Madison360: In the final weeks, Tom Barrett should make it about integrity and ethics

2012-05-14T06:30:00Z 2012-05-29T22:30:51Z Madison360: In the final weeks, Tom Barrett should make it about integrity and ethicsPAUL FANLUND | Editor of The Capital Times |

To me, the headline seemed irrefutable: “Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem.”

Yet coming as it did, from a pair of mainstream scholars, the assertion in a Washington Post op-ed ignited a flood of charges and countercharges.

The thesis, based on 40 years of experience in Washington, D.C. by Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution and Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, was without nuance: “Never have we seen (politics) this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.”

“The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”

That also aptly describes Scott Walker, don’t you think?

If nothing else, Wisconsin’s Republican governor is in tune with these tea party times, when a mainstream conservative like Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar can tumble in a primary to a lightweight extremist, as happened last week in Indiana.

That same day, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett easily defeated three fellow Democrats in our gubernatorial recall primary and will face Walker in three weeks, proving that Walker strategists had been correct all along in targeting Barrett as the governor’s most dangerous foe on June 5.

Barrett defeated his closest challenger, former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, by 24 percentage points, yet much of the post-vote analysis was, for Democrats, somehow spun as a negative.

First was much ballyhooing about the strong turnout in the Republican primary for Walker (an “astonishing” 626,538 votes, gushed the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) despite a lack of significant opposition. Then there was how Barrett’s large victory margin marked some sort of Waterloo for public labor unions, which had strongly backed Falk, raising questions about labor’s capacity now to boost Barrett with dollars and get-out-the-vote efforts.

This two-pronged analysis caused some hand-wringing among progressives last week, but let’s step back a second.

First, regarding Republican turnout, sure, Walker’s base is just as passionate as Barrett’s. But Walker has already spent millions on the race thanks to the jaw-dropping amounts he’s received from out-of-state big shots. In just the first part of this year he raised some $13 million. With that much advertising firepower, wouldn’t you expect him to be able to motivate and turn out his base?

Second, on the topic of influence of labor leaders, the claims by the Walker camp are mutually exclusive. For many months, Walker and his lieutenants attributed recall fervor solely to “out-of-state labor bosses.” But last week, they were chortling about how labor has lost its clout as evidenced by Falk’s weak showing. So which is it?

It is true that Falk had strong backing from public union labor leaders, but those leaders notably stepped back from attacking Barrett, even pulling an early anti-Barrett television ad, and have linked arms with Barrett since the primary. (Yes, it would have helped if pro-union television money that was spent boosting Falk had instead been directed to anti-Walker messaging to offset the glut from the other side, but that’s not worth worrying about now.)

So instead of viewing Barrett’s margin as a sign of labor weakness, it is actually a signal of strength and unity among those who oppose Walker. With revulsion for the governor’s performance the unifying motive, the focus during the primary was on selecting the Democrat most likely to beat Walker, and there are many who named that as Barrett’s strongest attribute.

Beyond those points, let’s do a reset.

With three weeks to go, polling indicates the race is essentially a dead heat with predictions of a razor thin outcome, to be decided by a tiny handful of undecided voters.

So how does Barrett appeal to these rare and precious undecided voters?

To be sure, many are outraged by the unbending tea party ideology that has swept national GOP politics and has guided this governor at all times on every issue, but that is not new.

Here is another idea: Do everything possible to make the choice about integrity, the kind of honesty, fairness, ethics and morality we look for in our leaders as we do in our friends.

Let’s begin with honesty.

Late Thursday the Journal Sentinel made public a video showing Walker bragging to a billionaire donor that he would help turn Wisconsin into an anti-union “right-to-work” state using a “divide and conquer” approach that started with his attack on public unions, an intent he has repeatedly denied in public comments.

There is also Walker’s record for honesty as measured by PolitiFact Wisconsin, which as of last week had found 31 of the 48 Walker claims they investigated to be at least “mostly false” all the way to “pants-on-fire false.”

Then there is fairness.

Most of us in Wisconsin, I think, expect that government will give everyone a fair shake. But last week an investigative story in the Wisconsin State Journal alleged a Walker political appointee in the Department of Natural Resources protected a campaign contributor from sanctions even though human waste his company dumped from septic tanks threatened to poison wells close to nearby homes.

The story was consistent with a broader narrative about how Walker has emasculated environmental and other regulations in the state to favor business over consumer interests, especially for his wealthy contributors. That probably explains the Walker administration’s ugly if amateurish attack on the professional ethics of the reporter who broke the story.

