Sunday, January 20th, 2019

Misty water-colored memories of the recalls that were


Jud Lounsbury, former flak for former Senator Russ Feingold, claims Governor Scott Walker must be lying about not remembering if he signed the recall petitions to recall Senator Herb Kohl and Feingold over partial birth abortion in 1997. Of course, Lounsbury is having a hard time remembering 1997, too.

And, because Walker was at these events with Neumann, the issue of partial birth abortion and Feingold’s alleged support of it was the focus of Walker’s speeches. My specific recollection is that Walker said, on multiple occasions, something in the vein of: We came up a little short with the recall effort, but that effort was not a wasted effort. History will remember it as the first step in Feingold’s 1998 defeat.

“Something in the vein of…” is a rather gauzy look into an out-of-focus wayback machine. If Lounsbury cannot even remember what was said, how is that evidence of anything? If Lounsbury can’t remember what Walker said, even though he was being paid to do so at the time, why is not possible that Walker does not remember what happened earlier in the year?

What makes it even more laughable is Lounsbury’s claim that the recall petition drive, “the biggest pro-life event in Wisconsin history.” Now I know Lounsbury’s memory is fuzzy because most pro-life Republicans in Wisconsin can point to far bigger pro-life events in Wisconsin’s history, and I’ll bet damn few remember the petition drive.

Was Lounsbury out of state during the pro-life demonstrations in 1992?

Of course, I remember the recall petition drive because I was active in politics back then, too. At least, I remember the petition drive because Democrats are reminding us. Otherwise I had completely forgotten about it.

What I remember is that I had mixed feelings about the recall petitions at the time because I didn’t think they would succeed, I questioned whether it was allowed under the Constitution to recall a federal office holder, and I had the feeling at the time the whole thing was just to cook up a list for Congressman Mark Neumann to use against Feingold. On the other hand, partial birth abortion, and Senator Feingold’s particularly evil defense of the practice, might have been enough to sway me to sign the recall petition.

I know a petition was circulated near me at an event. I know it was handed to me to sign. I can honestly say I have no idea whether or not I signed the petition. I doubt anyone I knew back then could tell you whether or not I signed the petition. The people who were in the room probably could not tell you. My girlfriend at the time probably could not tell you. My wife, the Lovely Doreen from Waukesha who I met later that year, probably doesn’t remember if I signed that petition.

So guess what? I don’t find it all thayt shocking that Walker can’t remember if he signed a petition 15 years ago, because I can’t either. And Lounsbury can’t remember what happened 15 years ago, so why is he even talking like he does remember?

And here’s the interesting point to the discussion. Even if Walker did sign the petition, so what? Lounsbury might like legalized partial birth abortions, but on the other side of the debate we saw it as legalized infanticide. Lounsbury glosses the matter over as a “single issue,” but Feingold’s position in that debate was particularly disgusting and gruesome. Even if someone was like me and philosophically opposed to recalls under most circumstances, Feingold’s obnoxious defense of infanticide (see the video) might have been enough to cause almost anyone to sign the recall petition.

Feingold’s speech was Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil” caught on video for everyone to see.

On the other hand, Feingold was up for re-election in 1998, and few of us believed that he would hold on to win. Hard to justify signing a recall petition when the target is going to be thrown out by the voters anyway. (Unfortunately, sometimes the voting public is wrong.)

The other recall that supporters of the current recall point to is the infamous Milwaukee County pension scandal recalls. Supposedly Walker is being a hypocrite (which is always the worst sin according to the Left) because his rise in Milwaukee County was the result of the recalls. Bruce Murphy, now with Urban Milwaukee, is the latest to champion this theory.

Funny. When the Milwaukee County pension scandal broke, it involved just one issue. Yet the Journal Sentinel ran an orgy of front page stories, hammering Milwaukee County Executive F. Thomas Ament and the Milwaukee County Board unrelentingly for months. A recall effort was launched against Ament (who resigned rather than get thrown out) and nine or ten supervisors (seven were successfully recalled). None of these politicians were accused of misconduct in office (which Vos and the Journal Sentinel believe should be the only possible reason to recall a politician from office).

Murphy adds:

Indeed, it was the demise of Ament which led directly to Walker’s election to county executive, and gave him the platform to run for governor. Walker was once a big fan of recalls. Now he decries their impact on Wisconsin.

Far be it from me to lecture Murphy on the Milwaukee County pension scandal, the story he broke. However, what Murphy does not mention is that the recalled politicians involved, and Milwaukee County Thomas Ament who resigned rather than be recalled, were the personal beneficiaries of the change in the pension policy. They became wealthy at the taxpayers’ expense, and Milwaukee County still has not recovered from the corruption in the Courthouse. Those would be the extraordinary circumstances under which most of us would support having recall elections. 

The circumstances of both recalls are a far cry from the current recall situation we’re facing today. In the case of Feingold, there was a fundamental question whether his extreme support for legalized infanticide made him fit for public office, and whether that issue could wait until his eventual defeat. In the case of Ament and the public supervisors, it was a question of corruption of the public officials involved personally benefitting from a change in the law that would harm Milwaukee County for years to come.

The purpose of the recall now is… wait a second. The Democrats are changing their minds again.

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