Wisconsin’s Republican governor, Scott Walker, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend, that Republicans and Democrats alike are “frustrated with the problems they see in the nation’s capital,” and declined to rule out mounting a 2016 presidential campaign.
(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)
AL HUNT: Joining me now is Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, the author of “Unintimidated,” his new book, which we’ll talk about in just a minute. But let me start with 2016, Governor, because you said the other day the party has to nominate someone from outside Washington. They might make an exception for Paul Ryan.
I spoke with Ted Cruz yesterday, and not surprisingly, he takes issue with that. He said, it doesn’t matter where you’re from, it has to be someone who is a staunch, bona fide conservative, that matters, not geography. Do you disagree with Senator Cruz?
SCOTT WALKER: Well, I was asked what the ideal candidate would be, and I still stand by that. To me, the ideal candidate is someone who’s got firm roots from outside of Washington. I think people across the board, Republican, Democrat alike, are frustrated with the problems they see in our nation’s capital.
HUNT: But it’d be a problem if it were a senator?
WALKER: Well, I mean, to me, I think any number of the senators we’ve talked about, as well as members of Congress, like Paul, are good, decent people. I just think in the end - there’s a reason why before 2008 the last member of Congress we elected was John F. Kennedy, and it was some 40 years before that before they elected a member for that, because they want chief executives. They want people with executive experience.
HUNT: He also said that the nominee ought to be someone who stands up to the establishment.
WALKER: I agree with that. Anybody who’s the defender of the status quo - I think one of the interesting things in the last few years is there’s a growing number of people who have a pent-up frustration over the size and scope, particularly in the federal government, and Obamacare, which is kind of the thing that blew the lid off, but I think that’s been building for years. And people in this country, again, across the political spectrum, are tired of the nonsense in Washington.
HUNT: Governor, is Chris Christie a bona fide conservative?
WALKER: I think so on most issues. There might be an exception here or there, but that’s true of a lot of people across this country. But you look at a lot of key issues, tax reform, you look at pension reform. My goodness, he passed pension reform in a state where the Democrats control both chambers. He’s spoken out in a lot of issues, just like I do. I kid Chris, who’s a friend of mine, the difference between Chris and I is just that I have a little bit of a Midwestern filter, but he’s pretty forceful on conservative issues.
HUNT: you’re focusing on re-election in 2014, but everyone knows that there’s talk about you two years later, a popular Midwestern governor, successful in a blue state, a tax-cutter, very competent, Washington outsider, Tim Pawlenty two years. That model doesn’t work.
WALKER: Well - and, again, I’m not auditioning for anything here -
HUNT: I know.
WALKER: I’m up for governor, and it’ll be my third election in four years, so I worked pretty hard to be governor. I plan on doing that for some time. But I think in general, it doesn’t have to be the Midwest. I think the overall argument I’m making is someone who’s not just been a chief executive, but someone who’s been a proven reformer, who’s taken on the big challenges. I think there are many examples, all across America, the 30 Republican governors today - in many cases, I just get a lot of the attention because of the hundred-or-so thousand protesters that were in around my Capitol a few years ago.
HUNT: You think Scott Walker would be a pretty good candidate if he decided to run?
WALKER: Well, I think I’ve been a pretty good executive at both the county level and the state level right now, and that’s what I’m focused on now.
HUNT: Let’s talk about your book for a second. Two things jump out, when - in glancing at the book - I’m not going to tell you I’ve absorbed everything, and I will - and that is, No. 1, that you believe in an activist conservative government agenda, not a passive. And, secondly, you wrap yourself around the mantle of Ronald Reagan.
WALKER: Yeah, I do, because I think what has been lost -and oftentimes President Reagan’s invoked by the conservative movement - but where you lose sight, as I mentioned in this book, about how he was really very aspirational for all Americans, that he had a message about lifting people out of poverty, about lifting people out of despair that we don’t hear enough of, particularly here in our nation’s capital, but we don’t hear enough from national candidates.
And I think that’s really important. He had an eternal optimism in the American people.
HUNT: Governor, like most Republicans, you are a critic of Obamacare. Yet as this Politico piece noted yesterday, Walker strikes his own path on Obamacare. Your plan in Wisconsin relies on encouraging residents to join the Obamacare insurance exchange, where they can get federal subsidies. So the exchanges are a pretty good idea?
