Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) is doubling down on claims that the strongest foreign policy move in his lifetime was former President Ronald Reagan’s decision to fire 11,000 air traffic controllers.
In 1981, almost 13,000 air traffic control employees walked off the job when contract negotiations between the federal government and the controllers union stalled. Reagan claimed the strike was illegal and demanded the air traffic controllers return to work; when some 11,000 did not, he fired them.
Walker, who has long idolized Reagan and previously lauded the former president’s standoff with air traffic control, on Saturday called it “the most significant foreign policy decision of my lifetime” during an address at the Club for Growth’s winter meeting in West Palm Beach, Florida.
“It sent a message not only across America, it sent a message around the world,” Walker said, according to The Washington Post, claiming the action showed foreign allies and enemies that “we weren’t to be messed with.”
Walker made almost identical comments during a January MSNBC appearance, where he claimed there were documents that proved the Soviet Union treated the U.S. differently following the standoff.
“Years later, documents released from the Soviet Union showed that that exactly was the case,” he said. “The Soviet Union started treating [Reagan] more seriously once he did something like that. Ideas have to have consequences. And I think [President Barack Obama] has failed mainly because he’s made threats and hasn’t followed through on them.”
PolitiFact investigated the claims, finding no evidence the documents ever existed. “It’s utter nonsense,” Jack Matlock, Reagan’s ambassador to the Soviet Union, told PolitiFact. “There is no evidence of that whatever.”
And yet, Walker has committed to highlighting his own dealings with unions to prove his ability to take on foreign threats, like the Islamic State. During a Thursday address at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Walker touted his confrontation with right-to-work protesters in Wisconsin as proof he can take on threats from the Middle East.
“If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world,” Walker said Thursday, after being asked how he would stand up to the Islamic State.
Walker made the same comparison earlier this month at a dinner for prominent conservative donors, according to CNBC’s Larry Kudlow.
“Walker argued that when Reagan fired air traffic controllers (from the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization) over their illegal strike, he was sending a message of toughness to Democrats and unions at home as well as our Soviet enemies abroad,” Kudlow wrote of Walker’s remarks. “Similarly, Walker believes his stance against unions in Wisconsin would be a signal of toughness to Islamic jihadists and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.”
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