Scott Walker clarifies his comparison of union protesters and Islamic State terrorists

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

After delivering a well-received speech Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker appeared on Bloomberg Politics' With All Due Respect to clarify an off-the-cuff remark in which he appeared to equate the fight against Islamic State terrorists to his face-off with union protesters in his home state.

“My point was just, if I could handle that kind of a pressure and kind of intensity, I think I'm up for the challenge for whatever might come, if I choose to run for president,” Walker told hosts John Heilemann and Mark Halperin.

Earlier in the day, during the question and answer period of his speech at CPAC, Walker was asked how he would deal with international threats like that posed by the Islamic State.

“I want a commander in chief who will do everything in their power to ensure that the threat from radical Islamic terrorists does not wash up on American soil,” Walker said, adding, “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world.”

That remark, which drew applause from many in the hall at CPAC, also received criticism.

“If Scott Walker thinks that it's appropriate to compare working people speaking up for their rights to brutal terrorists, then he is even less qualified to be president than I thought,” Mo Elleithee, communications director for the Democratic National Committee told Wisconsin State Journal. “Maybe he should go back to punting.”

The National Review's Jim Geraghty also took issue with the comparison.

Asked by Heilemann to expand on what he meant, and dispute critics like Geraghty, Walker at first stuck with his guns.

“Look, in comparison, one thing I've said many times before, one of the most significant actions taken in foreign policy in my lifetime was when Ronald Reagan he was a governor before he was president fired the air traffic controllers, even though it had nothing to do with foreign policy, I think it had a tremendous impact because it sent a powerful message around the world that this guy was serious,” Walker argued. “To our allies, you knew you could take him seriously and you could trust him, to our adversaries you knew not to mess with him. To me, that example is the closest thing I have in terms of taking on the pressure out there, um, so, I just respectfully disagree with his [Geraghty's] analysis out there.”

Heilemann then pressed Walker further.

“Just to break it down,” Heilemann continued, “you're not actually comparing ISIS terrorists to the protesters in Wisconsin, right? You're not trying to make that comparison in either direction that the protesters are equivalent to terrorists, or that the terrorists are equivalent to protesters, right?”

“No,” Walker answered, before searching for the appropriate metaphor.“Not by a land mine, or landslide of difference, not by a Grand Canyon of difference.”