Gov. Scott Walker On His New Book, "Unintimidated"

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Gov. Scott Walker On His New Book, "Unintimidated"

Premiere Date: 
November 29, 2013

Gov. Walker discusses his new book, which hit the shelves last week.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:

But first, Governor Scott Walker is celebrating Thanksgiving weekend in Wisconsin after a flurry of interviews to promote his new book. I talked with the governor one-on-one about the book, Wisconsin's political climate, a special session and BadgerCare. Some of his answers may surprise you. I started asking why, when most everyone in Wisconsin certainly knows him, he's written a memoir for a national audience.

Scott Walker:

And this is really the story of our reforms. It's not a biography. If people are going to, you know, want to know about my childhood and how I became an Eagle Scout, they're going to be disappointed, because that's not in here. I think people knew about the images they saw of the protests whether they’re from Wisconsin or elsewhere.  They knew about the results of the recall. But a lot of people didn't know the how, the what, and even within the state, most importantly the why. I thought it was helpful. My hope is, audience-wise, I'd love to have every undecided, persuadable voter in this state read this for no other reason than they understand the why we did what we did.

Frederica Freyberg:

Now, the book jacket explains that this book is outlining lessons the conservatives at the national level can learn from you. And you say that the presidential nominee should be a former or current governor who's taking on big reforms. Now, ABC News says this, “When Walker talks about the kind of candidate republicans should nominate in 2016 it sounds more than a little he's talking about himself.” And governor, it does. How do you respond to that?

Scott Walker:

Well, as I mentioned in the introduction, one of the things I point out for people who are center-right voters, whether it's here or anyplace across the country, who are disappointed after last year's presidential election, as I say, from my view, I think there's much more optimism. Because I think in the states, and I list not just our reforms, I talk about many of the other 30 republican governors in total that there are across the country and almost as many states that have republican legislative majorities, that that's where the real reforms are happening. And so that's my point in saying all that, is I think there is optimism in America, particularly if you’re a center-right voter. It's not limited to me. It's not limited to Wisconsin. It's in the fact that there are lot of reform-minded republican governors who are talking in terms that are optimistic and relevant, and then showing they have the courage to act on it.

Frederica Freyberg:

It's also been pointed out that by kind of saying that the nominee should be an outsider and should be a current or former governor, that your kind of de facto excluding your friend and the former vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan. I know that more recently you’ve kind of brought him back into a tent, the tent, a little bit.

Scott Walker:

Yes.

Frederica Freyberg:

But in your mind, would the best presidential candidate on the republican's part be a governor or former governor, or Paul Ryan?

Scott Walker:

Well, when I-- Back to the-- And you have it exactly right, because many in the media have it scrambled all over the place. I was asked, what my ideal candidate would be. I said it would be a current or former governor. Because those are the ones who are reforming things, getting things done. They have the executive experience. I think by its nature, that just makes the most sense. What I had pointed out though is I think that Paul is one of those rare exceptions of someone who happens to serve in congress but who acts more like what we see successfully out of the governors in the states. Clearly, he’s been aggressive at reforming things. What he's done with his budget proposal, that started out with literally a dozen cosponsors, and now it's something that his caucus embraces. That's a sign of a real reformer. Whether you agree or disagree with reforms, that’s someone who’s got the courage to act on it. And then I think much of the way he operates is much more like an exclusive than what you typically see out of congress. That's why, to me, it's not because he's a fellow Cheesehead. I think there are some of those compelling executive-like experience that is he has.

Frederica Freyberg:

You have an explanation for how you could win the recall in the same year that Barack Obama could win Wisconsin. What is that explanation?

Scott Walker:

Yeah, the Obama/Walker voters, which is one of the things that gets glossed over when people look at what we did and they assume that nobody who voted for me could ever think about voting for Barack Obama or vice versa. What we found is, in one of the exit polls last year, out of six did exactly that. And since then, in the year that's passed, maybe it's changed in the last few weeks with some of the polling in Obamacare, but for about a year, about a little over one out of 10 voters in this state said they supported me and Barack Obama. Clearly, the base is just the reverse. Republicans loving one, hating the other, and vice versa. But for the persuadable, middle of the road voters, more often than not is they're hungry for leadership. They want to respect elected officials. They want to respect candidates. They believe that-- They don't necessarily need a litmus test on every issue. What they want is people who are going to tell them what they're going to do, and then go out and have the courage to go out and do that. And in my case and Barack Obama's case, they believe in us both.

