If I were a political junky that traveled the country looking for nonstop bloodcurdling, polemical news coverage, I think I would stay in Wisconsin. We have enough government dysfunction in the dairy state to keep ten Dan Bices busy. After all, we have serious recall mania, frivolous state lawsuits, drunk driving Representatives, John Doe investigations, fleet-footed State Senators, and County Board Supervisors that endorse criminals and take bribes. And the cherry on the sundae this past week? Our County Sheriff used the President's visit as a soapbox to once again whine about the austerity of a post-recessionary county budget. Let it go, man.
I like Sheriff Clarke, I do. He's an outspoken conservative that doesn't mince words and doesn't back down from a fight. In ancient Greece, courage was one of the noblest of the human virtues - but then again, so were modesty and moderation. Back then, if you had one virtue and forsook the rest, you weren't living a good life.
I won't criticize Clarke for his frustration over departmental budget cuts or his decision to dial back security during the President's visit. After all, the state patrol and the secret service furnished "substantially" more protection than usual for a visit that everyone understood to be a taxpayer-covered campaign stop in the purplest of battle states.
I suppose if I had a beef with Jeff Wagner, it would be this: quit excusing Clarke's public yammering. Clarke is a big boy. If he wants to manipulate a presidential visit to lambaste the County Executive, then he should accept the heat for it and be done with it. Clarke is not a victim. He chose to hang a target around his neck and invited everyone with an axe to grind to take aim. I have no sympathy for people that willingly jump into a political volcano.
While Wagner provided his own security detail for the good Sheriff, he was noticeably wrong in his criticism of the Journal-Sentinel. Their editorial called out Clarke for a "childish game" which they described as "embarrassing" for the County. I'm not sure how to find fault with that since it was embarrassing. Clarke publicly berated the County Board for their "infinite idiocy" while telling the media, "This is their budget, and I will make them own it." And how did Abele respond to this stinging rebuke? He declined to comment. There is a proverb that says we shouldn't engage fools in their folly; Abele did the right thing.
And that's really been Abele's M.O. through much of his tenure as County Executive. He refuses to roll in the mud with Clarke, refuses to fight petty intramural battles with the County Board, and he rebuffs any attempt by the media to pit himself against Governor Walker. And what is Abele's reward for staying above the political fray? He's blamed by talk radio for targeting the County Sheriff.
Perhaps those of us who listen to talk radio should be reminded that conservatism is about doing more with less, about balancing government budgets with fiscal responsibility, and about taking the necessary sacrifices for the betterment of our financially strapped tax base. Wagner should have, at the very least, tried to verify whether Abele had actually joined the chorus of attacks of Supervisors Lee Holloway, Johnny Weishan, and Eyon Biddle before broadcasting falsities over the airwaves. In a county already steeped in political one-upmanship, being a nonpartisan Executive is supposed to be a plus - apparently no one gave Wagner the memo.