Wisconsin’s own Stephen Hayes takes a look at Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker in the most recent Weekly Standard. Much of it will be familiar to those in Wisconsin who have been following the race – but an exchange Hayes had with Graeme Zielinski of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin is most telling:
Graeme Zielinski, a former political reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel who left his job earlier this year to become the spokesman for the Wisconsin Democratic party, wants me to know that Walker’s candidacy is based on lies and half-truths. “Generally, it’s our position that Scott Walker isn’t truthful about his record on just about anything.”
“When Scott Walker was in the legislature, he voted several times for budgets that included studies on high speed rail,” Zielinski explained. “If he was such an opponent of high speed rail, he wouldn’t have been in a tough election fight before he brought it up. He’s been a Johnny-come-lately to this.”
As it happens, I’d just read the transcript of an editorial board meeting with the Journal Sentinel from 2002 featuring Walker and his first opponent for the county executive seat, Jim Ryan. The two men agreed on many of the urgent issues facing the county, but one major area of disagreement concerned infrastructure. Ryan favored funding for a rail-based system in Milwaukee County. Walker did not.
He made two arguments against it—priorities and costs. “There are an incredibly large number of other infrastructure-based projects on the table that directly tie in the economic development that far outweighs the seriousness of just this rail-based system.” Walker was worried that federal subsidies would not cover the entire cost of the project and would, in any case, leave the county responsible for operating costs it could not afford. He makes exactly the same arguments today about high-speed rail.
So I pressed Zielinski about Walker’s supposed votes for high-speed rail.
“Was that one of those situations where he cast the vote for a huge budget so you can’t separate it out?”
“Yeah,” he acknowledged. “Absolutely.”
“So is it your view that the principled thing to do would have been to vote ‘no’ on the overall budget because it included studies on high-speed rail?”
“Well, he—he took some affirmative votes in committee that allowed—procedurally allowed those studies to go forward.”
That didn’t sound like a big deal to me, but if the spokesman for the Democratic party thought enough of it to make it his leading critique of Walker, I wanted to know more. Zielinski said he would send me details about those votes and then shifted to a broader critique, attacking Walker from the right.
“On spending, he’s increased spending by $380 million—more than any candidate in this race. On taxes, he raised taxes by 40 million bucks while he’s been here.”
I asked him about that number. “He raised taxes by 40 million bucks. The tax levy has gone up by $40 million.”
Of course, those are two different claims. The first one is false; the second one is true. The tax levy has indeed increased, but only because the county board repeatedly raised taxes over Walker’s veto. I pointed that out to Zielinski.
“He signed those budgets. He signed those budgets.”
“But they were passed over his veto.”
A four-second pause and then:
“Spending went up by 380 million bucks. And if his argument is ‘I couldn’t do anything,’ then how can he do something about high-speed rail? ‘Well, I was helpless about increasing spending by 35 percent but I’m not helpless on high-speed rail.’ That doesn’t square.”
Zielinski then warmed to the theme of making Milwaukee County sound something like Rome, or at least Detroit. “The parks are in ruins. The county buildings are in ruins. Services are in ruins.”
Of course, when things go wrong in Milwaukee County, it’s Scott Walker’s fault. When things go wrong in the City of Milwaukee, it’s never Tom Barrett’s fault.
Read the whole thing here.