When the scandal surrounding New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was hitting its stride, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker sat down for a friendly interview with The American Thinker, an Internet journal that hailed him as “one of those rare politicians who is pragmatic, honest, and actually keeps his campaign promises.”
Walker was positioning himself as a presidential prospect, pitching the notion that “there are many similarities between a governor and a president.”
Asked how voters might judge governors who bid for the presidency, Walker replied: “Governors should be defined not just by what they do and say, but who they surround themselves with, making sure to have the smartest person for a particular task or to head a specific agency. They should be judged on that basis and who they take advice from.”
When he was bidding for the governorship of Wisconsin, Walker surrounded himself with aides who engaged in illegal activities, disregarded the trust and responsibilities that are supposed to go with public positions, and disparaged women, people of color, gays, Jews, immigrants and people with disabilities.
New details on their conduct comes with the release of 28,000 pages of emails and more than 400 legal documents associated with the John Doe investigation that led to the conviction of several aides who served with Walker when, as the Milwaukee County executive, he was seeking the governorship.
In addition to doing campaign work on public time — a theft of taxpayer funds — Walker’s aides circulated emails with bigoted messages. Responding to an email that portrayed poor people and African-Americans as dogs, one top aide referred to the message as “hilarious” and “so true.” Another top aide circulated an email that mocked racial and ethnic minorities, as well as gay men and people suffering from AIDS.
A steady disregard for the human beings they were supposed to be serving showed up on a regular basis in the people closest to Walker, and sometimes in Walker himself. When an aide pondered attacking the use of respectful terms for immigrants, gubernatorial candidate Walker replied: “Don’t hold back!”
Walker aides went further. Discussing an incident in which a woman died of complications related to starvation while she was living at the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex, Walker and his aides communicated with one another about how to keep developments in the tragic story under wraps until after the 2010 gubernatorial election.
The callous conversations were summed up by an email in which one of the aides, Kelly Rindfleisch, announced: "No one cares about crazy people."
Hubert Humphrey once said: “The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy, and the handicapped.”
There is great truth in that statement, as there is in Walker’s suggestion: “Governors should be defined not just by what they do and say, but who they surround themselves with.”
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