A secretly recorded phone conversation between Gov. Scott Walker and an investigative reporter pretending to be David Koch, the New York City right-wing oil billionaire and Walker backer, captures Walker clearly outlining his strategy for making Wisconsin the lead player in a national conservative movement to undercut the power of public employee unions.
The reporter who made the call is Ian Murphy, editor of the Beast, a online publication based in Buffalo. The conversation -- here is a transcript -- shows Walker going down what he calls "the list" of Republican governors who have or may be about to launch attacks on public employee unions in their states.
The recording of this exchange, posted in two parts on YouTube here and here, captures Walker agreeing with the caller when he refers to the staff at MSNBC as "bastards" and presidential advisor David Axelrod as "that son-of-a-bitch."
Walker's office affirmed the authenticity of the call this morning, saying in a statement (PDF): "The governor takes many calls every day. Throughout this call the governor maintained his appreciation for and commitment to civil discourse. He continued to say that the budget repair bill is about the budget. The phone call shows that the governor says the same thing in private as he does in public and the lengths that others will go to disrupt the civil debate Wisconsin is having."
Early in the exchange, which took place Tuesday afternoon, Walker brags about how "in the last couple of days I've been going after Obama because he stuck his nose in here." He talks up how he has been making the rounds of national news shows, including Hannity and Greta Van Susteren's On the Record on Fox and Joe Scarborough's Morning Joe on MSNBC.
Murphy makes reference "the liberal bastards on MSNBC." Responds Walker, "Oh yeah, but who watches them?" He elaborates, "They're off the deep end."
Similarly, after Walker tells a story about running into presidential advisor Axelrod, Murphy remarks, "That son of a bitch." Walker's reply: "No kidding, huh?"
But perhaps the most pertinent exchange occurs over the role that Walker sees Wisconsin playing in a much larger movement.
"The response around the country has been phenomenal," Walker relates. "Brian [Sandoval], the new governor of Nevada, called me the other night ... That's all they want to talk about is: 'What are you doing to help the governor in Wisconsin?'"
Walker continues: "I talk to [Ohio Gov. John] Kasich every day; John's got to stand firm in Ohio. I think we could do the same thing with Rick Scott in Florida. I think [Gov. Rick] Snyder if he got a little more support probably could do that in Michigan. You start going down the list. There's a lot of new governors who got elected to do something big."
Says Murphy: "You're the first domino."
Replies Walker, "Yep. This is our moment."
Walker goes on to explain his belief that the protests at the Capitol will peter out, allowing him to prevail. This is what he says:
"The other day there were 70,000 -- probably two-thirds were against the bill, one-third were for it -- 70,000 people at the Capitol. All week there's been 15,000 to 30,000 a day. But I remind all of our lawmakers that there's five and a half million people in this state and just because a bunch of guys who can jump off of work because their union rules doesn't mean that the rest of the people in your district are with them."
Murphy offers to help Walker out by "planting some troublemakers" among the demonstrators. Walker's reply:
"We thought about that.... My only gut reaction to that would be, right now, the lawmakers I've talked to have just completely had it with them. The public is not really fond of this. The teachers union did some polling and focus groups, I think, and found out the public turned on them the minute they closed schools for a couple of days. The guys we got left are largely from out of state and I keep dismissing it in all of my press comments, [saying] 'Er, they're mostly from out of state.'
"My only fear would be if there was a ruckus caused, is that that would scare the public into thinking maybe the governor's got to settle to avoid all these problems. Whereas I'm saying, 'Hey, we can handle this, people can protest. This is Madison, full of all these '60s liberals. Let them protest. It's not going to affect us. And as long as we go back to our homes and the majority of people are telling us to do the right thing, let them protest all they want.
"Um, so that's my gut reaction. I think it's actually good if they're constant, they're noisy, but they're quiet, nothing happens, because sooner or later the media stops finding them interesting."
At the end of the call, "Koch" says: "Well, I tell you what, Scott. Once you crush these bastards, I'll fly you out to Cali and show you a good time."
"All right, that would be outstanding," responds Walker. "Thanks for all the support."