CNN Forwards Idea of 'Overreach' By Gov. Walker Through Quoted 'Experts'

CNN's Ed Hornick apparently couldn't find anyone who disagreed with the notion that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker "overreached" in his push to eliminate collective bargaining for public sector unions. Hornick's Tuesday article quoted from two political science professors, a "progressive" writer, and a former United States comptroller general, who helped forward this hypothesis.

The writer all but gave the answer to the question proposed in the title of his article ("Did Wisconsin governor overreach in union battle?") in his lead sentence: "Some political experts have said that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, in a battle with public employee unions over the right to collective bargaining, has overreached in his attempts to shore up the state's budget shortfall." The graphic accompanying the article featured a pro-union protestor's sign that labeled Governor Walker a "dope," in a parody of Shepard Fairey's red, white, and blue depiction of President Obama (see above).

Hornick's first expert, Professor David Canon from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, stated that he thought "it'd be fair to categorize the proposal (to cut union bargaining) as an overreach...Maybe the biggest reason for that claim is the fact that he didn't campaign on this." After noting that "Walker, a former state legislator and Milwaukee County executive before he was elected governor last year, said he looks to Ronald Reagan for guidance in the current battle in which he's engaged," the CNN journalist continued that "one critic said Walker's public face conjures up images of a more recent president":

"Walker has been combative and steadfast, reminiscent more of George W. Bush's mystifying and utterly unjustified self-confidence (remember "I'm the decider?") than anything Ronald Reagan ever said or did," wrote Paul Fanlund of Wisconsin's progressive Capital Times.

Two paragraphs later, the writer quoted from a second professor, Thomas Holbrook of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, who posted three times to Huffington Post in October 2010 (a detail Hornick didn't mention):

Opponents have questioned Walker's motives as seeking prominence among like-minded conservatives or pursuing a vendetta against a traditional Republican foe. But another Wisconsin political scientist said while Walker "may, at some level, see himself as a vanguard of this new Republican effort," the governor is motivated by convictions.

"I don't see this as delusions of grandeur or him doing this in any way to propel himself on the national stage," said Thomas Holbrook, a professor of government at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. "The type of person he is, these are the things he believes needs to be done and he's got the majorities so he's going to do it."

Holbrook said Walker showed similar convictions when he was Milwaukee County executive from 2002 to 2010.

"He tended to stick to his guns there and say 'This is what I want, this is what I'm pushing for' and maybe he didn't get it in the end," Holbrook said. "But he didn't have a majority by any means."

Later in the article, Holbrook predicted that Walker's apparent "overreach" would hurt his political ambitions: "He has an opportunity with these huge majorities in the legislature to get his agenda through and that's what he's doing...As for his political future, I'm not sure this is going to benefit him in the long run. I see it as more of coming from conviction and opportunity."

Hornick's third "expert," David Walker (no relation to Scott Walker), was appointed comptroller general by former President Bill Clinton in 1998, and served through most of the Bush administration's two terms until early 2008. General Walker agreed with Professor Canon concerning the Wisconsin governor's "overreach," though acknowledging that he had "legitimate concerns about the collective bargaining process":

"However, he seems to have overreached in connection with some of his proposed solutions," David Walker wrote [in a February 28, 2011 piece on The Washington Post's website titled "Gov. Walker is overreaching on some solutions"]. "While there are many reasons that government workers should not be able to bargain over pension and health benefit levels, it is reasonable for them to be able to bargain over current pay, employee benefit contributions and normal work rules."

Near the end of his article, he CNN writer quoted again from Professor Canon, who reenforced his earlier "overreach" notion:

When [Governor] Walker was campaigning, he said he wanted unions to start contributing more. "But nobody saw this collective bargaining part of the proposal coming," Canon said. "That's why I think this could be seen as overreach. There's a pretty good chance he would not have been elected had this been part of the campaign in November."

Despite all the attention on the Republican governor, Hornick didn't quote from him at any point in his article, nor did quote from anyone who disagreed with the idea that the politician "overreached." One could easily conclude that the question posed in his article's title was merely rhetorical.

- Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.