PALM BEACH, Fla. — Two days after provocatively suggesting that standing up to organized labor in Wisconsin has prepared him to fight terrorists overseas as president, Scott Walker told a crowd of conservative donors on Saturday that “the most significant foreign policy decision” of his lifetime was when Ronald Reagan fired 11,000 air traffic controllers. …
“Candidly, I think foreign policy is something that’s not just about having a PhD or talking to PhDs. It’s about leadership,” he said. “I would contend the most significant foreign policy decision in my lifetime was made by a president who was previously a governor. A president who made a decision that wasn’t even about foreign policy. It was in August of 1981, when Ronald Reagan fired the air traffic controllers.”
— Scott Walker pressed for specifics at Club meeting, James Hohmann, Politico, yesterday
Turns out that that was the second time in a week that Walker said this. The first time was in his speech at the private fund raiser in which Giuliani said Obama doesn’t love America, or love Giuliani, or love the donors in attendance at the dinner, later citing as supporting evidence that he (Giuliani) rarely hears Obama profess his love of country using the cants that Dwight Eisenhower and Franklin Roosevelt—er, Reagan and Bill Clinton—did regularly. (Free speech is for college students and human and corporate campaign donors, but not for presidents, who must recite a loyalty oath every few weeks. Joe McCarthy was right! That ole five-star general who conned his way into the White House in ’53 was a Communist after all!) But Walker’s comment received little notice, because … well … you know.
But Larry Kudlow, one of the people whom Giuliani identified by group (Kudlow was an attendee) as someone whom Obama doesn’t love, and who reported on Walker’s speech for Real Clear Politics, did take note:
Noteworthy, 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 to 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.
Of course, our Soviet enemy abroad in August 1981 was led by a man who by then was spending much of his time in a hospital, and who died 15 months later at the age of 75, presumably having never recovered from the shock of having to deal with a U.S. president who fired his country’s striking air traffic controllers. He was replaced with a man who, also elderly, died in office 15 months later after spending all but the first three months of his presidency in such poor health that it was doubted at the time that he (or anyone else) was actually running the country. He was replaced with an elderly man who lived only 13 months, not the full 15 months that his three predecessors each had managed while dealing with the stress of trying to oppose a U.S. president who had won his war against unionized air traffic controllers. The next Soviet president, seriously concerned that Reagan was onto something with his unconventional, remote-control, foreign-policy tactic, and wanting to remain healthy for at least two years into his presidency, waved the white flag and declared glasnost and perestroika.
So I can see why Walker would contend that the most significant foreign policy decision in his lifetime was Ronald Reagan’s decision in August of 1981 to fire the air traffic controllers. Walker’s lifetime began on November 2, 1967, and nothing much of importance has happened in foreign policy since then. But even if that weren’t so, fending off four Soviet presidents in as many years simply by firing the striking air traffic controllers was indeed a significant foreign policy achievement. As well as a major technological advance. Computer science history books record all this as the first known instance of virtual reality.
But I don’t think Putin will be as easily dispensed with as Brezhnev, Andropov and Chernenko—he’s younger than they were, and looks pretty healthy—or as cowering as Gorbachev was. And I definitely doubt that Jihadi John or ISIS’s military leaders follow U.S. labor law politics very closely. So simply ending collective bargaining rights here probably won’t cause ISIS to surrender or Putin to end his attempts to annex Ukraine.
No, Walker would have to up the toughness ante. Something that will grab ISIS leaders’ and Putin’s attention. Something that they’ll understand.
Once President Walker starts privatizing Social Security and makes clear that next up is Medicare, Putin and ISIS will know whom they’re dealing with. But President Walker, an impatient leader and a man of action, won’t wait to press the point further. Ending the food stamp and student-lunch programs will provide awesome video of people who starved to death, and ending CHIP will yield perfect photos and stories for the administration’s foreign-policy messaging. Walker may not even have to push through Congress a measure mandating the shooting on sight of all stray dogs and cats, to get ISIS to surrender.
He’s an irresistible candidate. Sure, we don’t want those domestic policies, and we, and he, know that they can’t be justified to the public on their own merits. But we do really want to see Putin end his military aggression in Ukraine, and we really, really want to see the demise of ISIS. And we want these to happen without the assistance of U.S. ground troops. So the trade-offs seem fair.
Uh-oh. Poor Hillary Clinton.
POSTSCRIPT: As someone who has followed the Wisconsin political situation in the last four years fairly closely, I’ve been downright dismayed at the political news media’s facile adoption of the line that Walker is the candidate who can appeal both to the party’s base (pun intended; read the first few paragraphs of Alec MacGillis’s outstanding June 2014 longform article in The New Republic) and the party’s Establishment. Hillary Clinton, and I, will keep our fingers crossed that the Republican Establishment doesn’t read the MacGillis article or is too clueless to foresee ads featuring audio clips from the two radio shows those first few paragraphs describe, broadcast days apart on some show hosted by someone named Mark Belling, in late 2013. There is no possible definition of civilized society in which this would be considered a plus for someone campaigning to be its leader.
Then again, I’ve also been sort of chuckling at the Conventional Wisdom of the last few months among political news media folks that the Republican field is much stronger than their 2012 field. Rick Perry is starting to look good, folks, especially since he’s now remembered the third Cabinet Department he wants to shutter.