Wednesday, January 14, 2015

National media often fail Scott Walker reporting

[updated] National media - - with some exceptions - - are not bringing their investigative  "A" game to the Scott Walker story, leaving readers with an incomplete and inaccurate picture.

For example, The Washington Post on Thursday and The New York Times on Monday reported that Walker had left Marquette University during his senior year before graduating.

But this blog and other media, including the PolitiFact service at The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel have reported that while Walker did leave school in his fourth year of enrollment, he was 34 credits, or just over two semesters short of completing what at that time - - 1990 - - was a full degree load.

PolitiFact also says Walker has said he was 15-17 credits short, helping to create the impression that he was closer to graduation than the record indicates.

Small point? No. The history of the issue shows Walker's unwillingness to give a complete and accurate accounting, and the reporting which may flow from one outlet to another gives Walker more credit (inadvertent pun) for personal achievement that he is due.

In fact, this Washington Post column barely scratches the surface, and by calling Walker "scrappy" in the same thought as his incomplete degree, we get a picture perhaps of a blue-collar or low-income kid who was out of his element at Marquette University.

When the facts are that Walker was a middle-class kid from a good high school who'd run and lost a troubled election campaign for student body President two years before leaving school, and had been working on a triple major.

Walker's unwillingness to lay out all the facts underscores a troubling Walker penchant: defaulting away from facts. Note that in his total PolitiFact file, "false" is his leading category.

Here's another example. RealClearPolitics today lets "sleeper" candidate Walker, "a preacher's son," bask in being called "nice."
In a recent interview with conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt, Walker addressed those concerns. “Yeah, I’m nice. I’m midwestern nice. There’s no doubt about it,” he said.
No doubt about it?

Let's take a closer look at the multiple groups and people Walker has disrespected:

*  How many "nice" politicians cut record-breaking sums from school children's educations?

*  While even farther-right figures like Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, and Florida's US Senator Marco Rubio just last night on The Daily Show have lauded the value of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit because it puts money in the pockets of the working poor to keep them earning, Walker:

a) reduced that program in Wisconsin for many of its family beneficiaries, b) also increased other taxes on low-income Wisconsinites to cover revenue losses created by tax cuts aimed at businesses and higher earners, and c) denied he'd done any such thing, PolitiFact reported.

*  How many "nice" politicians campaign against the poor or jobless by stereotyping them as lazy people sitting on their sofas playing xBox?

*  How many "nice" politicians announce, out-of-the-blue, that a law should be passed quickly to force poor and unemployed citizens, based on zero evidence, to pass urine tests to get food stamps or unemployment benefits? After already delaying some jobless benefits to people hammered in the deep recession and making Wisconsin only one of our states that has recently elected to cut food stamps?

*  How many "nice" politicians block any increase in the poverty-enforcing $7.25/hourly minimum wage, refuse to even consider it and add they see no need for any minimum wage whatsoever?

*  How many "nice" politicians turn down Federal health insurance funding to cover as many poor people as possible, thereby also adding to the state deficit and costing the state jobs? Then say they turned aside the federal money because the federal government had previously reneged on health-care payments - - a statement PolitiFact ruled "false."

*  How many "nice" politicians agree that mandatory, medically unnecessary ultrasound procedures forced on women seeking legal abortions are " problem..." and have manipulated budgets and public opinion to close several women's health clinics across their states - - even at clinics where legal abortions were not provided?

*  How many "nice" governors sign, in private, legislation that makes it easier for public schools to retain their Native American nicknames and logos, while other states and institutions have decided it's less important to be offensive?

*  How many "nice" governors refuse to ever issue a pardon? Even to a veteran who'd made a single mistake, sought a second chance and found an unmovable, "nice" and unbearably narcissistic Governor saying no, never?

*  How many "nice" campaigning politicians withhold their plans to virtually end 50 years of public sector collective bargaining, mandate larger worker contributions to pension and health plans, falsely-claim they did not withhold those plans during the campaign and cannot cite any evidence to support that claim - - and, to boot - - refer to his sudden, "divide-and-conquer"  - - his phrase - - post-swearing-in action aimed at Wisconsin workers as "dropped the bomb."

*  How many "nice" incumbent governors read their staffs a nasty top ten list of ways you can tell someone is a public employee? Samples:
On a snow day when they say “non-essential” people should stay home you know who they mean. 
It takes longer to fire you than the average killer spends on death row. 
You think the French are working themselves to death. 
You know by having a copy of the Holy Koran on your desk your job is 100% safe. 
You have a Democratic congressman’s lips permanently attached to your butt.
*  How many "nice" politicians travel to an upper-income, virtually-all-white suburb (Oconomowoc Lake) near their state's largest, minority-majority and relatively low-income city (Milwaukee) and ask voters at a rally for re-election support so the state would not "become another Milwaukee."

Walker might sound nice compared to a more combative Chris Christie, or more openly misogynistic as Mike Huckabee, but Walker is as hard-edged and compassion-free as any of the GOP/Tea Party conservatives heading into the 2016 presidential campaign.

National media which paper over Walker's authoritarian character and inveterate false-speaking do their readers and the political process a disservice.

Final thought: I've given credit more than once on this blog to for its reporting about  a right-wing summit meeting in 2007 where Walker - - three years before his successful 2010 campaign for Governor - - was anointed by powerful interests to carry the conservative banner.

Where is the follow-up by other media on the story?

That meeting, fully-reported, should be the starting point for national political reporting about Scott Walker, and not a surface narrative reinforcing Walker as the-nice-Midwestern preacher's-son.

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