the president loves America.” According to Politico, Giuliani said President Obama “wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up, through love of this country.”
And Walker, just a few seats away, said . . . nothing. Asked the next morning on CNBC about Giuliani’s words, the Republican presidential aspirant was spineless: “The mayor can speak for himself. I’m not going to comment on what the president thinks or not. He can speak for himself as well. I’ll tell you, I love America, and I think there are plenty of people — Democrat, Republican, independent, everyone in between — who love this country.”
But did he agree with Giuliani? “I’m in New York,” Walker demurred. “I’m used to people saying things that are aggressive out there.”
This is what’s alarming about the Giuliani affair. There will always be people on the fringe who say outrageous things (and Giuliani, once a respected public servant, has sadly joined the nutters as he questioned the president’s patriotism even while claiming he was doing no such thing). But to have a civilized debate, it’s necessary for public officials to disown such beyond-the-pale rhetoric. And Walker failed that fundamental test of leadership.
Something about ugly goes here.