For those of you reading this blog who are not following politics in Wisconsin – and believe me, I pay as little attention as I can - this great state which once had the reputation of being the epicenter of clean and open government has become an open sewer of filth, characterized by vile name-calling and narrow-minded “me first” politics.
On both sides.
The most recent incident was late last week, when it was announced that the John Doe probe into activities surrounding Scott Walker’s office when he was Milwaukee County Executive has been closed, and that no additional charges will be filed. Apparently the Democrats had been hoping that Walker would be indicted on criminal charges, and they were deflated to learn that those conducting the probe closed up shop after catching a handful of Walker’s top lieutenants in a variety of moderately serious charges, leaving Walker unscathed, save for the perception that for the CEO of Milwaukee County, he apparently had no clue what kind of shenanigans his senior staff was up to. (Wink wink nudge nudge.)
But, as my lawyer said to me many times in my legal battles with my former employer five years ago, “there’s no law against being stupid”. Apparently the guv is OK with leaving that perception.
Shortly after the John Doe probe was shut down late last week, Graeme Zielinski, the (former) official spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, let out a blast of Tweets, three of them comparing Governor Walker with Jeffrey Dahmer.
If you don’t know who Jeffrey Dahmer was, you can stop reading now.
Shortly after Zielinski’s blast of Tweets hit the internet, a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reporter called my former colleague Mark Belling –who was vacationing in Hawaii – and asked for reaction. Belling, the host of the highly rated right-wing talk show on WISN-AM and frequent filler-inner for Rush Limbaugh on his nationwide radio show, said “and they accuse my side of hate speech? What’s the difference between Graeme Zielinski and Jeffrey Dahmer? Only one was found to be insane.”
Of course, my long-time friend and colleague Mr. Belling was trying to make a clever remark to the newspaper (a remark which got a good deal of play), but Mark apparently forgot that in 1991 a jury found Dahmer was NOT mentally ill (I know, I know---the worst murderer and cannibal in Wisconsin since Ed Gein) – a point which, while factually accurate, is probably not really well-remembered by us ‘sconnies.
But this time, Zielinski’s hateful Tweets did NOT get massive re-Tweeting. Apparently, even the hardest of the hard-core left realized that Zielinski was in outer space. In fact, several lefty friends whose Twitter feed and Facebook posts I follow began to ask their fellow Democrats to call the party headquarters (listing the phone number with their Tweets and Facebook status updates) and say “it’s time for Zielinski to go”.
And, indeed, Monday we learned that the DPW took action. They docked Zielinski a week’s pay – about a thousand bucks - banned him from Tweeting - and removed him as party spokesman, although plenty of Dems are still calling for his outright dismissal, saying this latest flap is far from an isolated incident and should be regarded as the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Although I doubt it, this public woodshedding of Zielinski could be a start toward toning down the hateful rhetoric. The Republicans and their young turk, Jeff Waksman, the mouthpiece for the Dane County Republicans whose acerbic partisan rants (“press releases”) have caused the Party to issue formal apologies, could take a hint and tone down their messaging, too.
Governor Walker is not Hitler, despite the signs and placards saying that during the protests against Act 10, and he’s not Dahmer. He may not be that popular in the bluest of the blue counties in the state, but he is the duly elected (and reaffirmed through recall) Governor of all Wisconsin. The Democrats can change that at the polls next time around, but comparing him to a serial-killer cannibal is not going to win them many friends.