Frederica Freyberg:

Meanwhile here in Wisconsin-- I know you've been doing a lot of talking with the launch of your book.

Scott Walker:

Yes.

Frederica Freyberg:

But in Wisconsin, we're clearly launching gubernatorial race. I don't have to tell that. Do voters that to wonder though whether you're kind of more interested in governing this state, or being president?

Scott Walker:

Well, I think what they should look at are promises. Some candidates have said they're not going to make any promises. What I think is when you hire someone, you don't hire someone asking them how long they're going to work for your company. What you hire them for is to say, what are you going to for my company. What are you going to do to make our company better and more successful. In the case of the voters, which are really the people who hired me back in 2010, and I treated it like a job interview when I ran in 2010. I laid out what I was going to take on the economic and fiscal crises facing our state, and then I did the things I said I was going to do, continue to do them now as their governor. Going ahead to next year in 2014, I'm going to lay out the big, bold reforms we're going to do with tax reform, education reform, entitlement reform, other reforms out there. I’m going to tell people what I would do in the next term if, God willing, they give me the chance to be their governor again. And that's what people should hold us accountable to. One person, one potential candidate is saying, I'm not going to make any promises. I'm going to just really do my best to do a good job. I'm telling people, whether you like me or dislike me or somewhere in between, everyone, at least who's being honest should agree, that if I’m make bold promises, those are the things I follow through on.

Frederica Freyberg:

Can you can you tell us what those bold promises or ideas might be going forward for things like entitlement reform and education?

Scott Walker:

Well, we're going to build off the things we're doing. We'll lay out, obviously, some more specifics after we announce our campaign next spring. But clearly, we're going to look at, for example, the entitlement reforms. We've done things unlike almost every other state in the country. We've helped transition people from being on food stamps to giving the employability skills they need to get in the game and get employed again. That's something that other states haven't done across the country as aggressive as we have. We actually put the money, so we put the money where our mouth is, the money behind that. When it comes to education reform, we're going to continue to give schools the tools so that traditional public schools as well as charter and private schools can improve the ability for every child to learn no matter what their background in our state. That's been a priority for me and we're going to talk about more ways we can do that. And I think overall, we're going to talk about more reforms we can do to increase worker training, technical colleges, University of Wisconsin system, so that we can help put more people to work in this state.

Frederica Freyberg:

Now, I was listening to your interview on NPR's "Morning Edition."  You sounded very friendly and supportive of  public servants, and even talked about how teachers come up to you and thank you for, basically, Act 10 and the reforms you made in that. How widespread do you think that is across the board among public workers given the protests and the division in Wisconsin?

Scott Walker:

Well, I think it's going to take some time. It's certainly not a majority. I mention in the book an interesting story about how, early on, maybe a month or two after the reforms were first enacted, the middle of 2011, how I was in central Wisconsin, and people forget, but I went out schools even throughout that time. I would read as part of our third grade reading initiative. And then I would meet with teachers, usually privately for an hour or so in the library or the multi-purpose room or teacher's lounge, or something like that. And for that particular school, I remember it was an elementary school, about the second or third question in, one of the teachers said to me, why do you hate teachers so much? And I said, with all due respect, I wasn't confrontational. It wasn't like a Chris Christie moment in New Jersey. I said, with all due respect, if you go and you watch YouTube, about everything I'm saying these days is somewhere on YouTube. Heck, if I'm ordering a burger, somebody is going to YouTube video that. I said, go out and look at YouTube and I'll-- I bet you can't find one single clip of me saying anything but good things about teachers and our public servants in this state. I said, you may not-- You may disagree. You may not agree with what I'm proposing and I can handle that. I mean, that's what a democracy is all about. Let’s have that debate. Let's have the discussion. But you'd be hard-pressed to find any evidence that I'm in any way attacking or going after the teachers.  And then I said, the ironies of ironies, the cruel irony, is that in many ways it’s your union, you union leadership, that’s making you feel like you’re under attack, because they want to rev you up and get you out to protest and get you involved and engaged out there based upon this false pretense that you're under attack, where it's legitimate to say, here's the disagreement and go lobby. But we weren't attacking people out there, and yet that's what many felt like because of the people that supposedly were supposed to be protecting them.