Then there is the notion of morality and ethics.

Last week yet another witness, now 12 in all, was granted immunity in the ongoing probe into potentially illegal political activity conducted on government time while Walker was Milwaukee County’s executive.

Even as Walker continues to deny any personal wrongdoing, his campaign transferred $60,000 to a legal defense fund from campaign coffers to cover his lawyer’s fees. The probe has been prominently reported in Milwaukee and Madison, but has been less publicized in smaller media markets in Wisconsin. It merits more attention. (Given Walker’s millions, can you imagine how much paid television time would have been devoted to the investigation by now if it instead concerned Barrett?)

Finally, Walker and his allies have acted as if the 1 million voters who supported Barrett, his 2010 opponent, deserve no voice whatsoever in how their government works. Walker’s arrogance seems unprecedented. I frequently wonder what the hard-right talk radio types would say if the shoe were on the other foot. For many of us, that dictatorial style is Walker’s signature offense.

Yes, this recall election should pivot even more on integrity than on ideology. The contrast between candidates is as great on that as it is on left-right politics.

For those of us who have known and followed Barrett, he comes across as a straight-forward, self-effacing guy, an affable and experienced executive who seems likely to lead as a “big tent” governor by involving political foes.

Barrett would get to decisions by starting near the political center. In fact, I bet he would offend liberal Democrats by being insufficiently obsessed with political payback and instead choose the politics of inclusion and the path toward healing.

In other words, the antithesis of Scott Walker.

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(11) Comments

  1. BrewCrew1010
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    BrewCrew1010 - May 21, 2012 10:44 am
    oh yeah sure, great IDEA!!!!!! just last week we had him skipping out on what he would consider his jobs "obligations" of honoring fallen officers of his city with no excuse!!!!! this disregard and DISRESPECT to these family members and fallen officers (listen to the attached audio) just shows that this guy is REPULSIVE!!!
  2. 59er
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    59er - May 19, 2012 8:29 pm
    Ethics and integrity, then why is Mitchell, Barrett's Lt.Governor lacking those two qualities. It takes a whole bunch of ethics and integrity to send a letter with your name on it threatening boycotts on businesses that didn't fall in lock step with the unions. Barrett can't play the ethics and integrity card when he himself doesn't have either one of those qualities. Remember when you lay down with union swine, your are going to come out of the sty a very muddy.
  3. Clyde
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    Clyde - May 18, 2012 10:45 am
    This story should have been entitled "I dare Tom Barrett to make this recall race about integrity and ethics"

    Then the stoolie that wrote the story could have told everyone about how Barrett together with his best buddy Jim Doyle screwed over a successful Milwaukee company and gave away the farm to a Spanish company to in essence do the same thing.

    Then he could have told everyone how Barrett's wife, a veteran public school teacher used a Milwaukee Public School taxpayer funded e-mail account, on taxpayer time to do political work, which of course all along she knew was unethical.

    Then he could have told us how Barrett is too gutless to hold a general referendum that would ask Milwaukee taxpayers what they think about, and furthermore if they want the $200 Million street car Barrett plans on ramming down their throats with no opportunity for public input.

    Then he could ask Barrett to tell the public whatever happened to the promise he made over eight years ago when he first ran for Milwaukee mayor. (?) The promise he made to stop the Milwaukee Metropolitian Sewer Distict's recurring practice of dumping billions of gallons of sewage into Lake Michigan.

    Then he could have Barrett explain his relationship with the union boss that he stood arm in arm with as he endorsed Barrett while Barrett puppeted the phony rhetoric about "Walker's War on Women" when all the while the union boss was accused of beating his wife - AND - why the women on Barrett's staff make more than $17,000 per year less than the men do.

    Finally he could tell everyone where Barrett was when he blew off the two police recognition ceremonies ealier this past week.

