Walker’s ‘I Am Paying for this Microphone’ Moment?

 

Every candidate looks for an iconic soundbite; a brief video clip that sells voters on his or her appeal. A flash of emotion, a glimpse of character, or a demonstration of sound leadership can define a politician in a way no policy paper does. Being terribly cautious creatures, modern politicians and their layers of handlers avoid spontaneity whenever possible, preferring to manufacture every appearance. However, the excellent candidate capitalizes on the unexpected.

Governor Scott Walker was speaking at the Iowa State Fair Monday when a union activist held up a sign and began to attack his record. I’m confident this wasn’t Walker’s first experience with a labor-backed heckler, but the governor seized the moment.

https://youtu.be/yWdAnbD20kw

Walker’s detractors often criticize his laid-back, no drama delivery. This video shows a rare, and seemingly genuine, flash of emotion that can serve him well with voters wanting to see a bit more fire in his belly. Several commenters around the Internet referred to the exchange as Walker’s “I Am Paying for this Microphone” moment, the gold standard of iconic campaign moments. I was about to agree until I refamiliarized myself with that event.

For the young’uns out there (including myself since I was but a paste-eating tween at the time), here’s why Reagan said that famous line and what it meant to his campaign.

Prior to the 1980 New Hampshire primary, the Nashua Telegraph offered to host a debate between the top two contenders, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Since several other candidates were running, the FEC warned this two-man debate might violate election law. So Reagan ponied up his own campaign money to invite Bush and all the other candidates. As the front runner, a larger debate helped Reagan by minimizing the threat from Bush; Reagan vs. All Those Other Guys was better framing than Reagan vs. Not Reagan.

Despite the Gipper paying for the event, the Nashua Telegraph refused to let all the candidates appear as equals, setting tables only for Reagan and Bush. Fifteen minutes after the debate was to begin, Bush took a seat at his table, followed by an angry Reagan and four other candidates by his side.

The newspaper’s representative began to recite ground rules that excluded the others. When Reagan protested, the moderator contemptuously said, “Would the sound man please turn Mr. Reagan’s mic off for the moment?”

Reagan’s face was red by this point and he angrily shouted, “I am paying for this microphone, Mr. Green!” The crowd erupted in sustained cheers, the four candidates behind him loudly applauded, and George Bush shrunk into his chair, knowing his dream of a two-man race in New Hampshire was over.

The debate was to be a small affair and scheduled to receive little coverage outside of the Granite State. But the unscripted flash of emotion vaulted the debate to the lead of every national news broadcast, showing Reagan as a take-charge leader and Bush as a sheepish also-ran.

Compared to the drama of 35 years ago, Walker’s confrontation was small beans. But in a primary where hot emotion is selling, the Wisconsin governor must be thrilled that Big Labor keeps giving him chances to spike the football in their end zone.

There are 31 comments.

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  1. Freesmith Inactive
    Freesmith
    @Freesmith

    “I am not intimidated,” said Scott Walker. “Today, America needs fewer immigrants!”

    Oh, well. He got the first part right.

    • #1
  2. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Thanks for this, Jon. I’ve long known about the incident, but wasn’t aware of the whole story and had never seen the video of Reagan capturing the moment. It’s so very attractive.

    It also reveals what bastards the media are.

    • #2
  3. Chris Campion Coolidge
    Chris Campion
    @ChrisCampion

    Thanks for everything, Ron.

    Rest in peace.

    • #3
  4. Umbra Fractus Inactive
    Umbra Fractus
    @UmbraFractus

    Until now I knew the “paying for this microphone” line, but didn’t know the speaker or the context.

    Also: Go Scott!

    • #4
  5. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    I remember.

    It was my first presidential election. Four years of Carter were clearly four years too many. My liberal friends were no longer speaking to me because I’d gone all pro-life and was off the reservation on the need to face down the Soviets.

    I wasn’t one of those dangerous Reagan loons, though. I voted for John Anderson in the primary and the general.

    It was my libertarian phase. I got better.

    • #5
  6. NCforSCFC Member
    NCforSCFC
    @NCforSCFC

    A fine way to wind down the evening, passion from Scott Walker and a reminder of the greatness of Ronald Reagan.

    • #6
  7. LunaticRex Inactive
    LunaticRex
    @LunaticRex

    One of the best moments in politics ever, that Reagan Nashua thing.

    • #7
  8. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    I am an enthusiastic but realistic Scott Walker supporter… So I’m just gonna get this out there.

