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VIDEO: Gov. Walker on the prank Koch call

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, known for his toughness in defending his positions, acknowledged Friday that he’s made mistakes in how he’s gone about achieving his agenda.

The Republican governor, now facing a recall effort, said he regretted not having done a better job of selling his changes regarding collective bargaining for public employees.

“If I could do this all over again, I’d spend more time in January and February making a case,” Walker said in an interview with the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

“I just kind of came in and said, ‘Okay, here’s the problem, here’s the solution, I’ll just go fix it.’ And I didn’t spend a lot of time building up a communications effort to explain … the reasons why.”

Walker said he “didn’t want to have it be a focal point, looking like I was going after public employees,” but that’s what happened. He feels it would have been better to make a public case for reining in collective bargaining — like pointing out the cost savings that can come when school districts have more flexibility on health insurance plans.

“Those are things most people didn’t know about and we’ve had to talk about since,” Walker said in the interview at his Executive Residence. Had he done so, he mused, “Would it have persuaded everybody? No. But the most common complaint I get, which I think is legitimate, is people say … ‘I’m really disappointed you didn’t do a better job of explaining it.’ ”

Walker said he had assumed that “after 10 days of debate,” people would come to see the benefits of what he was proposing, which included curbing the ability of most public employees to engage in collective bargaining and making it harder for public employee unions to continue operating.

“I never anticipated that you’d have 14 senators leave and be gone for nearly a month,” Walker said. “I never anticipated there’d be four-five million dollars spent on attack ads or anything else like that.”

Scott Walker on Dec. 23 called the Koch prank call a “pretty good reality check for me.” Lukas Keapproth/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Walker said that, in proposing his changes, ”I didn’t view this as a political or campaign-type thing. I just thought, here’s how we have to fix the budget.”

Asked about the now-infamous Feb. 22 call with a prankster pretending to be billionaire David Koch, Walker was also uncharacteristically remorseful, agreeing with a friend who has said that Walker “felt badly that he did something so stupid.”

“Accurate summary,” Walker said. “It was stupid.”

The call, Walker said, “diverted attention from a debate that needed to be focused on the facts and instead got off into this hysteria and everything.” In the call, Walker boasted about his national media appearances, referred to his plan regarding collective bargaining as dropping a bomb, and admitted he had thought about but rejected the idea of planting troublemakers in the protest crowds.

Walker said his comments during this call “were not inconsistent with anything else I said” in other contexts. But “just the fact that I was duped … that I would go off and talk about stuff like that, yeah it was stupid.”

The governor called the experience “a pretty good reality check for me.” Beyond the obvious lessons about screening phone calls, it re-enforced for him the importance of keeping the focus on his agenda and “not about what people think about me personally.”

The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism ( collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.

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10 replies on “Scott Walker: Regrets, he’s had a few”

  1. Handle it better isn’t the word. Ohio did it well. Walker simply didn’t have a clue. Gosh, is he afraid of a recall? He should be. If he had a brain he would be dangerous. I like what he did, just not the way he did it. I can’t vote for him again. I consider him to be dangerous.

    1. Dangerous? I voted for him and knew what he was going to do. Then he did it. He is handling the whole thing well, it is the unions and the left that is shouting in the streets banging drums and such. Whose acting nuts here?

  2. Walker sealed his fate when he took away collective bargaining rights and decimated school budgets. I don’t care if he has regrets and I’m not buying his false honesty in the interview. He’s a fool and a dnagerous one. RECALL!!!!

    1. …Explain how school budgets were decimated. Thats the problem with liberals. You people simply make claims without any backing evidence. Do some research instead of letting yourself be lead around by the nose

      1. Massive pay cuts in wages that were already significantly below average, Over a thousand veteran teachers forced out, Class sizes up massively despite the huge lies in his adds, and 3/4 of the cuts haven’t hit yet. Yup, just call them “liberal” that fixes everything. I of course usually vote straight Republican. Interesting that you “knew” he would do this. He sure as heck never said anything like this in the campaign. One big “Walker Improvement” is that now teachers can be fired without cause. For instance being a Republican is a firing offense. 6 months now since I was forced out and not one single qualified applicant yet. I wonder what planet you’re on?

  3. Like any bully, they deny and deny and deny, and just go on bullying. But once the entire community finally rallies to stop them and he’s “pinned to the ground,” boy do they sing a different tune. Recall this man. Send him packing. Teach a sorely needed lesson to him and to so many other politicians. They work for WE, the PEOPLE–and not for THEMSELVES.

  4. If he had regrets other than his possible loss of power he could easily fix the problems. He won’t therefore this is just another lie

  5. Well Governor Walker,
    Not only did you not spend enough time “selling his change of collective bargaining for public employees” you spent all of your time dividing the people of Wisconsin making the public employee the villain and the cause of financial problems of Wisconsin. You pushed your agenda and made villains of Wisconsin elected officials who went to Illinois in an attempt to slow your jihad. You moved ahead as quickly as you possibly could have despite tens of thousands of people screaming for you to stop. If you think what you did was merely a matter of not doing a better job selling your plan you continue your “Wisconsin is open for Big Business” effort. Everybody gets to carry a gun under their coat but now you want groups of 4 or more to fill out an application so demonstrate at the State Capitol. You have lawyers for multimillionaires writing laws stripping citizens of rights. What you have done were not “stupid” mistakes. They were calculated steps to disenfrancise the working people of Wisconsin. Don’t forget your quickstep to exclude Wisconsin citizens from voting (Democrat and Repulican alike) by requiring an elaborate voter registration. “Stupid?” No. Facist. If you are stupid, you have to go. If you are in the pocket of billionaires, you have to go. If you cannot compromise and carry on a dialogue, you have to go. Do not bleed us and then think an apology is enough.

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