It starts at 8. Central, of course. It's Wisconsin, baby. The center of the American political universe. The center, where time is Central. So hang on for 15 minutes. The crazy, recall fun is about to begin.
8:00: Live stream here.
8:03: We're going to get "an educated and civil debate focused on the issues" to "move this state forward," says a man in a 3-piece suit. Blah blah blah about the rules. The moderators are from Sturgeon Bay, Green Bay, and Milwaukee Bay... I mean, Milwaukee.
8:05: Walker won the coin-toss, gave the first opening statement. Now, it's Barrett, slowly and dramatically telling us — as scripted — about how Walker "tore this state apart." He assures us this isn't just "a do-over."
8:08: The first question is: Why are we here? (I.e., isn't this just a do-over?) Barrett says Walker started "a political civil war" and now they want an end to it. Walker says: It's about our reforms, which are working.
8:11: Should we can the recall? (I certainly think we should.) Walker says "absolutely." It's a "horrible waste of money." He thinks voters will want it changed.
8:12: Walker says if he could do it all over again, he'd have explained what he was doing, and most people would have agreed. He fixed it [the budget], then talked about it. Barrett says: "Scott, you started this by saying you were going to 'drop the bomb'... and you would use 'divide and conquer' to go after the workers... and tear this state apart... You decided to use a budget crisis to try to divide and conquer this state... and you succeeded." (A strong challenge from Barrett.)
8:16: The question is about how to count whether we've lost or gained jobs. Barrett is using the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimate, which says Wisconsin has lost the most jobs of any state. If Walker's numbers are right, it would mean the Bureau of Labor Statistics has made the greatest mistake ever. Walker says, those numbers are based on a sample of 3%. Walker is using the actual numbers from 97% of the employers in Wisconsin, submitted as required by law. (Walker should take some time to respond to Barrett's "divide and conquer" attack.)
8:19: What counts as a tax increase? Walker touts his caps on property taxes and the "change in attitude" affecting business. "I believe in getting government out of the way." Barrett brings up "divide and conquer" again and brings up Walker's record as Milwaukee County Executive (before he became governor). He talks about trust and says Walker pushed some debt onto our children (but I can't understand what he is referring to).
8:24: A question about who their contributors are. Barrett says Walker raises too much money from out of state. Barrett names a whole lot of cities in Wisconsin — places that people from out of state don't care about. Sturgeon Bay, Superior, Stevens Point... you get the point. The people from out of state see Walker as a "rock star." The "right wing" loves him, because he wants this state to be a "prototype" for the Tea Party. "He's pleasing these billionaires." Walker says in February and March of 2011, the out-of-state money flowed in against his reforms. That's where this all started. He complains about "all the union money" — the "special interests." More than 76% of his donations come from people who gave $50 or less.
8:29: The John Doe investigation. Walker says he has integrity. He was an Eagle Scout as a boy. He helped the investigation, he's not a target, and this is a distraction. Barrett points to Walker's criminal defense fund. (The question asked whether these insinuations about Walker are "responsible.") Barrett says he wants to "clear the air."
8:33: What about the flee-baggers? (The Democratic senators who fled the state.) Barrett says he would "seek to work with people" so we won't "face these huge civil wars." He brings up "divide and conquer" again. He'd "set the tone for the organization." [By "organization," he means the government.] Walker "dropped the bomb" — that was "his phrase." Walker makes claims of some bi-partisan actions. Barrett wants to go back to old battles, says Walker, quoting Barrett saying he'd "target" people and "take them on."
8:36: What about encouraging mining (and protecting the environment)? Walker says recall politics stood in the way of legislation that would have enabled the mining operations to go forward. Barrett says Walker isn't willing to "work with people." Barrett would have brought everyone together and asked: "Is there a need for this mine?"
8:40: Gay marriage. Barrett is for it. Young people favor "marriage equality." He shoehorns equal pay for equal work into his allotted time. Enough with the gays; on to the women. Walker says he's sworn to uphold the (state) constitution, and that defines marriage as between a man and a woman, so that's what he supports. As to equal pay, that's the law and he supports it and enforces it. He has nieces, so it matters to him personally.
8:43: Education. Walker (naturally) says he supports education. He has sons. He explains that his reforms have made more money available to avoid laying off teachers and to favor teachers based on merit. Barrett points to the spending cuts. (I'm still waiting to hear where Barrett would make the cuts to solve the budget problems.) Barrett manages to say "divide and conquer" again.
8:46: Access to health care. Barrett endorses all manner of spending. (Where will he cut?!) Walker cites spending that he did make, with reforms "to make sure it's sustainable." Of course, we have "a basic safety net," but if you can get your health insurance elsewhere, we're going to push you out to that. Barrett hasn't told us what he would do to economize.
8:50: What can Walker do to re-unify the state after all this turmoil? Walker says we sure don't want to go back and "rehash" the things we've already done. It's the "move forward" argument. Barrett says "you have to establish trust." He accuses Walker of dishonesty (referring again to those jobs numbers). He accuses Walker of "punishing" his "enemies." Barrett claims that that he, by contrast, would "work with people" and "get things done."
8:53: Walker has an opportunity to ask Barrett a question, and Walker just declines. He says the voters "don't want to hear us bickering," so it's immediately Barrett's turn to speak. Barrett seems pleased, but he speculates about what Walker might have thought he would ask about, and that would be the John Doe investigation. But that's already been asked, so he asks about Walker's traveling and out-of-state speaking and fund-raising. Will Walker disclose the details? Walker says he thinks the people in Wisconsin who've seen him — here, he names a bunch of Wisconsin places — know he's focused on Wisconsin. "I stood up and took on the powerful special interests at both the state and the local level, [which], in the past, had dictated to taxpayers what they were going to do... I put the power back in the hands of the taxpayers." Barrett repeats his question, the request for details about out-of-state donors. Walker repeats his (non-responsive) answer: He's fought for the taxpayers.
8:56: Closing statements. Barrett says he doesn't want to be a "rock star." He's said "no" to his "friends" as well as his opponents. He wasn't the "first choice" of the unions. Walker doesn't "ask for shared sacrifice." Barrett says (again) that he will "end the civil war." Walker says he "often chuckle[s] when [he] hear[s] the word courage, because, to [him] it's amazing that politics is the only profession out there where you're somehow called courageous just by keeping your word." He gets "courage" from the "people [he] meet[s] every day." He wants to "move the state forward" for the sake of the people of Wisconsin and the next generation.
9:05: I'd say the 2 men were pretty evenly matched. No one made any mistakes. They got their points out, and they both spoke fluently, without losing steam over the course of the hour. I doubt if many minds were changed. If there was an opportunity to screw up, it wasn't taken. I was annoyed by Barrett's calling Governor Walker "Scott" repeatedly. Barrett tried to goad Walker and annoy him, but Walker never took the bait. Walker never showed any disrespect. If anyone noticed that, perhaps there was a slight tip for Walker. But Barrett's the one with the uphill battle here.
There was a glaring question that was never asked, which was: What would Barrett do to solve the state's budget problems? He's never been specific, and he totally got away with it (unless the home viewers noticed it on their own).