On Tuesday, March 10, I had a chance to sit down for an interview with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker while he was on a swing through Southern California. Having just been re-elected last November, Walker is on the campaign trail gauging support for a run for the Republican nomination for President of the United States.
Walker fielded questions from me on the areas of government growth. My questions are in some cases abbreviated. The Governor’s responses are verbatim.
ON PRESIDENT OBAMA’S CRITICISM OF WALKER SIGNING RIGHT TO WORK LEGISLATION LAST MONDAY
JF: So you were singled out today by the President of the United States for signing “right to work legislation yesterday. How does that make you feel?
SW: Well, it suggests maybe we’re the front-runner if somebody is taking an active interest in what a state governor is doing, particularly in light of the fact that we’re not the only one. Mitch Daniels in ’12 signed this, Rick Snyder, my friend in Michigan, signed it later that year. We are now the 25th State in America to have freedom to work. My statement–we pushed back on this after the president’s comment–was how ironic for the guy who just vetoed the Keystone pipeline to be talking about middle-class jobs. Those are the kind of jobs that would have put good, hardworking Americans to work, not just on building and maintaining the pipeline, but for all the others who would have benefited from that. There you have it right there. There is a guy who says one thing when he is doing something different. This is nothing more than political pushback–and, as usual, the left oversteps–that I think is actually going to help us in the primary and I think, should we get in the race, even in the general election. What people want is someone who stands up and leads, and that is what we’re trying to do.
ON WHETHER HE WILL ACTUALLY BE ABLE TO SHRINK THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AS PRESIDENT
JF: George W. Bush had Republican Majorities in the Senate and House for much of his presidency. Yet during that time we saw the federal government grow, not shrink. What would you do if elected, with GOP majorities to secure liberty and freedom for the people?
SW: The nice thing is you don’t have to guess. I’ve got about as close a parallel as possible. The week after the November 2, 2010 election, I went into the state capitol and met with all the Republicans in the legislature–those that had been there and those that were newly elected. We said that prior to our election that November, everything in our state was Democrat–the Governor; Lieutenant Governor; both U.S. Senators; and the majority of seats in the House of Representatives; both majorities in the State Assembly and State Senate; and, I said, the voters sent a clear message. They went from all-Democrat to all-Republican in a state that hasn’t gone Republican for President since 1984–so not an easy state to win. The voters sent a clear message to us. If we just nibble around the edges and we don’t fight the good fight, if we don’t push to reform, the voters have every right to throw us out of office the next election. It is put-up-or-shut-up time.
I think if people look over the last four years, it would be hard to argue that they didn’t follow our lead in that regard and we were blessed. We had some good new members and we took advantage of that and built a winning coalition. We took on the public employee unions and won. We have no collective bargaining; we have no seniority or tenure. We can hire and fire based on merit. We can pay based on performance. We can put the best and the brightest in our classrooms. We took on, just recently, the full spectrum–not just for public employees, but for every worker in the state [who] now has the freedom to choose whether they want to be in a Labor Union or not. We cut taxes by two billion dollars. Property taxes are lower today than they were four years ago and by 2016, they will be lower than they were in December 2010. We lowered taxes on income, on property, on employers; we reigned in frivolous spending; we defunded Planned Parenthood; we passed a photo requirement to vote in the State of Wisconsin; and we passed castle doctrine and concealed carry.
You go down the line–there is not a common sense conservative forum in America, at least at the state level, that we haven’t taken action on in the State of Wisconsin. Why do I say that? It isn’t a brag list as much as to your question, to me, when I say we should come in and talk about fundamentally moving power from the federal government to the states, and education, and transportation, and Medicaid and social service and other agencies. When people say that is pretty tremendously aggressive and vicious reform out there I say: been there, done that. We’ve done that. We have to do it early. Mitch Daniels in many ways is a friend and mentor and told me the best thing you can do is push big, bold reform early because the longer you wait the more the excuse will be, “We can’t do it. It is too close to the next election.” The sooner you do it, the sooner you can start showing voters it actually works.
