Columnist examines Walker’s international policy statements
By Matt Pommer
Gov. Scott Walker might regret telling President Obama that he should cancel this month’s meeting and dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Walker has promised Republican voters he will tear up the multi-national nuclear agreement with Iran as soon as he gets to the Oval Office. Assuming he keeps the promise, President Walker would need China’s help to re-impose any economic sanctions against Iran.
The governor is confident of his ability to manage foreign affairs. Other nations will respect his firmness in dealing with public union protests in Wisconsin in 2011, according to his backers.
Walker said Obama should show “some backbone” and not meet with Xi Jinping when the Chinese president comes to the United States this month. Walker said the decline in the stock markets last month was due in part to China trying to “manipulate their economy.” The governor also was critical of apparent cyberattacks and China’s prosecution of Christians and human rights activists.
Walker visited China in 2013 as part of a trade mission and touts that trip to show his foreign affairs credentials. China is the third-largest export market for Wisconsin goods, behind only Canada and Mexico.
Presidential hopeful Walker also waded into foreign affairs at a campaign stop in New Hampshire. He said there are few “reasonable, moderate followers of Islam.” The governor declined to retreat from the “few” position when the Council of American-Islamic Relations asked for an apology.
“These types of inaccurate statements reflect a lack of understanding of Islam and Muslims that is, frankly, not presidential,” said Council spokesman Robert McCaw, who noted that the majority of people being killed by terrorists are Muslims.
Reporters pressed Walker about the Muslim statement and he responded, “If you’re fighting a war, you’ve got to identify who the enemy is, loud and clear.” He said Obama has shown a lack of leadership in responding to the terrorism.
In late August, Walker said American ground troops should lead a multi-national force against Islamic terrorists in the Middle East. He also said that he would want Iran to totally dismantle its nuclear infrastructure and provide a report on what other weapons it has and “then find a way to deal with others in the region.”
But there is plenty of time for Walker to clarify his foreign affairs views or to change his position. The governor has shown his ability to change stances on controversial issues. During one week in August, the governor took three different positions on illegal immigration.
At the end of the week, the governor suggested employers should make sure that the people they hire aren’t illegal immigrants. That apparently would mean newcomers without work permits would be fired. Whether the employers would need to inform federal immigration officials of the firings was unclear.
Among the most controversial immigration issues is the future of children born in the United States. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump caught media attention when he said they should be sent back to the countries of their parents.
The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, enacted after the Civil War, says that those born in the United States are American citizens. Walker finally took no position on this “birthright” issue.
Issues like Iran, terrorism, deporting children, and even a dinner for the Chinese president are far more challenging than getting rid of public employee unions.
Known as the dean of State Capitol correspondents, Pommer has covered government in Madison for 35 years. His column is distributed by the Wisconsin Newspaper Association.