- Views & Opinions
Republican Gov. Scott Walker is using his new book to renew his criticism of 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and raise his own national profile as a reformer who took on public sector unions and won.
Walker’s book provides a detailed account of his 2011 battle against public unions, the campaign he won against their efforts to recall him, and his unhappiness with Romney and other Republicans he says didn’t learn the lessons from his political victories.
The Associated Press on Friday obtained a copy of Walker’s book, “Unintimidated: A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge,” before its scheduled release Nov. 19.
Walker’s book includes an excoriation of Barack Obama’s presidency and Washington politics, saying Obama has laid out a second term agenda that “doubles down on the failures of his first.” He says Wisconsin’s Republican-led policies have shown a better way forward for the country.
“If we can do it in Wisconsin, we can do it anywhere – even in our nation’s capital,” Walker writes.
Democrats who fought Walker’s agenda in the Legislature, and who helped organize the recall attempt, said his book was nothing more than fodder for a future campaign.
“I’ve never met anyone who wants to be president more,” said U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, a Democrat from Madison who served in the state Assembly during the union fight. “We knew the book was coming. We know he’s traveling all over the country. It would be nice if he put even a portion of that energy into creating jobs in Wisconsin.”
Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate said Walker’s book shows that he would only cause more divisiveness.
“He’s not the type of person who’s going to bring people together and sit people down around a table,” Tate said.
The release of Walker’s book comes roughly a year before he faces re-election in Wisconsin. One Democrat candidate, former Trek Bicycle Corp. executive and state Commerce Department Secretary Mary Burke, has announced she will challenge Walker.
Burke, who had not announced her candidacy before Walker wrote the book, is not mentioned in it.
Walker spends a chapter dissecting Romney’s campaign. He recounts an email he sent to voicing his frustrations about its tone, and urging Romney to show more passion, get out from behind the podium and connect directly with voters “like you did to the Olympic athletes” when Romney oversaw the 2002 Winter Olympics. Walker said he got no response.
Walker writes that Republicans in 2012 didn’t run on their principles, didn’t criticize Obama enough and did a “lousy job of presenting a positive vision of free market solutions to our nation’s problems in a way that is relevant to people’s lives.”
While criticizing Romney, Walker is much kinder to Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. He calls Ryan, who is a close friend, “one of the smartest and most decent people I know in or out of politics.”
Walker says Ryan has the courage to tackle big issues and is a bold reformer, but that Romney distanced himself from many of Ryan’s fiscal proposals. Walker also offers praise for other Republicans who are considered possible presidential candidates in 2016, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Ryan plans to publish a book titled, “Where Do We Go from Here?” next summer.
Walker devotes most of his 278-page book, co-written by Marc Thiessen, to retelling the story of his 2011 fight to effectively end collective bargaining rights for most public workers. He reveals details of closed-door meetings with Republican lawmakers, death threats his family received, and some private conversations with his wife, Tonette.
Walker says it was after Tonette questioned why he was pushing for the union changes in the face the fierce backlash that he realized he hadn’t done enough to explain his proposal to voters.
“If I could convince Tonette,” Walker writes, “I could probably convince most of our citizens as well.”
Walker repeats his rationale for the collective bargaining proposal, saying changes were necessary to deal with a $3.6 billion budget shortfall. He derides protesters as “agitators” who “harassed and spit on lawmakers” and questions the strategy of union leaders who fought to stop his plan from passing.
Walker said he was never worried about his political future, even though polls showed his approval rating dipping to as low as 37 percent during the union fight. With the Legislature controlled by his party, “We had the votes, and we had no choice,” he said.