Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Fighter - On Sean Hannity for a Fundraiser

Took my college kid, who's home on spring break, to see The Fighter tonight after waiting for it to reach the cheap seats.  It was an inspiring movie about abiding strength of family.  On the way home we listened to Fox radio where Sean Hannity was interviewing Governor Walker by telephone. The Governor was in a car enroute to Fond du Lac for the funeral of Fond du Lac police officer Craig Birkholz, tragically killed in the line of duty in an incident in which another Fond du Lac officer, Ryan Williams, was severely wounded.  It is good the Governor is going to Fond du Lac and I hope his presence will give comfort to the families of Officers Birkholz and Williams and to a community mourning a senseless act. 

After briefly talking about why he was going to Fond du Lac, the tragedy for the Fond du Lac community and Officer Birkholz's loved ones, and the courage of all our men and women in uniform, both law enforcement officers and servicemen overseas, the governor and Mr. Hannity shifted gears to the recall effort being waged against the eight GOP Senators currently eligible for recall.  Hannity asked Governor Walker if he was "scared" about the recall effort.  For the first time that I have heard, Governor Walker replied that he was in fact scared about it.  Before I always heard him confidently expressing the view that the "silent majority" of Wisconsinites stood with the GOP8.  This struck me as a significant change in his view, which only became clearer a little later.

The Governor moved into a monologue about the incredible courage of the eight Senators, who were "elected to do a job to clean up the huge budget problem in the state without increasing taxes and without layoffs."   He talked about the eight taking a "courageous vote" that had put them in fear of harm both politically and physically, and then described death threats that some of them had allegedly faced.  He described Wisconsin being on the "frontlines nationally" in the war being waged by big unions against the forces of fiscal responsibility in statehouses around the country.  He did his best to suggest that there had been intimidation and physical confrontations in the course of the demonstrations in Madison and around the state. It was a smooth continuation of the Fox News narrative that the crowds protesting in Wisconsin were thuggish and out of control.  I silently questioned why he would misrepresent the protests in the state, even on a network that was dedicated to inventing such news.  For weeks the Governor had been talking about the crowds outside the Capitol exercising their rights as citizens to be heard.  He had thrown in the occasional "busloads of protestors being brought in from New York, Washington, Dc and Nevada," but he had not previously tried to push the idea that there had been violence and physical intimidation.

After using the word "frontlines" several time, the Governor segued smoothly into the "ask."  He described a new website that had been set up for people to donate to a fund to help fend off the recall efforts of the GOP8.  The site is  The Governor suggested that if a million of Sean's listeners would each donate a dollar for each of the GOP8, that $8,000,000 would go a long way to helping them retain their seats and keep Wisconsin going down the right path. 

There were so many things wrong about what the Governor said.  The Governor misrepresented the civility of the protests both in Madison and around the State.  The GOP8 were not elected to balance this year's budget without a tax increase.  They were elected in 2008 into a Democratic statehouse with a Democratic governor.  They didn't act in a courageous fashion. They tried to steamroll the budget repair bill through the Senate in a matter of days, with essentially no public input, and when their plans were thwarted by the Wisconsin 14, they put together a plan to introduce and act on the stripped down Budget Repair Bill in a matter of minutes in the evening, where they could vote and race out of the Capitol.  If the following conference committee meeting on March 9 represented a level of legislative courage, I hope the people of Wisconsin will forever be spared legislative cowardice:

But of course this wasn't courage. The performance of Scott and Jeff Fitzgerald, Mike Ellis and Scott Suder in this meeting was well short of courageous. There was only one courageous Republican in the Senate, Dale Schultz, who had the grace to listen to his constituents and vote to represent them as they had asked him to do. He openly talked about how unfair it was to have sprung the union-busting measure on the citizens of Wisconsin. He did so knowing that he would likely become a pariah in a caucus that has chosen to march in lock-step with the Governor, the Fitzgerald Brothers and their WMC patrons. The right wing blogosphere is  already talking about him needing to be "primaried" when his seat is next up.  But the Republicans frankly can't come down too hard yet on Senator Schultz  until they see whether they need him in light of the recall efforts against the GOP8. 

In the five minutes it took my son and me to drive home from the theatre, Governor Walker and Sean Hannity smoothly moved from a brief tribute to two Fond du Lac officers, into a stirring paean to the incredible courage of a bunch of politicians who acted in the middle of the night with no notice to change 50 years of labor peace, and then smoothly on into a on-air fund-raising event.  The entire segment seemed carefully scripted from start to finish.  I readily admit to being biased against this governor, but I couldn't help thinking that if I had been the father of that young Fond du Lac policeman, I would have been sadden by those five minutes.

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