Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 21, 2010

DETAILS, SCHMETAILS IN WISCONSIN.... Wisconsin's Republican Senate nominee, right-wing millionaire Ron Johnson, doesn't much care for substantive policy details. What's more, he's hoping his disregard for specifics is seen as one of his strengths.

Johnson's chat with the Green Bay Press Gazette's editorial board the other day offered a high-profile example. The editors wanted to know about his plan to create jobs, and Johnson just ended up shrugging his shoulders. He vowed to cut some form of spending at some point by some undetermined amount. This, Johnson said, was his "jobs plan."

But this kind of approach to policy problems keeps coming up.

Wisconsin's Republican Senate hopeful Ron Johnson got tripped up on a point of policy during a recent interview: Asked what the Department of Veterans' Affairs' responsibility is to homeless veterans, Johnson declared that his election fight against Sen. Russ Feingold is not "about details." [...]

The moderator pressed Johnson -- a government skeptic -- to explain exactly how the government should respond to the issue of homeless vets. "Are there specific things that you think need to happen within that galaxy of services, perhaps, that the VA has some responsibility for or other organizations that would help homeless veterans?"

Johnson responded, flummoxed.

"Specifically I can't really -- I haven't been there, I don't have all the details. One thing I will point out: I don't believe this election really is about details. It just isn't."

He used nearly identical language at another forum, telling voters, "I don't believe this election is about details. I really don't."

Johnson is of the "figure it out later" mold. Wisconsin may not know him very well, but if folks vote for him anyway, he'll try to come up with good ideas eventually.

How would Johnson create jobs? He doesn't know, but if voters support him, he'll figure it out later. Why does he think "sunspots" generate global warming? He doesn't know, but if voters support him, he'll figure it out later. How should the nation provide for veterans? He doesn't know, but if voters support him, he'll figure it out later. How would Social Security work if he successfully privatizes it? He doesn't know, but if voters support him, he'll figure it out later.

This is, by the way, the same Ron Johnson who was asked last week what kind of innovative ideas he might pursue as a U.S. senator. Johnson skipped right past substantive issues, and committed himself to a "re-education of America."

Maybe Johnson should be more interested in a "re-education" of himself?

For what it's worth, this is wearing thin on some in Wisconsin. The Green Bay Press Gazette's editorial board, almost immediately after chatting with Johnson, endorsed incumbent Sen. Russ Feingold (D). It was the first time the paper has ever supported one of Feingold's campaigns.

Steve Benen 10:45 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (28)

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Johnson is of the "figure it out later" mold.

Or the "I don't want to tell you my agenda, because then you'll vote against me" mold.

Either way, that worked out so well with George W. Bush, didn't it?

Posted by: Gregory on October 21, 2010 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

"Details." "Nitpicky." "Gotcha questions." "Media bias." Repeat as needed, and you too can be elected to public office with not one shred of knowledge or intelligence.

Posted by: T-Rex on October 21, 2010 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

T-rex: With all due respect, you forgot "Out of context!"

Posted by: Gregory on October 21, 2010 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps one "detail" that the voters can ignore is that actually *voting* for Ron Johnson is immaterial. They can *support* Johnson, but vote for Feingold. After all, it's only a detail. And Feingold understands how government works, so can accomplish things.

Posted by: Ian on October 21, 2010 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

They need to get this guy on the camera every day until election time. The more he opens his mouth, the more obvious it is this guy doesn't give a crap about the public.

Posted by: mikefromArlington on October 21, 2010 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

-His campaign seems to consist of, "Vote for me, because I'm not Russ Feingold."

Posted by: DAY on October 21, 2010 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

All party no tea

We've entered the post-substance era of American politics...

Posted by: koreyel on October 21, 2010 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

Also need to remind people that the person they're going to put in the senate will be there for six years and this is one of the most influential positions that can affect their lives in significant ways.

Posted by: wordtypist on October 21, 2010 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

Details, substance, policies -- that's the stuff of pointy-headed liberal elitism.

A real American doesn't need to know stuff; what good would American Exceptionalism be then?

No, real Americans don't think, they just do -- like John Wayne or George W. Bush.

Thinking is for effete Europeans, commies and left-wing fags.

Posted by: Gummo on October 21, 2010 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

Sounds like Rick Snyder in Michigan.

Posted by: G.Kerby on October 21, 2010 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

I've been wondering of late about Cuomo's "politics is poetry/governing is prose" observation, and what's going to happen if/when any of these Teabaggers actually get into office. How will a possible Boehner or McConnell as leaders actually shepherd their crazy ideas through committee hearings in a bill that makes some sort of coherent sense?

Posted by: artsmith on October 21, 2010 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

Elect Johnson first so you can find out what his policies are!

I thought conservatives were against this line of thinking? Pelosi "We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what's in it."

Posted by: Gridlock on October 21, 2010 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

It's unfortunate, however, that this kind of stupidity is just now -- less than two weeks before the election -- being discussed.

Where was the Green Bay Press Gazette's editorial board last month?

