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Scott Walker Is Quick to Retreat

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is proud to preen before a CPAC audience, and affirm that his experience weathering a crowd of protesters in Madison proves that he has the mettle to stare down ISIS and the Russians. The power brokers of Des Moines, however, are one adversary that will apparently send him running for the hard-to-find Midwestern hills.

For those blessed with lives that do not involve keeping up with political staffing intrigue, Scott Walker’s PAC announced on Monday that it was hiring the political consultant Liz Mair to advise on social media and online outreach. Mair is a young, talented, rather libertarian consultant who is widely respected for being damn good at her job. Congratulations were quickly in order, and the Walker organization seemed to headed in a very smart direction.

Then the powers-that-be in Iowa noticed that Mair, like many intelligent observers of politics, had criticized their death grip on the presidential nomination process.

Mair also took shots at the grossly market-distorting ethanol mandates that the corn industry has paid handsomely to maintain, and which has been additionally protected by Iowa’s favored status.

Mair was not hired as a policy adviser on energy policy, nor as an adviser on social issues or immigration, where her libertarian streak likely runs counter to Walker’s views, or at least those he has an interest in being viewed as holding. She was hired as a consultant, a sign that Walker was willing to surround himself with the best people. It was a move born out of confidence.

And it has now become an embarrassing display of cowardice.

Late last night, one day after Mair was hired, it was announced that she had resigned, saying, “The tone of some of my tweets concerning Iowa was at odds with that which Gov. Walker has always encouraged in political discourse.”

As Philip Klein wrote when Walker first reversed himself to kowtow to the ethanol mandate earlier this month: “If Walker can’t stand up to Iowans, how will he stand up to the Islamic State?”

Walker has enjoyed rock-star status among the conservative grassroots and many insiders alike, precisely because of his cultivated image as a principled fighter who could take a punch and still come up victorious. His battles with Wisconsin public sector unions are his calling card, and chief credential, to the aforementioned point that he tries to stretch them into the foreign policy credential he sorely lacks.

Walkers’s rapid capitulation to an Iowa and Breitbart backlash to a smart staff hire is more than a misstep on his way to building a campaign, then. It undermines his entire rationale for being a candidate.

Being president requires saying no to allies expecting a yes even more than refusing adversaries who never had any other expectations. If Scott Walker is happy to get conservative kudos for fighting unions, but unable to resist the slightest bit of pressure on his right (with even Erick Erickson providing cover), he won’t look like the man needed to clean up the right, much less the country.

about the author

Jonathan Coppage is a TAC associate editor. He received a BA in Political Science from North Carolina State University, and previously attended the University of Chicago, where he studied in the Fundamentals: Issues and Texts great books concentration. Jonathan also worked at The New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology and Society. Jon can be followed on Twitter @JonCoppage, or reached by e-mail at [email protected]

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