    I really do think plenty of people would love to learn all about those things. But I realize that's kind of difficult when stooges like the nitwit that wrote this stupid story won't bother to ask since they're so biased and dishonest.
  4. noliberalhere
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    noliberalhere - May 18, 2012 10:16 am
    Here are the facts...Walker balanced the budget without raising taxes, liberated public employees from mandatory union contributions (may have been overturned by the court because unions need their dues), enacted reforms that allowed teachers and other public employees to keep their jobs rather than being laid off. Local government and school district finances have been improved because they no longer have to pay ridiculous high prices for insurance benefits to a company owned by the teacher's union. Those are the facts. And, Walker will do much more for the betterment of Wisconsin if voters do the smart thing on June 5. Chief Executive magazine reported on its 2012 survey of CEO’s, ranking of best states in which to do business. Wisconsin has moved up from 41st place in 2010 to 20th in 2012. The report included a special report on Wisconsin, in which CEO’s expressed concern that the recall of Walker could “upend the great improvements made in the state’s business climate in just two years.” The survey’s results are important because the survey is completed by asking “those who doing the hiring”. During the last session, this Administration worked to eliminate a $3.6 billion budget; held the line on property taxes; K-12 tax levy decreased by more than $47 million; paid back $235 million to the state’s Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund (raided by Doyle); paid $176.5 million to cover Medicaid shortfall; paid $58.7 million in unpaid taxes to Minnesota (owed before Walker at an interest rate of $4,584 per day); paid $20 million to the state Department of Corrections; and paid $341 million in lapses leftover by the Doyle Administration. They passed 6 jobs bills; two agriculture bills; 2 education bills; and 8 bills to benefit Veterans and Seniors.
  5. srwspoon
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    srwspoon - May 16, 2012 2:41 pm
    The writers and editors around the Cap Times should read this:

    Professional media sources are twisting the knife in the back of American politics by cherry picking words, phrases, and facts to spin the story into skewed snippets that support their agenda. Innuendo now rules and real truth, as in the whole truth, has been forced into the back seat.
  6. srwspoon
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    srwspoon - May 16, 2012 2:33 pm
    If you want to know why I read articles from the Cap Times, it's because I read all points of view even the extreme ones like the Cap Times. As with any "news" outlet; there is some level of truth to things they write even if it is thinly layered or skewed, just not much "integrity and ethics" to be had around here.
  7. srwspoon
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    srwspoon - May 16, 2012 2:24 pm
    I just want to know why the Cap Times is promoting "integrity and ethics" when they rarely show either to their readers.

    INTEGRITY : The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.
    ETHICAL : Of or relating to moral principles or the branch of knowledge dealing with these.

    The only honesty and moral principles that the Cap Times shows is that which supports "their" extreme left wing political viewpoint. The Cap Times is the most hypocritical "news" outlet I have ever seen.

    HYPOCRISY : The practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one's own behavior does not conform; pretense.
  8. busybee
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    busybee - May 16, 2012 10:25 am
    Tom Barret = Honesty, Integrity and Good Character.

    Walker = A Viper with evil ALEC cronies.
  9. tomtom33
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    tomtom33 - May 16, 2012 4:59 am
    Given those unambiguous rules and the huge spotlight that has been shining on Walker, he should be nailed if he screwed that up. My guess is that, had he screwed that up, he would have been called to account by now - especially by his friends at the Cap Times.
  10. Peacenik2012
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    Peacenik2012 - May 16, 2012 2:01 am
    I'm an attorney (I know,I know. I don't like attorneys either. How is that for being honest?).

    The biggest thing being talked about at the courthouse now is that Scott Walker is going to be arrested within the next two weeks.

    Normally I would laugh this off. However, given the very unambiguous and strict rules for transferring money from a campaign fund to a legal defense fund, this is starting to ring true.

    If Walker transferred the money in violation of the rules, that would in and of itself be a criminal violation.

    I guess we'll know something soon.
  11. BrewCrew1010
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    BrewCrew1010 - May 15, 2012 3:52 pm
    Why does Barrett think he should be running for Governor!!??

    1. In Barretts 8 year term unemployment has increased to 10.4 percent (50% for minorities)

    2. He has made Milwaukee one of the most impoverished areas in nation

    3. In his 8 years Barrett has allowed the MPS dropout rate to increase to 54% (5th highest in US) due to the fact that the illiteracy rate is one of the worst in the country.

    4. Barrett has been bleeding jobs for years, most of the losses in Wisconsin came from HIS city!!!

    5. Since jobs have been leaving Milwaukee for years and Barrett has not addressed the issue; it has become one of the worst cities to find a job in the US.

    6. He has Raised taxes every year but 1 (2010 when he ran for Gov)

    7. Barrett has allowed millions of gallons of sewage to fill our lakes and rivers (he said he would address this 8 years ago)

    8. Barretts failure to address the pollution issues have created some of the most polluted beaches in the country

    9. Since Barrett has taken office crime has EXPLODED

    10. Barretts city has had a bond rating DROP due to his incompetence to run a city.

    11. Property values have gone up in wisconsin, they have cratered under Barrett and Milwaukee

    12. Some other noteable failures you could expect with Barrett as govenor... City hall repair fail, trolley to nowhere, Kohl’s headquarters fail...
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