Politico calls this “backtracking,” which I think, frankly, is more accurate than my own headline. Here’s what he told the IJ Review yesterday when they asked him what he thought of the Boy Scouts’ executive committee voting to lift the ban on gay Scout leaders:
“I was an Eagle Scout, my kids have been involved, Tonette (Walker) was a den mother.
“I have had a lifelong commitment to the Scouts and support the previous membership policy because it protected children and advanced Scout values.”
I’ve heard many righties make that point when complaining about the Scouts’ trend towards including gays, first as rank-and-file members and more recently as leaders, and not once has “protected” meant what Walker claimed today that he meant:
Gov. Scott Walker, who recently expressed support for a ban on gay Boy Scout leaders because it “protected children,” said on Wednesday that he did not mean that children needed “physical protection” from gay scoutmasters – but rather protection from the debate over the ban…
“The protection was not a physical protection,” he said, but rather about “protecting them from being involved in the very thing you’re talking about right now, the political and media discussion about it, instead of just focusing on what Scouts is about, which is about camping and citizenship and things of that nature.”
Are there packs of media cameramen accosting Boy Scouts on their field trips now, demanding to know what little Billy and Johnny think of their troop leader marrying another man? Even if there were, why would that lead Walker to a particular view of the Scouts’ ban? That’s a problem with press coverage, not necessarily with the policy. (By the same logic, should the Scouts have declined to fight James Dale’s famous lawsuit 15 years ago for fear of the media debate that generated?) I think Walker gave an off-the-cuff answer to the IJR implying exactly what the Times thought — Scouts need protection from their gay leaders — and then was pulled aside by anxious advisors warning him that he’d spend the rest of the campaign having to defend equating all gays with pedophiles if he didn’t quickly backtrack. So now he’s backtracking. Excuse me — “clarifying.”
This may be a case, unusual so far in this campaign, in which Walker’s shifted his position to please the center rather than the right. Sure is a lot of shifting happening, though, notes Reihan Salam:
The contrast between the Walker who refused to back down on limiting collective-bargaining rights, despite ferocious opposition from organized labor in Wisconsin and around the country, and the Walker who struggles to give a straight answer on issues like immigration and taxes out of fear of offending this or that GOP microconstituency is discouraging. One charitable explanation is that Walker simply hasn’t thought through his position on national issues. Just a few years ago, Walker was the executive of Milwaukee County, a role in which he didn’t have to have detailed positions on what to do about Social Security or ISIS or the fallout from Puerto Rico’s debt crisis. Unfortunately for Walker, that’s not going to be much of an excuse a month or two from now, when he’ll be subjected to scrutiny far more intense than anything he’s faced so far.
My fear is that instead of thinking through the most important policy questions facing the next president for himself, and offering a serious and substantive reform agenda, Walker will simply tell the most vocal pressure groups within the Republican coalition what they want to hear.
Conservatives can live with that. What they can’t live with is him telling the most vocal pressure groups outside the Republican coalition what they want to hear instead. Is that what happened here?
Here he is on ABC this past weekend with a more finessed message on gay marriage, emphasizing his support for traditional marriage but noting that he has gay family members and that his own sons are on the other side of the debate.