MADISON, Wisc. -- Gov. Scott Walker was a bit more chastenedtoday than he’s been at any point in the weeklong budget impasse. He was addressingreporters a few hours after the Buffalo Beast had pranked him with a fake phonecall from someone pretending to be industrialist and libertarian donor DavidKoch. In his introductory remarks, he didn’t mention the prank call at all.
But he talked about the stagnant showdown betweenRepublicans and Democrats in calmer terms. Once, he’d denounced Democrats forusing "outside agitators" to build their numbers. Today: "I appreciate theprotesters from Wisconsin who are here. I welcome those who’ve come from otherstates." He was specific – he only was opposed to the arrival of outsiders whowanted to start trouble. Previously, he warned that if the Democratic senatorsdidn’t return by Friday, the state would start laying off people. Today, thestate would start issuing "at risk notices" if the impasse dragged on.
Did this represent any substantive change in the situation?We didn’t find out – three of the four questions Walker took were about theKoch prank. Inexpressive and on message, Walker fielded them by explaining thathe hadn’t said anything new.
"I take phone calls all the time," he said.
"You don’t take mine!" yelled a heckler.
"I took phone calls from small business owners earlier,"said Walker. I talked to one of the Senate Democrats over the weekend,interested in finding a way to come back… the bottom line is things I’ve saidare things I’ve said all along. My greatest fear over the weekend was that ifyou have an abundance of people on either side, either for or against the bill,that doesn’t benefit the debate."
That was how Walker explained his frivolous talk aboutagitators who could stop the protests. "As you heard on the tape, we dismissedit," he said. "As far as ways to get the Democrats to come on in – it’s not atrick. We want them to come on in."
Another reporter asked about the moment in the tape when "Koch"offered to help him spread his message, ostensibly with campaign ads.
"This isn’t about campaigning. It’s about getting themessage out about the truth. It’s why I hold press conferences with you everyday." He was only talking to the prankster about getting the truth out. "Themore union bosses come in from Washington, the more lies and deceptions get outthere."
When Walker finished – to the strains of someone yelling"only four questions?" – Rep. Brett Hulsey, a punchy freshman Democrat who’dbeen in the room, bolted to the podium, with the state seal, to talk towhatever reporters were left. The governor’s staffers rolled their eyes; onemuttered, "Are you serious?" But there was a solution to the Hulsey stunt.Throughout the press conference, protesters about 20 yards away had been mostlysilenced by two sets of doors. The doors swung open, and loud drumming andyelling filled the room.
"Close the doors!" yelled one reporter. The doors didn’tclose. That reporter* ran to the line of protesters and asked them to keep thenoise down. They hesitated until they were convinced he wasn't a plant from the Republicans, then they compromised.
"One more national anthem!" said a protester.
*It wasn’t me.