The Wisconsin public sector unions, in agreeing to compromise on their pensions and benefits in exchange for collective bargaining, have apparently done all they could to negotiate with the state's governor – according to "Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski Tuesday. The self-confessed Democrat for whom appeal to sentiment is second-nature, Brzezinski painted the governor as "cold" and "mean" in the eyes of Wisconsin voters, to whom the union has "given blood."
"The union has given blood to this guy. They've given everything he's wanted," Brzezinski lamented. "I don't know what more they can do for him."
Brzezinski highlighted polls of Wisconsin voters, which show a majority now have an unfavorable view of the governor. "You know what the voters are saying?" she rhetorically asked. "He's cold. And he's mean. And he doesn't care about the little guy." Wow, it sounds like someone's getting coal in his stocking next Christmas.
Ironically, the liberal "Morning Joe" co-host sparred with Adrian Fenty, the former Democratic mayor of Washington, D.C. Fenty agreed in "substance" with Walker about collective bargaining reform and even added that Walker could do more politically.
"I just don't understand why the legislature has been given this pass to go to another state and not do what they were sworn to do, and that's to take a vote," Fenty said of the state Democratic legislators. "[Walker] needs to point the finger a little bit more at them and say 'Listen, they should take a vote'."
Brzezinski pointed out that Walker has not attempted to compromise with the unions. Fenty dismissed that point as well. "[Walker] has the votes in that legislature," he said. "All you should have to do as an executive is to get a majority of the votes."
A strange addition to the discussion was the presence of President Obama's disgraced former "Car Czar" Steven Rattner. In addition to overhauling the auto industry, Rattner was a financier and co-founder of a private investment firm, and settled in December with New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo over a lawsuit for his involvement in a pay-to-play scheme with the state's pension fund.
Rattner opined that Gov. Walker had indeed overplayed his hand in the standoff with the unions, and that collective bargaining is part of the "fabric of American business and government."
A transcript of the segment, which aired on March 8 at 8:13 a.m. EST, is as follows:
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: I don't understand what would be wrong with some sort of compromise at this point, given that the union has given blood to this guy. They've given everything he's wanted. They just want a voice. Can anyone explain to me why they should not compromise? Pat, go right ahead.
PAT BUCHANAN: Sure. Look, Scott Walker backs down now, he is finished.
BUCHANAN: He is winning this thing! He is winning this. He's got all the votes. Those guys are going to leave Illinois probably pretty soon, one or two of them – he's going to win this battle. Look, when you play poker, and you've got a winning hand, you don't split the pot. You take it all, and this is what Walker ought to do. I know the polls are down –
BRZEZSINSKI: The polls are bad, Pat.
Former "Car Czar" STEVEN RATTNER: What the polls say to me is that unlike Chris Christie and unlike Andrew Cuomo so far who have played their hands brilliantly, he may have overplayed his hand. And (unintelligible) this last step, it seems like the Wisconsin voters say it was just a bridge too far.
BRZEZINSKI: You know what the voters are saying? He's cold. And he's mean. And he doesn't care about the little guy. That's what they're saying. That's what that poll says, Pat. And you know what? I gotta tell you, I don't know what more they can do for him.
BUCHANAN: Well you know, they might have said Ronald Reagan was cold and mean, look he fired the poor air controllers, gave them 48 hours and then fired them all – people look back later and say "You know? He did the right thing." Now this fella said this is what he was going to do, he's going to do it. You cannot have union guys electing people and then negotiating with the people they elected. I think he's right on the substance, maybe he's wrong on the politics now. But stand your ground and win it. You watch, he is going to win this battle.
BRZEZINSKI: That's the way we get things done, Mayor Fenty?
Fmr. Mayor of Washington, D.C., ADRIAN FENTY: Well, this is kind of what I faced as mayor. He's right on the substance, I think. I tend to agree with him on the need for collective bargaining reform. But he's also right on the politics. I just don't understand why the legislature has been given this pass to go to another state and not do what they were sworn to do, and that's to take a vote. And unfortunately for Gov. Walker, he hasn't been able to get that out. He needs to point the finger a little bit more at them and say listen, they should take a vote. All I wanted them to vote, up or down, and then I'll be fine with whatever they decide.
BRZEZINSKI: Okay, but you understand that he hasn't even made an attempt to compromise in any way.
FENTY: But again, as I think as Pat just said, he has the votes in that legislature. All you should have to do as an executive is to get a majority of the votes. Had that happened early on in this process, I don't think he would have taken all the bows and arrows and shots that he has.
BRZEZINSKI: Do you agree with what he's doing?
FENTY: The substance of it, I do. There was a discussion on this show a couple weeks ago that said most governors and mayors would love to be able to manage their team without the interference of collective bargaining. It's true, I believe that managers have the ability to set fair wages and to set fair hours and to reward people or hold them accountable. I think it's a new day, I think a lot of these collective bargaining agreements are completely outdated. That being said, I really do believe that if you are in a state house, the state legislatures need to vote up or down, and then let's move on. I bet he would be willing to accept whatever they come up with.
RATTNER: Collective bargaining is part of the fabric of American business and government. And I think what the voters in Wisconsin are saying is that they get that. The Reagan air traffic controllers thing was completely different. They violated the no-strike law, he gave them 48 hours to come back, they wouldn't come back. So then they got fired. These teachers have given in on everything. All they want to be able to do is continue to bargain.