Yesterday, Gov. Walker gave a press conference flanked by the Fitzgerald brothers (Speaker and Senator, respectively) so spectacularly out of touch, obstinate, and misdirecting that I could hardly form words with which to properly lambast him for it.
I'm over that now, as you can see.
The conference was also a piece of shrewd political maneuvering by the increasingly unpopular governor. For weeks now the narrative has (rightly) been all about his refusal to give an inch on the budget proposal, ignoring the hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin residents who've descended on the Capitol and small towns across the state to voice their displeasure with his plans, and taking a phone call from a prankster he thought was billionaire David Koch.
By yesterday afternoon, however, Walker managed to shift the headlines (on many mainstream media outlets, anyway) toward placing blame for the impasse on senate Democrats specifically Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller.
Over the course of the presser, Walker and the Fitzgerald's sought to drive a wedge between Miller and the other 13 Democrats currently waiting in Illinois by claiming that he's actually been "reaching out to reasonable senators, many of whom are very interested and willing to come back to the state of Wisconsin."
Walker then claimed that the only thing keeping them from coming home was Miller. The press conference was held, presumably, in response to a letter sent by Miller to Walker that asked for a meeting at the Illinois/Wisconsin border to continue "serious discussions" in order to reach some sort of solution. "We need to walk through why this letter is so ridiculous," Walker declared.
The only problem with that, of course, is that we've heard from Walker time and again that he has no intentions of compromising. During what he thought was a friendly chat with David Koch, Walker laid out his hoped-for plan to lure the Democrats back to the Capitol with the promise of a sit-down talk, only to use the meeting as a trick to allow the Republicans to vote the bill through while the Democrats were otherwise occupied with Walker.
Yesterday morning talk radio host Charlie Sykes asked Walker point-blank whether or not the governor would agree to Miller's proposed border meeting. Walker's answer was succinct: "No."
Labor unions in Wisconsin weeks ago said they would agree to concessions on pension and benefit contributions if Walker would just take collective bargaining off the table. Again, Walker's answer has been clear: No way.
Since Wisconsin isn't actually broke no matter how much Walker would like us to believe otherwise and since stripping unions of their collective bargaining rights does nothing to alleviate the problems we do have with our budget, one simply must conclude that this whole brouhaha is about nothing more than a modern neo-con wet dream of union busting and further eroding the hard won rights and protections of regular working people.
And now that Walker has found his massive power grab to be even more massively unpopular, as protests continue in earnest to their fourth week, Walker is, instead of being a good leader and listening to his constituents and fellow elected representatives, looking for new ways to lash out and create divisions.
Only trouble is, despite the headlines and Walker's protestations to the contrary, the senate Democrats appear just as united as ever in their resolve to remain outside the state until the governor actually agrees to some form of compromise (pack a big suitcase, guys).
As of late yesterday afternoon, 11 of the 14 senators had issued statements calling on Walker to compromise and expressing unity of purpose (12 if you count Sen. Jauch speaking on behalf of Sen. Cullen). One joint statement from the entire group stating their goals and plans would be even better and go a long way toward dispelling the uncertainty Walker is trying to create, though.
Still, after the press conference, even Sen. Jauch mentioned specifically by Walker as one of the most "reasonable" of the 14 Democrats, presumably in an attempt to sow uncertainty took issue and fired back, saying, "Never, never has there been a suggestion that Tim Cullen and I would somehow abandon the other 12 for the sake of cutting a deal. That's just an outrageous lie."
It's either an outrageous lie, or Walker truly has gone off the reservation and really believes the stuff that comes out of his mouth (a distinct possibility on which I've already touched).
Open records request? Pssh, that can wait…
In the course of the question-and-answer session that followed Walker's press conference, one reporter asked for specific examples of items within the budget repair bill that the administration might be willing to negotiate and compromise on (this having been something Walker repeatedly claimed was the case).
Walker's response was cagey at best, and direct evidence of his intention to ignore an open records request submitted by Isthmus and The Associated Press. The two news organizations filed the requests in the middle of February, asking to see any emails sent to or from the governor's office that mention the budget repair bill. Initially this was to verify Walker's claims that he'd received thousands of emails from constituents who supported his plan. The open records request could now also help verify whether or not Walker really has been in such constant communication with Democratic senators as he claims, and to what end.
Unsurprisingly, the Walker Administration has failed to comply with the request, leading to a lawsuit that has now been filed against them. Amidst all of this, Walker's aforementioned response to the reporter's question becomes all the more suspect:
"We still, even as of yesterday, we've had ongoing discussions about this and as I've said repeatedly I'm not going to negotiate in public because we've given our word that I would not identify things because I'm trying to give them some coverage to discuss among their caucus what they can or can't accept. Once this is completed I have no problem giving you the documents, day after the day the emails that have gone back and forth, the discussions, because we've been discussing this in earnest." (emphasis mine)
Basically, Walker has decided to flaunt Wisconsin law just so long as necessary to force through passage of his budget bills. Once that's all done and official-like, then you can read the emails that either 1) don't exist, or 2) do exist but don't reflect at all what he says they do and maybe they'd like time to alter them a bit or just redact everything.