A Wisconsin GOP giant

By Bill Kaplan     

No, not Gov. Scott Walker, when it comes to governing. He is a calculating, disciplined and smart politician whose forte is the permanent campaign. Wisconsin for him is only a waystation on his presidential journey. Moreover, Wisconsin's historic tradition of governing has been left behind in tatters by Walker's ambition, lack of candor and ideologically driven hard-right extremism. 

Former GOP state Sen. Dale Schultz, a pragmatic legislator (Assembly 1982 -- 1991, Senate 1991 -- 2015 and Senate Majority Leader 2004 -- 2006), is the polar opposite of Walker. Schultz's raison d'etre was governing. He was first and foremost a legislator who wanted to grapple with great issues, solve problems and make life better for regular folks. The Schultz way was careful consideration, thoughtful deliberation, negotiated compromises and respect for the minority party. 

Schultz on the Walker way: 

* Steamroll Senate passage of the so-called right-to-work bill - "It's a cowardly move to make certain the public can't be heard on this issue and rush it through in a special session. They ought to be embarrassed or ashamed. I thought they would have at least gone through the trouble of having a sham public hearing, but they don't even think that's necessary here"; 

* Right-to-work "is going to hurt Wisconsin employers terribly in the long run, as the workforce gets more angry. I represented a lot of blue-collar labor people, both union and non-union. So I know that even the wages of non-union workers are determined by collective bargaining. They may not be paying for it, but it has an impact"; 

* On Act 10 which all but ended public workers' collective bargaining rights - "I had not at all realized the revolutionary nature of what was going on"; 

* And, on an attempt to negotiate a compromise to Act 10 (a two-year sunset) - Schultz missed a vote to amend Act 10 because he was "decoyed" into a fruitless meeting with Gov. Walker. 

In an exclusive interview, Sen. Schultz told me: "Not a surprise (support for speedy consideration of right-to-work) from a gov. who when asked about Act 10 talked about divide and conquer. Same recipe." All designed to bolster his presidential run. Moreover, Schultz thought that "the hangover from Walker will be spectacular". The current budget does not "respond to real needs" for public schools, the UW System and roads. Finally, he cautioned not to "underestimate" Walker who is disciplined on "messaging" and well-funded in a "Faustian bargain" with wealthy far-right backers. 

There goes a senator and GOP giant. 

-- Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C. for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 - 2009.

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