At last! Prosecutors place Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) at the center of a scheme to violate state campaign finance laws. Previous "John Doe" probes have snared at least half a dozen Walker associates, but this is the first time prosecutors have put Mr. Walker himself in the driver's seat, of an "expansive" criminal enterprise, no less. The juicy part, I suppose, is the email Mr. Walker wrote to none other than Karl Rove in 2011, boasting that "(w)e are running 9 recall elections" and suggesting that his aide R.J. Johnson would coordinate all of them. But if that all sounds a little like inside baseball to you, it probably will also sound that way to the Wisconsin voter as well -- unless Mr. Walker's opponent, Mary Burke, sounds the outside interests vs. Wisconsin interests alarm, which she doesn't sound eager to do. More likely, Mr. Walker will whine that he's the target of a "partisan witch hunt," and in the absence of an inspiring Democratic opponent (or a conviction, since these things take time), the voters will give him a pass. If Mr. Walker does wind up going to jail after getting re-elected, which isn't farfetched, that could dampen his 2016 Presidential ambitions somewhat. And I do mean "somewhat" -- quantum physicists tell us that all things imaginable will one day come to pass, after all, and the Republicans haven't yet trotted out an actual convicted criminal as their Great Conservative Hope.
Meanwhile, I'd thought former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer (D) would topple the Hillary Clinton Inevitability Machine Mach 2016, but after some of his comments to reporters in this National Journal profile, I'm not so sure anymore. In my experience, most of Mr. Schweitzer's zingers zing someone who deserves it, but suggesting that Eric Cantor set off his "gaydar" and obliquely comparing Sen. Feinstein (D-CA) to a hooker were punches that had no chance of landing, and anytime you allow someone like Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) to call you a "sexist scumbag" you've really screwed up. It gets worse: he walked the "gaydar" comment back so quickly and clumsily he could have been in a Kids in the Hall skit. And doesn't he know whores are working girls? I call bad people "pimps" for a reason -- because pimps don't "work," and because the "work" you do as a Senator greasing the skids for big government spying isn't "work" any more than selling your bad bets as good bets to other investors is "work." I don't mind trying to convince Republican voters to vote for better politicians, but you do that by being a populist about economic issues, not by actually being a jerk. That Mr. Schweitzer chose the latter road tells me he's forsaken the former. (At the risk of piling on, his pro forma apology doesn't exactly recall the man who once said he needed to bathe in tomato juice after trips to Washington.)
In other news, Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler gives four Pinochios to a National Mining Association radio ad claiming that the EPA's proposed carbon emissions standards for existing power plants will "nearly double" electricity prices. I'm annoyed whenever people claim we shouldn't do the right thing because it will cost too much, not just because the time to do the right thing is always now, but because when folks like that say something will "cost too much," they generally mean it will cost their corporate paymasters too much, and why should they get all the say about everything? Mr. Kessler breaks it down pretty well, though -- the radio ad gets the 80 percent figure by assuming coal plants would have to recapture 100 percent of its carbon emissions, when the EPA's proposal calls for less than half of that, and the ad also acts like most energy corporations only rely on coal to produce electricity (or won't diversify further), which also isn't true. The best part, though, is when the NMA spokeshack, defending the radio ad, claims (breathlessly, I'll bet) that California energy prices could go up 47 percent over the next 16 years! That, folks, is just another scare number -- California energy prices might well go up about three percentage points every year just because of inflation, or because, oh, I don't know, some energy corporation decides to turn power plants on and off for financial gain.
Finally, the latest assertion that Ronald Reagan wouldn't recognize today's Republican Party comes from an unlikely source: Rick Santorum. Liberals have been saying that Mr. Reagan must be turning in his grave for as long as he's been in it, and I'm old enough to remember when Mr. Santorum was one of the reasons for that, so he's a bit late to this party. And if he was smart enough to note that Mr. Reagan preceded "government isn't the solution, government is the problem" with the phrase "in this current crisis," I have to wonder why he wasn't smart enough to foreground a populist economic message in 2012, when he actually had a decent shot at getting elected President. Instead, we got the guy who said "I'm for income inequality," and who only complained that the middle class "built it too" -- a meme so devastating you have to wonder why the putatively smart Obama team never deployed it -- well after Mr. Romney lost. But fast forward to 2016, and his anti-gay, anti-woman messaging will be a bigger weight around his neck than ever, and his "openness" to raising the minimum wage, for example, won't sway liberals who are too used to finding they're Charlie Brown and the Republicans are Lucy. Rick Santorum ain't no Richard Nixon -- it'd take an Obama screw-up of Biblical proportions to make him President in 2016.