Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker joined me to begin Tuesday’s show, and of course we talked about 2016, after the obligatory reference to The Ohio State University Buckeyes’ thumpin’ of the Badgers in the Big Ten championship game.
HH: I begin with Wisconsin’s newly-reelected and re-inaugurated governor, Scott Walker. Governor Walker, welcome back, congratulations on being sworn in to your second term yesterday.
SW: Well, thank you. Yeah, it was definitely nice, because last election, two years ago, we just went back to work. We didn’t have any party or inauguration, so it was kind of nice to do two at one time. In fact, my staff had these great shirts that had the state of Wisconsin, three rings on it. It looked like Super Bowl rings that said ’10, ’12, and ’14 on it, and they said three-peat at the bottom. So we had a little fun with that.
HH: Has anyone filed recall papers on you, yet?
SW: Just wait. Wait…
HH: Now Governor, I am relieved that you’re on, because after the beatdown that my Ohio State Buckeyes put on your Badgers in the Big Ten championship. I wasn’t sure that you, Reince or Representative Ryan would ever be back.
SW: Hey, I was cheering for them on the 1st. You know, the Big Ten went three out of four.
SW: Wisconsin beat Auburn. Obviously you guys beat ‘Bama, and I think two big, impressive wins, and Michigan State and Minnesota, the Gophers, didn’t come through for us to sweep four of four.
HH: Well, you know, you can’t be perfect, and we can’t really rely on the Gophers. We know that. Now let me ask you the key question for the national audience, Governor. I want to talk about Wisconsin, but people want to know. Have you ruled out a run in 2016?
SW: Oh, absolutely not. I mean, it’s one of those where I very much believe that our next president should be a governor. And I think you look at the mess in Washington, and you realize we need leaders from outside of our nation’s capital, and we need people who have been successful. And I think with what I’ve had to go through in the last four years, both politically, but also in terms of the policies, certainly I feel that there’s a reason God put me in a spot to do the things that we’ve done and take on the kind of challenges we’ve done. And it’s certainly something I’m going to take seriously, and really look at it closely over the next month or two.
HH: When do you think you have to decide by, Governor Walker?
SW: I think any candidate that’s going to be serious, by mid-year in 2015, has to be in the race. I mean, I just was sworn in yesterday. Next week, I’m going to give my state of the state. By the beginning of next month, I’ll have given my budget address, introduce our next two year budget, which will continue lowering property taxes, expanding school choice, lowering the size of government, reducing the number of state employees, lowering out debt, doing all the things that you’d expect a good common sense conservative to do. And once we’ve done that, I think it puts me in a perfect position to see if this is the right calling.
HH: Now I looked up today, because I wanted to ask you about Mrs. Walker, and discovered that Tonette Tarantino Walker is her name, and I am all mixed up with Tarantinos out of Ohio, out of Ashtabula. So I’m glad you have a Tarantino in the family. But what does Tonette think about a national campaign having basically been on the stump with you through three elections in four years?
SW: That’s right.
HH: What, is she okay with it?
SW: Absolutely. I mean, she is a trooper. Tonette was a widow before we were married. She lost her husband and her only sibling within a year. She is a tough and remarkable woman in her own right. And she and now our 19 and 20 year old sons, who themselves, not just me, over the last four years, were targets of protests and attacks, and all sorts of other things. They weathered this. It made us, sometimes a family goes through traumatic things like that, and they grow apart. We grew closer together. And I think they’ve realized after not just two years ago in the recall, but even this last November’s election, I was the number one target in America, you know, for AFSCME, for the AFL-CIO, for the teachers union nationally, the NEA. I was their number one target. Washington-based special interest groups spent just about everything they could. They brought the President in. They brought in Clinton. They brought in Elizabeth Warren. And we prevailed, because we took the power away from those big government special interests, and we put it in the hands of the taxpayers. And in the end, the taxpayers wanted someone who was going to stand up for them.
HH: Now I, because of the nature of my business, I talk to everyone about this, and you are almost everybody’s second choice to be the Republican nominee, and many people’s first choice. But I hear the same two questions again and again, so I want to pose them to you first in 2015.
HH: First of all, you’re too nice to beat Hillary. Can you beat Hillary?
SW: Anybody who watched me over the last four years knows that you know, I ran against the mayor of Milwaukee twice, who was former member of Congress, had all the backing in the world behind him, and I ran against a very strong businesswoman this last time who have had, like I said, all the Washington base behind her. And we had no problem. Yeah, I’m nice. I’m Midwestern nice. There’s no doubt about it. But I don’t think anyone’s ever wondered if I was able to stand up and fight the big issues. And we’ve don’t that, I think, both on the campaign trail, and equally, if not more importantly, in the capital.
HH: The second thing I always hear, in a field full of lawyers and even one doctor, Rand Paul and a couple of businessmen, you’re the only guy without a college degree.
HH: What do you say to that?
