No one's ever accused me of being an ardent churchgoer — my childhood pastor today would call me a member of the E & C Club, as in Easter and Christmas — but if I remember correctly from my days in Sunday school, God didn't want you to lie.
That's why I sometimes wonder who this God is who Scott Walker claims to talk to whenever he makes a big decision — you know, like cutting the paychecks of working folks, and making it harder for poor people to get health insurance or food stamps, and putting uppity University of Wisconsin professors in their place.
While I find it hard to believe it is God's plan, through our presidential wannabe, to make the less fortunate toughen up a little so we can give corporate Wisconsin a little more welfare, I find it even harder to believe that God counsels the governor to lie to achieve his political ambitions.
But as I've said before in this column, no Wisconsin politician I've known through my 50-plus years in the news business is better at making things up than our own Scott Walker.
And no, these aren't misstatements that most every politician makes from time to time — quoting inaccurate statistics when trying to make a point or misremembering details of a contentious political debate. These are actual made-out-of-whole-cloth untruths.
The latest example was his contention before a group of Republican donors that as he's traveled to Europe, several leaders confided in him that they were concerned about President Obama's leadership.
"I heard that from (British Prime Minister) David Cameron back in February earlier when we we over at 10 Downing," Walker said. "I heard it from other leaders around the world. They're looking around realizing this lead-from-behind mentality just doesn't work. It's just not working."
That was stunning news to Cameron, who felt obligated to refute Walker's claim.
"The prime minister did not say that and does not think that," his spokesperson told Time magazine.
Another example was reported recently by Dan Kaufman in the New York Times Magazine. Last fall, Walker met with Terry McGowan, president of Local 139, a union of 9,000 heavy-machinery operators, to ask for the union's endorsement and a contribution. Kaufman writes:
“I looked across the table at him, and I said, ‘We are both God-fearing men,’ ” McGowan told me. “ ‘If you can tell me that right-to-work will not come on your desk, then I will take you for your word.’ He looked me in the eyes, and he said, ‘It will not make it to my desk.’ He was looking for a contribution, and I was looking for a commitment. We both got what we came for. He kept his, and I lost mine.”
Shortly after Walker was re-elected, lawmakers started pushing a right-to-work bill. Walker said almost immediately that he would sign it, which he did.
But, probably because he gets away with it, Walker doesn't stop lying even when he's told he's not being truthful. Take that teacher from Milwaukee who the governor keeps using to demonstrate how tough he was on Wisconsin's teachers unions during his first term.
Walker uses teacher Megan Sampson frequently in stump speeches and op-eds. In a speech at the conservative Iowa Freedom Summit in January, he claimed she had been named Wisconsin Outstanding Teacher of the Year in 2010, but was laid off because of the Milwaukee teachers union contract. Sampson did receive an award for first-year English teachers, but she wasn't a prestigious Wisconsin Teacher of the Year. Because she lacked seniority, she was slated to be laid off due to staff reductions, but in the end she would have been kept on because of retirements.
Sampson notified the governor back then of the error. Nevertheless he has used her to promote his tough-on-unions narrative, most recently last week in an op-ed for the Des Moines Register.
"I would like Walker to stop using my story as a political narrative for his campaign," the English teacher protested.
Then there was his claim to have voted for Ronald Reagan, his hero, for president when, in fact, Walker was too young to vote when Reagan ran for office.
PolitiFact, the Pulitzer Prize-winning news service that checks the veracity of politicians' claims, has given Walker the fewest "true" or "mostly true" ratings of five governors whose statements it has checked. It's gotten so bad that former President Richard Nixon's counsel John Dean suggests that Walker's stretching of the truth rivals Nixon's.
Still, our governor insists that he only listens to God when he makes his decisions.
Any bets on that's a lie, too?
Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @DaveZweifel
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