Walker-endorsing Newspaper Now Has Doubts

The Green Bay Press Gazette, normally a notable publication only during Packers season, is expressing editorial reservations about the take-no-prisoners approach of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in the labor showdown unfolding in Wisconsin.

The paper endorsed Walker during the 2010 election, and still supports his primary aim of balancing the budget.

But his assault on public employees–which the newspaper complains he did not exactly telegraph when he was campaigning–has refashioned the debate from the need for shared sacrifice and fiscal austerity to a fight over whether public employee unions deserve to live or die. And that, the newspaper’s editorialists think, is not helping matters.

But let’s hear it directly from them:

Walker wants public employees to accept changes in pension and health care contributions already thrust onto workers in the private sector. We support the governor’s insistence on taking those steps. That said, his approach casts the debate as an anti-union campaign, and not a tough-but-fair shared sacrifice.

We also are troubled Walker’s budget repair bill makes an exception for police, firefighters and the Wisconsin State Patrol. When he introduced the bill, Walker said Wisconsin always has treated those groups differently from other state employees, but critics have a valid argument in that their exemption smacks of political payback for support in the fall election. If sacrifice is the measure, then it should be applied equally to all, including those sworn to uphold the law.

Walker’s line in the sand between groups of public employees was drawn deeper still with his announcement Feb. 11 that he’d readied the Wisconsin National Guard to respond as needed to any unrest. This disingenuous move to put the focus on working men and women, assuming they’d act out in a violent or unruly manner, reflects poorly on the state’s chief executive.

Not everyone sees things in that light, of course. The nonpartisan and normally sedate National Journal has gone out on a limb to declare Walker an overnight superstar as a result of his brash, if intemperate, actions against Wisconsin’s public employees.

Late addition: 1:18 p.m., Feb. 22: It is very important to consider the source, but a new poll–conducted by a Democratic polling firm and commissioned by the AFL-CIO–indicates that Walker’s support in Wisconsin could be slipping.

In the battle for public opinion, the AFL-CIO released a poll from the Democratic firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner that shows Walker with an approval rating of 44%, with 50% disapproving of his job performance after just more than a month in office.

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