Clinton aids Democrat in crunch US contest
FORMER US president Bill Clinton travelled to Milwaukee yesterday to bolster the city’s Democratic mayor in his drive to unseat Republican governor Scott Walker in a high-stakes recall election next Tuesday, June 5th.
The contest between mayor Tom Barrett, a former congressman, and governor Walker is seen as a rehearsal for November’s presidential election.
Nonetheless, influential Democrats, including President Barack Obama, stood idly by while Mr Walker raised $30 million in campaign funds and became a hero to conservative Republicans nationwide.
More than 900,000 Wisconsonites signed recall petitions after Mr Walker rescinded collective bargaining rights for public sector employees last year.
If he survives the recall, Mr Clinton warned 2,000 Barrett supporters at a rally in central Milwaukee, jubilant Republicans were going to say “We got ’em now. We are going to break every union in America”.
Mr Walker spent yesterday campaigning with South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, who has built her reputation on union-busting.
“For 100 years, Americans have seen Wisconsin as a place of small towns, vigorous political debates and close elections,” Mr Clinton said. “Now they see it as America’s battleground.”
The former president praised Mr Barrett’s handling of the budget crisis, his record on education and creating jobs at windmill and solar panel factories.
He quoted Richard Mourdock, the Tea Party candidate who defeated a long-serving Republican senator in the Indiana primary last month: “He said ‘Our views are too opposed and I will never compromise’. That is what is wrong with our country today.”
Mr Clinton said Mr Walker was part of the “the divide-and-conquer, no-compromise crowd”.
Having travelled all over the world, Mr Clinton said he’d learned that “creative co-operation is the only thing that works” to foster economic recovery. “Conflict is a dead loser.”
Despite Mr Barrett’s poor showing in opinion polls – he is seven points behind Mr Walker – there was a festive atmosphere at the rally.
As they waited for Mr Clinton, the African-American congresswoman Gwen Moore led the crowd in singing “Hit the road, Scott. And don’t you come back no more, no more, no more”.
Mr Barrett repeated his stock insult of Mr Walker, that he had become “the rock star of the far right, the poster boy of the Tea Party”. The crowd booed.
Mr Barrett’s supporters couldn’t help noticing that President Obama, who spent the day in neighbouring Minnesota, didn’t make the journey.
Mr Barrett was the first mayor of a big city to endorse Mr Obama in 2008, but the president does not want to be associated with a possible Barrett defeat.
In their second and final debate on Thursday night at Marquette University Law School, Mr Barrett and Mr Walker parroted the rhetoric of the Obama-Romney race.
Mr Barrett said he represented the middle class and the 99 per cent, and accused Mr Walker of caring only for the 1 per cent who financed his extravagant campaign.
Mr Walker said he “drew a line in the sand and stood up for the taxpayers, stood up to special interests”, by which he meant public sector unions.
Speaking in a Jesuit university, Mr Barrett, who was educated by Jesuits, called Mr Walker, an Evangelical Christian, “Pontius Pilate” for preaching frugality while he increased state spending.
Criminal charges have been filed against three Walker aides, one donor and one appointee, in a scandal going back to his time as Milwaukee county’s chief executive. “I have been in public life for 28 years, and not one on my staff has ever been charged with a crime,” Mr Barrett said.
Mr Walker criticised Mr Barrett’s stewardship of Milwaukee, accusing him of lying about the extent of violent crime there.
Mr Barrett objected to an advertisement by the Walker campaign showing a dead baby, implying that he was somehow responsible for the infant’s death, when its killer had been prosecuted.
“You should be ashamed of that commercial, Scott Walker,” Mr Barrett said.