Sunday, May 13, 2012
Bullies, Lies, and Videotape
A quarter century ago, director Steven Soderburgh coupled innovative film-making with a great title: Sex, Lies, and Videotape.
Now, in an era where Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has become the poster boy of a mean-spirited Republican agenda across the country, we have what I call Bullies, Lies and Videotape.
First for the videotape.
In a videotape released on May 10, but filmed 16 months earlier shortly after Gov Scott Walker took office, a Wisconsin billionaire asked Walker what he would do to help make Wisconsin “a completely red state and work on these unions and become a right-to-work?”
Walker’s response? He says that he has planned a “divide and conquer” anti-union strategy with a “first step” of denying collective bargaining right to public sector works. (Wisconsinites are now well aware of the videotape, but unfortunately it failed to make national news. Make sure to check below for more details on this video.)
Second, for the lie.
For the last 18 months, Walker has claimed that while campaigning for governor he made clear his anti-union agenda. It is now common knowledge that the claim is false. Or, as some might say, Walker is lying. He never told Wisconsin voters that if elected he would gut collective bargaining for public workers.
Third, for the bullies.
Here we have not only Walker but the presumptive Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney.
According to Webster’s dictionary a bully is “a person who hurt, frightens, or tyrannizes over those who are smaller or weaker.”
Put together Walker’s anti-union Act 10, his budget cuts of social services and public education, his corporate tax breaks and his unprecedented out-of-state fundraising from the likes of the Koch brothers and other billionaires, and the “bully” definition is more than apt. (Not to be forgotten, Walker’s threat when he first announced his attack on collective bargaining that he was prepared to call out the National Guard.)
While Walker’s true colors were being exposed by videotape, a report in the Washington Post revealed that Mitt Romney bullied a classmate 50 years ago while at Michigan's prestigious Cranbrook prep school.
Romney targeted a new student with long dyed blond hair presumed to be gay. Leading a group of bullies, he chased the boy, tackled him and while others pinned the blond-haired boy down, Romney forcibly cut his hair with scissors while the student cried and screamed for help.
Five of Romney’s classmates involved in the bullying matured enough to be remorseful, and they told their story to the Washington Post. One of the former bullies called their youthful attack “bullying supreme” and told ABC News: ‘It's a haunting memory, when you see somebody who is simply different taken down that way and is terrified and you see that look in their eye, you never forget it.’”
In an interview on Fox Radio, Romney laughed when asked about the incident. He said he didn’t remember it.
New York Times columnist Gail Collins was one of many commentators who expressed disbelief at Romney’s selective memory, and concluded that Romney “is lying through his teeth.”
Bullies who lie, whether Mitt Romney or Scott Walker, should not be in positions of political leadership. Wisconsin voters will have the chance to throw Walker out of office on June 5. Nationwide, voters will have the chance to thwart Romney’s ambitions on November 6.
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Now, some details on that Walker videotape.
The clip, filmed in January 2011, shows Walker confiding to a billionaire donor about his strategy to attack unions. He kept that plan secret for nearly a month before he announced his “budget repair bill” to eliminate collective bargaining rights for all public sector workers (except the police and firefighter unions that had endorsed him for governor the previous year). His anti-collective bargaining plan spurred the largest workers’ protest in Wisconsin’s history.
Walker’s comments were in response to billionaire Diane Hendricks asking him if he can help make Wisconsin into “a completely red state and work on these unions and become a right-to-work?” Walker interrupted her saying, “Oh yeah” and then explained his “divide and conquer strategy.”
“Well, we’re going to start in a couple weeks with our budget adjustment bill.” Walker explained. “The first step is we're going to deal with collective bargaining for all public employee unions, because you use divide and conquer,” he told Hendricks, who according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has “given $510,000 to the governor’s campaign – making her Walker’s single-largest donor and the largest known donor to a candidate in state history.”
The video clip is part of a movie trailer for a documentary “As Goes Janesville” that will premiere this summer. The movie, by documentary filmmaker Brad Lichtenstein, depicts the devastating impact of the closing of a massive General Motors plant on a small industrial city in southern Wisconsin.