In a simple and rather elegant opinion piece published in Thursday’s USA Today, Scott Walker addressed the aggressive treatment he has received in the press that coincided with his rising fortunes in polls of Republican presidential voters.
Walker has every reason to lash out at the political media and the journalistic culture that moved them to demand that the Wisconsin governor offer his thoughts on President Barack Obama’s Christianity and to denounce former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani for calling the president’s patriotism into question. Walker characterized Giuliani’s comments as “aggressive,” but refused to judge them further than that. “I’ve actually never talked about it or I haven’t read about that,” Walker said of Obama’s dedication to his faith. Here, too, he declined to elaborate further.
Following these comments, the media set out on an absurd mission to decode Walker’s statements and frame them as expressions of antipathy towards Obama rather than indifference and uncertainty. After successfully deciphering Walker’s comments, the media went about denouncing their interpretation of his statements and insisting that other Republicans do the same. It was an unbecoming display of partiality.
Walker might have called it as much. “To me, this is a classic example of why people hate Washington and, increasingly, they dislike the press,” the governor said when he was inexplicably asked to play the role of inquisitor sitting in judgment of the president’s fealty to the Christian faith. “The things they care about don’t even remotely come close to what you’re asking about.”
Walker might have expounded on that theme in his USA Today op-ed, but he didn’t. Instead, he primarily set about identifying the many issues that are making most Americans nervous today.
The Wisconsin governor noted that Americans are far more concerned with holding a job and paying for their kids’ college educations than they are with personal slights to the president’s majesty. He added that the threat to Western security posed by the rise of the vile Islamic State is of more pressing interest to Americans than Obama’s piety or lack thereof.
Finally, Walker observed that his approach to governance in a Democratic state has borne fruit. Improving public sector efficacy and getting results out of Washington is another matter of earnest importance to voters ahead of 2016.
Only in the final sentences of his op-ed did Walker directly address the disparity with which the media has approached covering him and other political figures with an “R” after their names.
There has been much discussion about a media double standard where Republicans are covered differently than Democrats, asked to weigh in on issues the Democrats don’t face. As a result, when we refuse to take the media’s bait, we suffer.
I felt it this week when I was asked to weigh in on what other people said and did and what others’ beliefs are. If you are looking for answers to those questions, ask those people.
I will always choose to focus on what matters to the American people, not what matters to the media.
Classy. Presidential even.