Speaking to the audience at the annual rightwing convergence known as CPAC on Thursday, Republican Governor Scott Walker indicated that his ongoing attack on the rights of workers in his home state of Wisconsin is preparing him for a possible future fight with foreign militants such as those aligned with the Islamic State fighters now operating in Iraq and Syria.
"We need a leader who will stand up and say we will take the fight to them and not wait until they take the fight to American soil," declared Walker, a 2016 presidential hopeful, to the audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, DC.
"If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same in the rest of the world," he added in a clear reference to both ongoing protests against new anti-worker laws and a historic revolt in 2011 against Walker's push to dismantle collective-bargaining rights for the state's labor unions.
According to the Blaze.com, the conservative web platform created by Glenn Beck, Walker's speech received "thunderous applause" from the conference attendees. Fox News' national political correspondent Joseph Weber reported Walker "delivered the goods" during the speech.
Though Walker and his handlers later tried to re-characterize the comments—claiming the governor was not making a comparison between Wisconsin workers who have opposed Walker's anti-labor policies by joining public protests and militants who have released gruesome videos of beheading and setting fire to captors inside a foreign war zone—local union members and Wisconsin citizens were not buying it, calling the comments "jaw-dropping" and a "disgrace" for a national political figure.
"To compare the hundreds of thousands of teachers, students, grandmothers, veterans, correctional officers, nurses and all the workers who came out to peacefully protest and stand together for their rights as Americans to ISIS terrorists is disgusting and unacceptable," said Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt in a statement. "To compare hard-working men and women who work for a living to terrorists is a disgrace. Coming together to peacefully protest for freedom, to raise your voice for a better Wisconsin, this is not an act of terror."
Mary Bottari, deputy director of the Madison-based Center for Media & Democracy, said Walker's comments were "jaw-dropping."
The large-scale protests in Wisconsin, explained Bottari in an email to Common Dreams, "were spearheaded by teachers, kids and parents because the local Madison teacher's union was the first to walk out. The kids were quickly joined by nurses, snowplow drivers, firefighters and cops -- not to mention the Raging Grannies and Solidarity Singers. During the biggest protests when over 100,000 surrounded the capitol building on a regular basis, there was no violence and few if any arrests."
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Bottari asked people to watch this video from 2011 and ask themselves whether any comparison whatsoever to violent terrorism could be excused:
Watch Walker's comments on Thursday (h/t ThinkProgress):
According to Reuters:
The Badger State's 47-year-old governor has emerged as an early favorite in the battle to win the Republican nomination in the November 2016 presidential election. He was among more than a dozen potential candidates due to address activists at CPAC in Maryland near Washington on Thursday and Friday.
Like many other potential candidates, Walker has argued that Democratic President Barack Obama has not been aggressive enough in the U.S.-led fight against Islamic State and other extremist groups in the Middle East.