Walker: "Rare qualities."

Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

'Prince of Darkness' Likes Scott Walker

Albert R. Hunt is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was the executive editor of Bloomberg News, before which he was a reporter, bureau chief and executive Washington editor at the Wall Street Journal.
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Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who is suddenly a hot Republican presidential prospect, may be getting hotter. Though some consider Walker's lack of foreign policy credentials a hurdle to a nomination, he has earned praise from a prince of neoconservatives, Richard Perle.

"Of all the people identified as candidates, Walker strikes me as the most interesting, who potentially would bring some rare qualities to the presidency," Perle said in an interview.

A former top defense department official under President Ronald Reagan and a leading national-security hardliner, Perle said he hasn't met the Wisconsin governor but is intrigued by what he has seen, especially Walker's tough stance on public-employee unions. "Unlike many politicians he seems to stick with what he believes when it looks like he's heading to victory," Perle said, "and stick with it when it looks like he may be headed to defeat."

Perle infers from this record that a President Walker "would not be easily pushed around by our adversaries."

Walker, who gives every indication of running for the Republican nomination, won praise for his speech in January at the Iowa Faith and Family Summit. He then got a big lift from last weekend's Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register poll of likely Iowa caucus-goers, which showed him leading the Republican field.

Sunday, on ABC's "This Week," Walker was asked by Martha Raddatz about foreign policy, specifically Syria. He charged that the U.S. was insufficiently aggressive against Islamic State. In Syria, he said, "we have to be prepared to put boots on the ground." 

Some thought Walker was on shaky ground. Not Perle: "That's the right answer on Syria," he declared.

Ironically, Walker met last weekend with former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright, Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, all of whom are identified with a more restrained realpolitik than with Perle's more confrontational posture.

Perle, who takes pride in his "Prince of Darkness" moniker, pays Walker his highest compliment, saying the Wisconsin Republican "reminds me of Scoop" -- that is, former Democratic Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson, a leading foreign policy hawk (and a frequent critic of Kissinger) until his death in 1983. Perle was Jackson's chief national security adviser for years.

Walker's limited experience in national security suggests he'll be looking for conservative foreign policy advisers. Perle could be one.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Albert R. Hunt at ahunt1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Francis Wilkinson at fwilkinson1@bloomberg.net