National Media Jumps on “College Dropout” Walker
Walker’s presidential run brings on stories about the hole in his resume.
So New York Times columnist Gail Collins graduated from Marquette University. Who knew?
There are many things we may learn now that Scott Walker is running for president. Depending on how well he does in the 2016 Republican primaries, there will be a lot of scrutiny of Wisconsin’s governor. Such as this recent column by Collins, with this choice paragraph:
Walker went to Marquette University in Milwaukee. I went to Marquette, too. Had a great time. Unlike Walker, I got a degree. Only one of us is a governor, so there’s a point for the dropouts right there.
Collins, a funny columnist with a light touch, suggests it may not matter that Walker didn’t graduate, but (there’s always a but):
…we want to make sure that when students of the future are making decisions like this, they’re grounded in reality. Walker claimed that he was about to get the rest of his credits while he was working, but then he got married. (Actually, as PolitiFact Wisconsin reported in a stupendously thorough investigation of this matter, he had several years of potential night school time before he wed.) Then he was going to go, but he was county executive and too busy. And it keeps going on.”
‘Maybe in the next few years,’ he told reporters in 2013.”
This is a bad sign. I think I speak for all of us when I say we do not want to hear any arguments that we should elect Walker president so he’ll have time to finish his senior year credits.
But it’s a rather different story for presidents in history: remarkably, just nine of the 43 men who served lacked a college degree. The last such person was Harry Truman and before that you’d have to go all the way back to Grover Cleveland.
Indeed, presidents of late have been even more educated: the last three have had post-graduate degrees, The Fix tells us.
And even data wonks can offer a little wit, as Bump bumps Walker on how he’s handling the issue:
Walker’s real spin, though, came a bit later. ‘I’ve got a master’s degree in taking on the big-government special interests,’ he said, ‘and I think that is worth more than anything else that anybody can point to.’
That, as far as we know, is not a real degree — though the University of Grover Norquist probably offers honorary diplomas.
In December, the International Business Times devoted a story to Walker’s lack of degree and the consensus among the far more educated American professors interviewed was that it probably won’t hurt Walker.
“We worry more these days about our president being elitist than being quote-unquote ‘like us,’ Arthur Sanders, a political science professor at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, told the paper. So this could help Walker — if he tells his story the way, the prof added.
And Walker certainly knows how to tell a story.
Bruce Buchanan, a professor and expert on presidential politics at the University of Texas at Austin, said Walker’s resume shows “He outfoxed many college graduates on his way to the governorship.”
And Allan Louden, a communications professor at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, told the business publication that “It might actually be a message that works” because some voters feel they are dismissed by intellectuals. “There’s a lot of, ‘You can’t trust these people. You can’t trust Harvard and Princeton.’”
And if you can’t trust those smarty pants Ivy Leaguers, who better to elect than an MU dropout?
Oddly, the most negative view of Walker’s chances was offered by Brian Sikma, of the Wisconsin-based conservative group Media Trackers, who told the U.S. News that the issue has “a lot of potential to be an unnecessary but powerful distraction… Lack of a college degree will on its own not turn people off, but if used as part of a narrative, then it could be a devastating fact.”
Better watch that Brian, those kind of comments could dry up the well of conservative dollars funding your pro-Republican publication.
I suspect The Fix and Collins are right that the lack of a degree isn’t likely to be a problem as much as how Walker explains it — and he has offered many explanations. The media loves to jump on inconsistencies because it looks so non-partisan.
The other thing that may arise is discomfort among national Republicans about Walker’s resume, which could hurt him. As a July 2010 story in the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal reported “several of Walker’s top campaign aides have urged him over the years to finish the degree and take it off the table as a potential campaign issue,” which likely reflected the concern among some state GOP leaders.
But whatever their worries, Walker keeps winning in Wisconsin.