Posted by: karen marie on October 21, 2010 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

The reason Johnson has been ahead--there is a recent public poll which suggests it is a virtual dead heat, but I do not know the specifics like whether it was likely voters--is the anger many Wisconites have toward Democrats in general as a result of a very unpopular Democratic governor and the economic conditions which have existed since Obama took office. The left's support of Feingold has been muted by his incomprehemsible tactic on Fin Reg as well as similar unfathonable occurrences in the past. So Johnson is absolutely right to say that the election is not about the details. It is about anger toward Democrats and a level of apathy by Feingold supporters. Kudos to the Green Bay Press Gazette for saying wait a minute, this is about the government of our country. Not sure it will convince many voters, but if the Badgers beat Iowa and the Packers beat the Vikings, folks may just feel happy enough to re-elect Feingold.

Posted by: Terry on October 21, 2010 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

Fancy book learning is for elites. Details are for east coast snobs and Washington insiders.

What we need in Washington are people from the heartland who lead with their hearts. Good old fashion common sense folks.

They know government is bad. They know it as sure as they cash their Social Security checks. They know government can't help them as apply for Medicaid. They know government can't do anything right as they send their kids to public schools. They know government sucks as they drive across interstate highways. They know government is out to get them as they cheer on the military in its campaigns abroad.

Willful ignorance is the new black in American politics.

Posted by: thorin-1 on October 21, 2010 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

If the fickle babies who live in Wisconsin want to turn out Feingold cuz they're upset about the economy or Obamacare or whatever and put in this Know Nothing, they deserve what they get. Unfortunately, the rest of the country gets it too.

Posted by: Bat of Moon on October 21, 2010 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately, Johnson's right. There really are lots of people who are that disgusted with the status quo, and in Wisconsin there may be enough to put Johnson into office. The sad thing is that this year provided an opening for genuine social democratic progressives to articulate their ideas, but as such people are unwelcome in today's Democratic Party, the teabaggers filled the vacuum, leaving regular Democrats as sad, ineffective defenders of business as usual.

Posted by: dr sardonicus on October 21, 2010 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

Johnson...'not about details'?

How about this for a message:

I'm too lazy to figure out how I'm going to operate as a Senator. I will spout large policy ideas completely divorced from any kind of details (which would mean *work* of all things, all those little 'nits') and let whomever can do the work for me do so at the most benefit to myself. You, the taxpayer, will be paying me to be as lazy as possible and to sell off my legislative work to the highest bidder, effectively.

Sounds a lot less attractive than 'not about details', doesn't it?

Posted by: Malovich on October 21, 2010 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

I haven't seen a lot of Feingold's ads, but is there any chance he is trying or will try to seize the narrative by insisting "no, this election IS about the details, it IS about having a vision and a plan, and my opponent is bringing nothing to the table except a desire to make a living on the taxpayers' dime."

Posted by: slappy magoo on October 21, 2010 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

Why would a millionaire want to run for public office...to make more millions.

That, I say, is the only detail he is concerned about.

Posted by: Kill Bill on October 21, 2010 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

if the Badgers beat Iowa and the Packers beat the Vikings, folks may just feel happy enough to re-elect Feingold.

Aw, sh*t. You mean we're going to have to tell future generations that the reason we couldn't stop the 'baggers from screwing up the country once and for all was because Mark Taucher, Jermichael Findley, Nick Barnett, and Clay Matthews were hurt? What a way to ru(i)n a country.

Posted by: Tim H on October 21, 2010 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

Isn't '-- a government skeptic --' another term for 'complete idiot'?

He's 'skeptical' of what --money? water? electricity?

Posted by: cld on October 21, 2010 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

What this mentality will do is drive more government activity to be outsourced. Not only from the operations end, but the creating policy and bills and such. The Ryan Liazza piece on climate change leg. is a great case in point; US senators had to scurry to various interest groups, trade goups, etc., to a: get the legislative language, b: get the ok from said groups, c: extract promises that they wouldn't oppose it. Nowhere was there mention of the 'special interests" of the - umm, who are they again ? Oh, yeah. Citizens.

So if we elect 4-6 Johnson types, who are clearly completely clueless as to how government sort of runs, they will soon become disillusioned jackasses, and then power will be concentrated to their leadership, who will tell them how to vote. Those directives will come directly from the Chamber of Comm., Koch, etc. These senators will be simpleton figureheads of the Jim Bunning variety.

I actually didn't think the private money / campaign finance thing was that deep, but the more I learn, the more scared I get that we are abdicating our government to 30 or so senatorial and 10 or so congression stooges who operate the levers, and the rest nod and collect campaign money.

Posted by: bigutah on October 21, 2010 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

haven't seen a lot of Feingold's ads, but is there any chance he is trying or will try to seize the narrative by insisting "no, this election IS about the details, it IS about having a vision and a plan, and my opponent is bringing nothing to the table except a desire to make a living on the taxpayers' dime."

Actually, that sounds like Coon's campaign in DE.

Posted by: fourlegsgood on October 21, 2010 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

Details are for lobbyists.

Posted by: TeaBaggerSmith on October 21, 2010 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

I am holding out hope that most voters, unlike the political junkies on this site and others, are just now starting to pay attention.

Hopefully, as people stare through the looking glass, they will realize that most of the GOP candidates are hopelessly incompetent, freaking insane, or in most cases, both.

If people vote on the basis of political ads, we are truly fucked.

Posted by: bdop4 on October 21, 2010 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

He has a secret plan to figure things out.

Posted by: Frank on October 21, 2010 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Johnson's plan for jobs, homeless vets, and everything else is precisely the same as that of virtually every other GOP candidate: more tax cuts.

Magical thinking, dontchaknow,
-Z

Posted by: Zorro on October 21, 2010 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK
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