WALKER: Well, I think there’s a better free-market alternative, but it’s the law.
WALKER: And so for someone who fought it from day one, who fought it in my campaign, who empowered by attorney general to join the federal lawsuit, who didn’t take the Medicaid expansion, who didn’t do a state exchange, who continues to make an argument there’s a better free-market alternative, and will far into the future, it’s the law.
In our state, Kaiser Family Foundation said, of all the states out there, particularly those that didn’t take the Medicaid expansion, we have no coverage gap, because we cover everybody living in poverty, we reduce the number of uninsured, but we also reduce the number of people who are on Medicaid without exposing our taxpayers to future risk.
HUNT: Let me ask you something - a question on the federal level. If there were a deal among - in these budget negotiations to replace the federal sequester, which almost nobody likes, with longer-term entitlement changes, some means-testing, cost-of-living adjustments, along with some base-broadening revenue increases, not rate increases, would that concept be attractive to you?
WALKER: Well, I’d have to look at what the details were.
HUNT: Yeah, of course.
WALKER: But in the end, this is something I raised in February when all the governors, not just Republican governors, all the governors got together at the White House with the president. At that time, he was speaking out very clearly against the sequester. And I got up and was very respectful, but said with all respect to the president that his frustration - he essentially at that time was advocating for higher taxes and some unspecified cuts in federal spending. And I said, with all due respect, Mr. President, almost all the governors that were in that room at that time in the White House faced a deficit two years ago. Nearly all of us had to sit down with our cabinets and come up with a viable alternative.
WALKER: I quoted today on my Facebook site part of President Reagan’s - or, excuse me, President Kennedy’s 1963 State of the Union address, where he talked about the benefits of cutting taxes, what that would mean to an economy. And as we saw, he didn’t enact it, but President Johnson did.
HUNT: But we’re talking about some revenue increases.
WALKER: Yeah, but my point with that, though, is he talked about reducing taxes. What they eventually enacted in ‘64, much like what we enacted in ‘81 under Reagan’s economic recovery act, we not only cut taxes, but eventually raised revenues.
HUNT: Right, but came back and increased taxes a couple years later, too.
WALKER: Well, and I think part of that was a mistake in what they did in that regard. But I think the Laffer curve shows not only across the country, but we’ve shown in state after state, our revenues are up in Wisconsin, even though I’ve cut taxes $1.5 billion.
HUNT: You have said the focus ought to be on economic issues and you shouldn’t emphasize the social issues that are divisive. You also said that things like gay rights, anti-gay rights is a turnoff to young voters. The Senate, with some Republican support, passed a bill banning discrimination against gays. Should the House do the same?
WALKER: Well, again, I haven’t looked at that particular bill. I can tell you, in Wisconsin, we’ve had anti-discriminatory laws that are very similar to that for more than 30 years and they’ve worked quite effectively.
HUNT: So you -
WALKER: We’re also a state that has a constitutional amendment that defines marriage between one man and one woman.
HUNT: So if similar to the Wisconsin bill, the House bill should be something that -
WALKER: Yeah, if it - I mean, we’ve not had problems with that.
WALKER: We’ve had no problems - or I should say, limited problems with that. At the same time, we still have a constitutional amendment that defines marriage. There’s a healthy balance there.
HUNT: Governor, let me ask you one foreign policy question. There are two quite different Republican schools of thought on foreign policy, the John McCain-Bob Corker America needs to exercising its influence around the globe to prevent bad things, and the Rand Paul that says that we are extending ourselves too much, we need to pull back and focus more at home. Which of those two camps are you most comfortable?
WALKER: I think, like most Americans, I’m somewhere in between the two, in the sense I think there are legitimate reasons both for national and homeland security for us to be actively engaged, to have certain programs that work to weed out so that we never have a 9/11 again.
At the same time, and as a commander-in-chief of the state’s National Guard, I often think that when I see our men and women deployed overseas that how important it is to protect that homeland and national security. By the same token, I’m often reminded as they depart how important it is to remember what they’re fighting for, and that’s for the freedoms and liberties we have, which include civil liberties, so that we don’t go too far, and that’s why I think there’s a healthy balance between the two.
HUNT: Governor Scott Walker, as always, it was terrific to see you today. The book is “Unintimidated.”
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