NEWS BLOG (WSAU) Imagine for a moment that you are Governor. You’ve just won the election. You’ve made promises (that you intent to keep), you have a political agenda you’d like to advance, you have legislative friends and foes that you need to work with. And you have an administration to staff.
Focus on those administrative positions for a moment.
You’d start with your chief of staff. Of course you can pick anyone you’d like. You’ll probably pick a friend or someone you know very well – perhaps the person who ran your campaign or someone who was a mentor earlier in your political career. This person is your gatekeeper. You’ll also pick a secretary, who you’ll see every day in your office. Also, this will be someone you know personally. But you also have 300 or so other positions to fill. Some of them require special skills or knowledge.
Do you know anyone who’s an expert on casino gambling? On railroading? On maritime law? On the natural habitats of birds? On nuclear power plants? Well – you’ll also be making appointments to the state’s Casino Control Board, Board of Railroad Commissioners, various Harbor and River Masters around the state, and the State Commission on Nuclear Power. You don’t know any people who are qualified? Oh. You’ll be relying on others to do the vetting for those positions, and the way those people perform in their jobs will reflect directly on you. By the way – if one of your appointees gets caught driving drunk, or says something outrageous that appears in a news story, or is involved in a sex scandal – they’ll be immediately linked to you. Your opponents will refer to you as their ‘close friend’. Photographs of you and the person in question from the executive mansion Christmas party will appear in the newspaper.
This is perhaps the biggest shortcoming of Governor Scott Walker. (You’re free to agree or disagree with his politics. That’s a separate discussion.) Walker has been effective at advancing his agenda. He stays on-message. Walker has good political instincts, and is a good public speaker. Those are all great skills that are useful to someone in public office.
But the John Doe investigation has been festering. It’s an unwelcome distraction. It will not reach the Governor, even though the Milwaukee County DA’s office has tried to steer it in that direction. The lesson I take away from this mess is this: when Scott Walker was Milwaukee County Executive he wasn’t surrounded by good people. They stole. They didn’t follow all the rules. They forgot that their actions reflect directly on their leader. I’d like to think that Walker has surrounded himself with better people now that he’s governor. But remember, he doesn’t know them.