ON HIS STATEMENTS LAST WEEKEND IN IOWA THAT HE WOULD PHASE OUT LAWS MANDATING ETHONAL IN FUEL “OVER TIME”
JF: You campaigned in 2006 very strongly against ethanol subsidies… But in Iowa last weekend you said you would phase out government mandates for ethanol use in fuels, “over time.” Is that contradictory?
SW: In our case I think we do although, in ’06, in my state I didn’t. I’m not contradictory to that. I didn’t enact any mandates. There aren’t any requirements at the state level. I kept consistent. The interesting thing is a decade ago, or nine years ago when I said that, there was a subsidy in ethanol and that’s gone. That has already been phased out. There is no subsidy. There is no tax. The overall fuel standard is still there and what I’ve argued with that is I think there is a legitimate case to transition out over a period of years dealing with market access. Right now–
JF: When you say years is that a year or two or twenty?
SW: A couple years, I think. It is also why I said I approve or I support not extending the tax credit for wind turbines and wind energy as well, which is similar out there. I said [that at] the very same event. It is something that some people wanted that I wouldn’t extend that. It was stopped in 2014. It was phased out.
JF: That issue is kind of indicative of the briar patch when you go to Washington, which is that everybody on K Street wants to protect their little thing.
SW: It is also why in the larger context when you do it, you’ve got to do the whole package of reforms. You don’t just pick this one or that one. You do the whole spectrum. A lot of these issues, even in terms of other forms of energy, there are tax incentives and things of that regard. My ideal world would be total market access. Consumers can decide what they want, how they want it and where they want it and there is no subsidy, no tax credits–there is nothing else.
ON FOREIGN POLICY – ISOLATIONIST? INTERVERNTIONIST?
JF: I’ve been told I get one more question so I’d like to talk foreign policy briefly. It is kind of a broader question. Our party…on one end of the spectrum I guess you’d say we have Rand Paul in almost extreme isolationism. I wouldn’t put Rand Paul all the way over there…it may be over a little and on the other end we’ve got maybe George W. Bush and Bill Kristol…extreme interventionists. Where would you put yourself on the spectrum, and in the elevator speech or less, how would you deal with ISIS given where you put yourself on that spectrum?
SW: In general when people ask in any sort of interviews where you are at–are you a hawk, are you a dove?–I say: I’m simple. I came of age under Reagan, so my philosophy, simply stated, is “peace through strength.” I believe the best way to stay out of military interaction is to show that we’re strong enough to act if need be. That may sound contradictory, but I think Reagan proved it to be true, because during his eight years it was one of the lowest levels of military engagement even though he showed early on with what he did that had nothing to do with international affairs and that was firing the Air Traffic Controllers–that this guy was serious, he took things seriously, he sent a message to our allies [that] you can count on his support, and to our adversaries not to mess. Then, when he built up the military–and I think we’ve gone dangerously low in terms of levels of preparation in terms of where the fleets are at, where the ground troops are at.
I certainly wouldn’t say, as this president has, how far I would go and limit it. To me, fighting ISIS, fighting Al-Qaeda, fighting radical Islam and terrorism may indeed at some point require ground troops. I’m not going to take that off the table. I’m certainly not going to lead with that–that is not going to be my tenet. I think with technology and innovation there are many ways we can do that, but I believe the more I look at the details of radical Islamic terrorism, that this is a generational issue we are going to have to deal with and that it is a question of where do we want to fight this battle? Do we want to fight on foreign soil or American soil? I believe that where we are headed right now is that if we don’t take the fight to them, they will bring the fight to us. Not only is that a safety concern to me, it would be much more costly and much more difficult if we don’t get it before it washes up on American soil.
Jon Fleischman is the Politics Editor of Breitbart California. A longtime participant, observer and chronicler of California politics, Jon is also the publisher at www.flashreport.org. His column appears weekly on this page. You can reach Jon at firstname.lastname@example.org.