Frederica Freyberg

So you feel like time will smooth this?

Scott Walker:

I think so. I mean I think, for some people, unfortunately, not just public servants but others, you know, you could have a parent at their death bed asking them to consider voting for me where they're so locked in they might not. And vice versa. You have some supporters out of my-- Who’d  give their firstborn, they're so supportive. I don't-- In either case, I think the healthy approach is to have an open mind, to not automatically change. That's why people ask audience-wise, who would I most like to read this book. I'd like to have undecided voters, persuadable voters, read this, for no other reason than just to hear the why. Why do we do what we do.

Frederica Freyberg:

Briefly in your book you touched on the first John Doe investigation. What's your reaction to the latest John Doe probe underway that investigates reportedly whether conservative groups coordinated illegally with GOP candidates during the recall elections?

Scott Walker:

Well, my initial reaction was, it's never dull in Wisconsin, in the sense that, particularly around election time, which seems to be all the time. But in this case, you know, last week, I read, week ago in the "Wall Street Journal" an editorial that gave me more insight than what I'd heard before. I don't know much more than that. I really don't know anything more than that. And so I'll leave it to the people who are authorized to speak about it. But people ask me my opinion a lot this past week and I don't have enough more to add to it.

Frederica Freyberg:

I wanted to ask you. I know you have called a special session to extend BadgerCare and the high risk insurance plan because of the major problems with the federal health care website. Describe for me why you called the special session and why you want to extend these.

Scott Walker:

This goes all the way back to last February, remember, when we introduced our budget. And as part of that we did this transition for people living above poverty would go into the marketplace, so that for the first time in our state's history, everyone living in poverty would be covered under Medicaid. First time ever, democrat or republican, never done that before. We’re able to do this. But at the time we said the transition would not take place, and we put this in the statutory language, if the exchanges were delayed. Now, our expectation back then was that if they were delayed, it would be delay based on a legal change at the start of the exchanges. What we found is they haven't legally pushed them back. They’re just, as you mentioned in your question, they're just not working, at least for the majority of people who’d be affected. And so as much as politically-- Some have suggested, why don't you make hay with that. I said, these are real people. These are real people who would fall within the cracks, at least for several months in that duration. So our sense is, we have to legally make the change because the other language doesn't apply here, because they haven't legally moved, statutorily federally moved it back. And we have to move it back. And we want to also allow for HIRSP to continue for people who would otherwise have access to that. We'll do that through the first because I have no reason to believe that this won’t pass with broad bipartisan support. Because I think everybody gets the problem that some our fellow citizens would be up against. And from that point we'll go forward. And the good news is we'll have fewer people uninsured. We'll have everyone in the state living in poverty covering under Medicaid. We’ll have everyone above it transition into the marketplace. And at the same time, we don't expose the taxpayers to the risk that other states are taking from a federal government where they're relying on more Medicaid money from the federal government that can't even get a website up and going.

Frederica Freyberg:

Meanwhile, the people that were on the waiting list will also have to wait?

Scott Walker:

Yeah, and we'll make that transition. I mean, it's interesting to me some of the people who complained about that never complained when Jim Doyle put those people on the waiting list to begin with. So it's kind of an interesting double standard. Apparently it wasn't a crisis years ago when Jim Doyle put those very people living in poverty on. We have a plan to move them off, and they'll move off effective April 1st, first time in the state's history. So yeah, I would have preferred that the Obama administration got their act together, got a website up and going and got the people transitioned by the point needed to make it effective the start of the year, but they haven't. And so, like I said, we're not going to let people slip through the cracks. 


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