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Scott Walker suggests being an Eagle Scout has prepared him to be commander in chief

Scott Walker suggests being an Eagle Scout has prepared him to be commander in chief

Scott Walker (copy)

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks during the Iowa Agriculture Summit, Saturday in Des Moines.

The Boy Scout Motto is "Be Prepared."

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who achieved the rank of Eagle Scout as a teen, has taken that motto seriously. His Eagle Scout status has him so prepared, he indicated this week, he's ready to serve as commander in chief of the U.S. military.

The Republican governor and likely 2016 presidential candidate spoke on Wednesday at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Phoenix, Arizona. The event was closed to press, but video of Walker's conversation with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt was recorded by the opposition research group American Bridge and released by the liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now.

According to the video, the final question Hewitt asked Walker was, "Does the prospect of being commander in chief daunt you? Because the world that you describe when you're talking about safety is going to require a commitment to American men and women abroad, obviously at some point. How do you think about that?"

Walker first acknowledged, "That's an appropriate question."

"As a kid, I was in Scouts. And one of the things I’m proudest of when I was in Scouts is I earned the rank of Eagle," Walker said. "Being an Eagle Scout is one of the few things you get as a kid that, you are not the past, it’s something you are."

The governor said whenever he attends an Eagle Scout ceremony, he tells the young man being honored that he's not there to congratulate him, but to issue a charge — that once a Scout obtains the Eagle ranking, he is responsible for living up to that calling for the rest of his life.

He then drew from his Eagle Scout experience discussing his military philosophy.

"America is an exceptional country," Walker said. "And I think, unfortunately, sometimes there are many in Washington who think those of us who believe we are exceptional means we are superior, that we're better than others in the world.

"And to me, much like my thought process of being an Eagle Scout is, no, being an exceptional country means we have a higher responsibility ... not just to care for ourselves and our own interests, but to lead in the world, to ensure that all freedom-loving people have the capacity, who yearn for that freedom, to have that freedom."

Speaking to his military strategy, Walker said the U.S. needs to engage in military action when appropriate, but that it must be done with "a plan and a charge that ultimately leads to victory."

The Eagle Scout analogy is one that's likely to offend less than a comparison the governor made in February, addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference.

In Washington, D.C., Walker pointed to his experience battling Wisconsin's public sector unions in 2011 as an indication of how tough he would be when dealing with terrorists.

"If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world," Walker said at CPAC.

Scot Ross, executive director of One Wisconsin Now, says both analogies show a major overreach on Walker's part.

"Kudos to Gov. Walker for, as a teen, achieving the highest ranking possible for a Boy Scout. But let’s be honest, that does not qualify him to be the commander in chief of the United States military," Ross said.

Luke Mathers, who earned the Eagle Scout rank in 2012, said his experience in the Boy Scouts instilled in him a strong sense of civic duty to his community and his state. It also helped him to grow as a person, he said.

Mathers, an intern at OWN, cited a two-week backpacking trip that taught him as much about camaraderie and working with others as it did about himself. 

To be an Eagle Scout, Mathers said, "you have to be able to work with people." The ability to coordinate and balance is key.

Mathers has nothing but praise for Eagle Scouts. But he's skeptical about using the rank as a qualification for any position, let alone commander in chief.

"I think you can gain a lot (as a scout), but I do not believe the rank alone should be the qualifying factor on why you're fit to do something," Mathers said.

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Jessie Opoien is the Capital Times' opinion editor. She joined the Cap Times in 2013, covering state government and politics for the bulk of her time as a reporter. She has also covered music, culture and education in Madison and Oshkosh.

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