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Mary Burke Made Mistake By Not Standing With President Obama On Labor Day

September 1, 2014

Not for the first time do I comment on a politician asking voters to have faith in their leadership abilities but then show weakness by making a less-than-artful political move.   Such is the case with Democratic candidate for governor Mary Burke who skipped the chance to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the leader of the free world.  Some will argue that is was smart politics not to stand alongside President Obama in Milwaukee on Labor Day.  I disagree.

In fact, I think that not being on stage with President Obama should dismay all about the state of our politics.

Four years ago during Labor Day festivities I stated how un-amused I was with then Senator Russ Feingold who found an excuse not to be with President Obama in Milwaukee.

It just was not a very classy thing to do.  Regardless of politics you should always stand with your friends.  There comes a time when you say, whatever the effects, I will not turn my back on the leader of the free world.   The President is coming to my state, and by God I will be there with him.

I read a great deal of history and always find visits from a president to generate robust enthusiasm that then creates lingering memories.  Just this past week in a map of historical events in Madison it was noted by Isthmus that Grover Cleveland went fishing in Maple Bluff in 1887.  I suspect if we traveled back into the newspaper files there are photos of beaming residents pressing close to get within the lens frame so to be seen with the president.  We may have partisan points of view about issues and policy but when the president visits there should stir within us a deep sense of respect for the office while knowing that we are witnessing a page of history.

That may seem quaint and even corny by some who are reading this blog post.  But I suggest what we need–perhaps more than anything else–is a healthy dose of the old-fashioned way we once conducted our politics in Wisconsin.  Perhaps the best place that message could have started with big headlines would have been with the appearance of Mary Burke alongside President Obama.

We all know that our state has been deeply fractured over the past four years with the election of Scott Walker.  Every person who watches political ads on television or reads their mail know attempts are continually made to  smear and tar the other side of the aisle.  No one needs to remind us that we were not always so split as a state, and that reasonableness can again be restored.  To her credit Burke has stated she wants to again find the common path forward in our state and not deepen the political divide, but solve our problems in a more unified fashion.

By standing with President Obama in Milwaukee and noting the deep honor such a place on the stage as the first woman nominated for governor means to her, while addressing the deep divisions in Wisconsin and how they must be healed would have sent a strong message.

Burke would have shown that she will not be intimidated from doing what is right.  When a president visits your state, and you are either a state leader or candidate you show up, shake hands, wave to the crowd and delight in the moment just as the cheering voters in the audience are doing.  After all, a visit by a president is a very American moment.

She could have sent a strong message that the shallow end of the political pool with their threats of using photos of her with the president are exactly the type of politics that has gotten us to the place we are today, and why a change is needed in the statehouse.   The opposition may attempt some mud-slinging but Burke could have stated clearly with her presence on the stage she is a strong woman and not about to be cowered.  She could have shown faith in the voters to not fall to mean-spirited politics.

If we are sick of the type of  politics now taking place than we need to stop repeating them and instead anchor ourselves to the ideals that history shows once led us forward as a state.

I am genuinely sad that Mary Burke did not make that effort today.

  1. Mark E. Bye permalink
    September 3, 2014 8:48 AM

    I only wish Obama would have given Walker a big hug when they met.

  2. Tom permalink
    September 2, 2014 10:52 PM

    No, I completely follow you. This is not lib/cons issue. Just the realities of politics.

  3. September 2, 2014 6:32 PM

    You seriously misread my post if you think this is a conservative or liberal issue.

  4. tom permalink
    September 2, 2014 5:14 PM

    Its pretty simple. She was damned is she did–in that there would be lots of photos of her with unpopular president, or she avoids him and liberals are upset. Since liberals will vote for her either way because she is not Walker, there is nothing to lose.

    As far as I can tell, Obama is always fundraising so this would have been a campaign trip if Burke had wanted it that way. It was her call.

    But if any are upset with Burke, I encourage you to send a strong message by staying home on election day.

  5. Solly permalink
    September 2, 2014 1:19 PM

    so Burke should have charged the podium at a presidential event, a la Rick Lazio wif Hillary at the senate debate, presidential schedule be damned, for a photo op. Evidence that it was an official event was that Walker met him at the airport. Or, she coulda paid for the trip, probably hundreds of thousands, to pay for the city costs, AF 1, white house staff, yadda yadda. Good use of campaign funds

  6. September 2, 2014 12:06 PM

    In the high-stakes world of politics–of which this race is included–I suggest anything that is desired can somehow be achieved.

  7. Solly permalink
    September 2, 2014 11:48 AM

    my understanding, from news reports, is that it was an official visit, not a campaign trip, which would have ramifications for who paid for the trip, and what was said. As Paul Harvey sez, “the rest of the story.”

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