Published March 05, 2011
President Barack Obama set up another straw man last week in his speech to the National Governors Association when he said "I don't think anybody does any good when public employees are denigrated or vilified or their rights are infringed upon."
Who is denigrating or vilifying public employees? Clearly Mr. Obama was slyly suggesting that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was. But clearly he is not. The mild-mannered Wisconsin chief executive has been, well, mild-mannered and polite, restrained in tone and rhetoric. Rather than have the courage to accuse Mr. Walker by name of denigrating or vilifying the public unions as they have denigrated and vilified Mr. Walker, Mr. Obama preferred a cheap political hit-and-run.
Then there was the last part of Mr. Obama's sentence. Mr. Walker was not sitting in front of the president when he uttered the sentence, but Colorado Gov. Hickenlooper and Missouri Gov. Nixon were. And unlike Wisconsin, which allows and will continue to allow state employees to bargain collectively (albeit for less than before Mr. Walker's reforms), neither Colorado nor Missouri allow state employees to bargain collectively. That's their existing state law.
If Mr. Obama were truly concerned about the rights of state employees, then he should have chastised those two governors and the chief executives of other states that statutorily prohibit collective bargaining for state employees. Mr. Obama's failure to do so shows his political sensitivity (keep quiet when the battleground states in question - Colorado and Missouri - have Democratic governors) and the president's expediency (attack a Republican governor of another battleground state). Both show the importance of self-interest to Mr. Obama's thinking. Neither are attractive when they dominate the thinking of any president of any party.