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Show respect for the president

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Waukesha Freeman January 30, 2014  Page 5A Opinion

Show respect for the president

Scrima wrong to skip visit

Freeman 1'30'14City of Waukesha Mayor Jeff Scrima made it very clear in an email to the media on Monday that he would like to avoid President Barack Obama like a Christmas Parade.

Scrima said that he would not attend a presidential visit at General Electric’s Waukesha Gas Engines plant because he thought his office should be “nonpartisan.”

Somebody should remind the mayor that, unlike Scrima, Obama is not running for reelection. This is not a campaign rally. The mere presence of the mayor at a civic function that honors this city and one of its largest employers is not a partisan endorsement.

Welcoming the president to the city would be no more of a partisan statement than when Gov. Scott Walker greeted Obama on his last visit at the airport with a gift of a football jersey. I presume nobody took that occasion to suppose a partisan conversion by Walker.

You would think Scrima would be happy to meet Obama and swap stories about Harvard.

Since Obama is really interested in helping students avoid student loan debt, I’m sure the president would love to hear how Scrima got the taxpayers to pay for his Harvard Business School seminar tuition with funds from the mayor’s travel budget.

It’s not as if the mayor is expressing some point of view or some philosophical objection to the president’s policies by not going.

Scrima made it clear that he would not attend any national political functions. In his email, Scrima said he doesn’t attend “national Republican events” either.

Amazingly, he used as his Republican example a hypothetical visit by Congressman Paul Ryan. Does Scrima know where Ryan’s district is?

There is a marked difference between this occasion and when Mayor Larry Nelson invited then-Senator Obama to make a campaign stop in Waukesha.

The latter occasion was a mayor openly campaigning for a Democratic presidential candidate in a Republican city. Nelson paid the price in 2010.

All three of Scrima’s opponents said that if they were mayor they would attend. It has nothing to do with their partisan sympathies. It has to do with respecting the office of the president and promoting the city.

By not attending today’s presidential visit at Waukesha Gas Engines, Scrima is insulting one of the city’s largest employers. Ironically, it is an employer Scrima lists on his campaign Facebook page as a success story during his administration.

Scrima’s absence is a small-minded pretense at principle incapable of seeing the larger picture. It just makes the city of Waukesha seem like a small town run by an even smaller mayor populated by a small people. I don’t think that’s what Scrima means by his promise to make Waukesha the “No. 1 best small city in America.”

Fortunately, we’re a better city than the mayor we have. The president will discover that for himself today.

*** Another person who will be missing the presidential visit is Democratic candidate for governor Mary Burke. She’ll be on the other side of the state that day, she claims, and cannot attend.

Apparently every road between western Wisconsin and Waukesha will be in ruins today, and Burke’s snowboard will be getting waxed.

Her absence has nothing to do with the polls, of course, that suggest Obama and Obamacare are very unpopular in Wisconsin.

Then there are Burke’s own poll numbers in the Marquette University Law School poll that have her six points down to Walker, a movement in the wrong direction.

The negative polls raise an interesting question about Burke and Obama: Who would be more embarrassed to be seen with whom?

*** By the way, if the published accounts of Scrima calling Gov. Scott Walker “an extremist” and comparing him to Obama are correct, then Waukesha voters really have to consider that when they vote in the mayoral election. Too many Waukesha residents worked hard to turn back the recall to have their preference so insulted by Scrima.

Scrima may not pay a political price for skipping the Obama event. But Scrima should pay a political price for attacking the governor in the midst of Walker’s re-election campaign.

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at http://www.wigderson.com and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

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