In his latest Milwaukee Journal Sentinel column, “The Anti-Walker crowd needs to keep looking”, Christian Schneider gamely tries to defend Gov. Walker from “myopic Democrats” after the release this past week of many thousands of emails, some which seem to connect Walker (as objective reporters at the Journal Sentinel and Wisconsin State Journal have reported) to knowledge of a secret email system and county staff campaigning. But Schneider’s arguments are, as usual, not convincing.
The primary defense of Walker is, of course, that Walker wasn’t ultimately charged after the long John Doe investigation. Having clear evidence that will hold up in court is a necessary democratic protection which we can all be grateful for, but sometimes under our system of justice the guilty go free and the innocent are falsely convicted– it’s not perfect. And Gov. Walker has twice recently refused to say definitively that he had no knowledge of the secret email system. Why?
Schneider’s first defense is that the voters of Wisconsin, a little more than half of them, kept Walker from being removed from office in the recall election even after the convictions of the John Doe were known. There is no accounting for political taste, but is Schneider claiming the voting majority is always right? Shall I list all the misguided, unjust majority opinions we Americans once held? As it’s the weekend, I won’t bother. Anyway, we know a lot more now of what transpired in Walker’s Milwaukee County office.
Schneider then goes on to point out that Walker could not possibly have been wise to what his county staff were up to not far from his desk:
“But all this email demonstrates is that Walker used a campaign email account to conduct campaign business — something every incumbent politician in America does. It in no way suggests he was aware his staff was using a different router to check the emails he was sending them or vice versa.
One presumes that when Walker sends someone an email from his BlackBerry, he doesn’t know if the recipient’s cellphone service is AT&T, Verizon or T-Mobile. If Walker is “tied” to the secret network, then so is anyone who sent Rindfleisch an email that she checked while at work.”
Walker should have known, however, that the email he received and sent from/to his “inner circle” of county staff came from and went to private email accounts at a time when county staffers should have been doing county business on county accounts. Walker was not “an exasperated boss who has found out his staff has been abusing their time at work”, as Schneider implausibly has it. Walker sounds much more like a candidate for governor who is afraid of the bad press if the truth gets out, telling Tim Russell “We cannot afford another story like this one . . . That means no laptops, no websites, no time away during the work day, etc.” And Ruth Conniff of The Progressive explains why it is important that this Walker email was addressed to Russell:
“Why did Walker tell Russell [to stop it all] instead of his chief of staff or someone who had authority over work in the county office? It’s because Russell was Walker’s longtime political adviser and campaign aide, who set up a secret WiFi system in the office.”
Taken as a whole, the 27,000 pages of emails released would make, with judicious editing, for far more intriguing and instructive reading than Gov. Walker’s puffed-up book (Unintimidated) about doing away with collective bargaining for teachers and other modestly paid state employees. For what the emails provide is an intimate look into the internal workings (including racism and something ridiculously mean and prudish about a county doctor modeling thongs on her own time) of Walker’s inner political circle and the will of Walker.
Now we learn, after more looking by reporters at the Journal Sentinel, that Walker told his county staff to go online and make favorable comments about him. And that’s just what they did (even during county business hours), posting anonymous comments on Journal Sentinel articles and creating one anonymous pro-Walker blog, which Walker’s staff and campaign claimed to have no knowledge of. Here’s the JS on the blog:
“Along with defending Walker on news stories, Pierick operated an anonymous pro-Walker blog called ScottForGov.com. In 2010, Walker’s campaign and county officials said they had no tie to the website, but newly released records show Walker approved the name and launching of the blog.”
Surely, Mr. Schneider, you would agree that this is an underhanded, dishonest attempt to get his county staff to boost Walker’s political reputation. So Walker encouraged his county staff to, in effect, campaign for him. Some did and then got in legal trouble. We have to feel somewhat sorry for Darlene Wink and Kelly Rindfleisch, for it now appears that they were doing pretty much what was expected of them and then took the fall for it.
The only myopia here is the denial of Walker supporters, denial having become something of a conservative specialty lately.