SW: I say I’m like the majority of people in America. I’m someone who went to college, had the opportunity in my senior year to go and take a job full-time, which was not the only reason I went to college, but one of the biggest reasons was to get a job. And the American Red Cross offered me a job my senior year, and I took it, thinking someday, maybe, I’d go back. But a few years later, I met my wonderful wife, Tonette, a year after that, we had Matthew, the year after that, we had Alex. And now like a lot of folks in America, you know, your family and your job take the time away from you from finishing it up. But I don’t think anybody, and I’ve got a Master’s degree in taking on the big government special interests, and I think that is worth more than anything else that anybody can point to.
HH: That’s a terrific response, Governor. Now I’ve got to ask you about, you talked in your inaugural address yesterday about a lot of things, one of which was reforming education. Common Core is the most volatile issue I have run into in my 15 years on the air. I mean, it makes people crazy.
SW: Yeah, I agree.
HH: What is going on in Wisconsin with regards to Common Core? What’s Scott Walker’s view on it?
SW: Well, I’m against it. I want high standards. No doubt about it. I have two kids who are now in college that went through public schools in my state. I was pleased with the education they got. I’m pleased that Wisconsin had the second highest ACT scores in the country, and they’ve gone up since I’ve been governor. But I don’t want anybody outside of my state, and particularly from Washington, telling me or any other family or any school board in this state what they can or can’t do when it comes to standards. And so long before I was governor, we were one of the few states that doesn’t have a cabinet member for education. I have an independently-elected superintendent of public instruction. But that superintendent put in place essentially the language that said they supported the Common Core. We brought up legislation and it didn’t pass last session. I’m hopeful it will pass this month or within the next two months, that will make it clear that no school district in this state is required to enact any sort of Common Core standards, and to take it a step further, to make it clear that no testing that the state superintendent or his office can do can any way be based on forcing districts to use the Common Core. I want people to set their standards at the local school board level, so that parents, taxpayers, concerned citizens can go to their elected officials and make sure that they’re doing what they expect right in their given community.
HH: Do you expect this issue to dominate Republican primaries?
SW: Oh, I think it’ll be a big one. I mean, you know, taxes, immigration, having a realistic approach that says we’re going to, before we talk about anything else, we make sure we secure our borders, I think Common Core and education reform in general is going to be a part of that. I’m expanding, I have one of the largest school choice programs in the country, and we’re going to expand it statewide going ahead in the future. I mean, there’s just all sorts of big issues out there. But I think more than anything, my sense, and certainly when I was on the campaign trail, but I sensed it across the country is people not only in the primaries, but in the general election, they want leadership. They want people to stand up and lead, not just talk about what we’re against with the President. There are plenty of things to talk about there, but stand up and talk about why a common sense conservative plan for America is a better approach than the one we have right now.
HH: Now Governor Walker, the other issue is national defense. People are very worried about the way the world is right now. And our Navy is down to 260-280 ships, and they want to retire, mothball carriers, and they don’t have a replacement ballistic submarine. Are you smart enough and ready enough to get smart on the Navy and the national defense issues? I know you’re the head of the National Guard in Wisconsin, but it’s a completely different world. Can you run as a hawk and be believable?
SW: I absolutely believe so, and two reasons I say that. One, you’re right, there’s 10,000 strong men and women in the Wisconsin National Guard. Last night, I celebrated our inaugural by inviting a number of them who had been deployed in the past year to come and join us at our inaugural ball in uniform, because we wanted to thank them for the service they and their families have provided not only our state, but our country. So I’ve been at deployments. I’ve been overseas, I’ve seen the troops in action. But more importantly than travel is I think good national defense, foreign policy issues are more than just giving speeches or making travel. They’re about leadership. And as a governor, I, and I can imagine a number of other governors, have shown that the best way to show how you can lead on issues like that is surrounding yourself by highly-qualified people like we’ve done in our cabinet, get the kind of expertise and understanding you need to make good decisions. And then most importantly, not waver. I think one of the biggest mistakes this President has made on foreign policy has been whether it’s drawing a red line with Syria or any number of other instances, where he’s said one thing and then retreated. That’s the worst thing you can do when it comes to foreign policy and national security issues. You need someone who can lead, and that’s what governors do each and every day.
HH: Last question, who’s advising you on Defense issues? Who will, you know, give you the rundown on how many ships we need, carriers, ballistic missiles, all that sort of stuff?
SW: Oh, we talk to all sorts of different folks. I mean, I’ve been blessed that one of my good friends, Marc Thiessen, who helped me write the book, Unintimidated, that we came out with last year, is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. And so he’s been reaching out to me with folks who are fellows and experts in that area with the American Enterprise Institute. But there’s any number of other folks…
HH: That’s terrific.
SW: I’ve talked to George Schultz and other folks in the past, and will continue to do that with many different organizations in the future.
HH: Governor Scott Walker, I hope you are back early and often throughout 2015. A great congratulations on your second term, and best wishes for the Badger State. Thanks for supporting the Buckeyes as well.
End of interview.