Dept. of Good Ideas with Horrible Optics

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 3 2010 4:46 PM

Dept. of Good Ideas with Horrible Optics

Scott Walker won the governorship of Wisconsin last month with a single-focused campaign about his fiscal tightness. I have in my possession a brown paper bag with the words "Brown Bag Movement" on it, linking me to a campaign site all about how Walker packed his own lunch as Milwaukee County Executive, so concerned was he about saving money.

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Republican Gov.-elect Scott Walker plans to give any excess money raised for his inauguration to his campaign fund and the state Republican Party -- instead of to charity -- in a move that drew ridicule Wednesday.Outgoing Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle donated all the extra money raised for his two inaugurations to the nonprofit Boys and Girls Clubs.

Wisconsin Democrats, who don't have anything to be happy about, are loving this. They are slightly off base with their ridicule, because inaugurals are always shakedowns for the victorious candidates . Doyle gave extra inaugural cash to charity, yes, but he got the extra cash because he solicited huge donations, the size that you can't usually ask for. Normally, donors have to top out at $10,000 per year. In 2006, to be a "director" of Doyle's ball, you had to fork over $50,000.

Being a successful Republican governor in the New Austerity will require lots of decisions that look and sound callous. But a lot of your political flexibility is defined by the mistakes and overreaches of the guy you're replacing. This is what Chris Christie has discovered, as has Bob McDonnell, as -- with some hiccups -- has Walker.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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