    Are these union morons so thick as to think that this was somehow going to do anything but tee the ball up for Gov. Walker? I mean, center-cut fastball at thigh high. It’s… Convenient.

    That’s all I’m saying. Most likely the deranged unionists just don’t get it and will keep offering opportunities for Walker to pepper them… But have campaigns ever thought about generating some buzz with such shenanigans?

    • #8
  9. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    That’s unusual from Walker — I didn’t know he could do that so well.

    He has a reputation for letting nothing get under his skin.  But… I think Walker thought he was going to have the right of the field all to himself on immigration.  He could take time to get together a serious proposal, to frame it on his own terms.  He wouldn’t have to be flashy or dramatic because he’d be unique on policy.  And then Donald Trump came along and stole his thunder, with a few extra fireworks just for show.  And count on it Scott Walker — who knows the difference between governance and talk — sees right through Trump.  I heard him discussing Trump an interview with him the other day: very calm, very controlled — but my impression was that Trump had indeed gotten under his skin.  Which might actually be good for him.  He was not going to be able to win a national primary in the same calm, cautious, controlled manner he won in Wisconsin anyway.

    If he can pull off that kind of performance, convince voters that Trump’s not the only game in town on immigration after all, and step up his debate performance about three notches, he might do this thing yet.

    • #9
  10. Umbra Fractus Inactive
    Umbra Fractus
    @UmbraFractus

    Majestyk: Are these union morons so thick as to think that this was somehow going to do anything but tee the ball up for Gov. Walker? I mean, center-cut fastball at thigh high. It’s… Convenient.

    My experience since around 2001 or so is that, “This might make us look bad,” never seems to enter their minds. Code Pink dressing up as giant vaginas? Union members invading the Special Olympics to shout down Gov. Walker? Anti-life protesters barely prevented from throwing used tampons at Texas legislators? BLM’ers chanting, “We want dead cops?” I think the evidence is firmly in favor of, “Yes, they really are that clueless.”

    • #10
  11. Klaatu Inactive
    Klaatu
    @Klaatu

    Two decisive shows of strength and neither man felt the need to call anyone stupid, moron, loser, or wonder if it was that time of the month.

    I guess sometimes we forget what real leadership looks like.

    RIP Gipper.

    • #11
  12. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Fair enough Umbra. You’ve convinced me.

    I just don’t want to see any Pulitzers handed out to the enterprising journalists who uncover the agents provocateur operation which derails a Presidency.

    • #12
  13. Umbra Fractus Inactive
    Umbra Fractus
    @UmbraFractus

    Klaatu:Two decisive shows of strength and neither man felt the need to call anyone stupid, moron, loser, or wonder if it was that time of the month.

    I guess sometimes we forget what real leadership looks like.

    RIP Gipper.

    Well, in fairness, Walker didn’t use the word loser, but the implication was there. :-)

    • #13
  14. Umbra Fractus Inactive
    Umbra Fractus
    @UmbraFractus

    Majestyk:Fair enough Umbra.You’ve convinced me.

    I just don’t want to see any Pulitzers handed out to the enterprising journalists who uncover the agents provocateur operation which derails a Presidency.

    I’m not saying it’s not possible…

    I’m just questioning whether it’s necessary.

    • #14
  15. Commodore BTC Inactive
    Commodore BTC
    @CommodoreBTC

    sure Walker will stand up to unions, but he will roll over for the Chamber of Commerce and crony capitalists in the GOP

    • #15
  16. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    Did he drop the mic and sit down on his throne of skulls after that?

    • #16
  17. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    Majestyk: Are these union morons so thick as to think that this was somehow going to do anything but tee the ball up for Gov. Walker? I mean, center-cut fastball at thigh high. It’s… Convenient.

    I saw an interview with these people somewhere… they certainly seemed to be for real.  They were from Wisconsin. I didn’t read it carefully — heard it all before — but they seemed to have their talking points together a little too well to be a plant.  Actually, they sounded rather like Donald Trump.

    (And no, I’m not saying Trump is sending supporters to heckle Walker.  He’s just getting his talking points from their side.)

    A large part of the Wisconsin Left has been essentially helping Walker from the beginning.  The recall was a crazy thing to attempt.  Sometimes anger just makes people irrational…

    The Stupid Party may be Republican… except in Wisconsin.

    • #17
  18. Eustace C. Scrubb Member
    Eustace C. Scrubb
    @EustaceCScrubb

    The way he handled this makes a nice comparison with Bernie “Union Lives Matter!” Sanders.

    • #18
  19. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: Since several other candidates were running, the FEC warned this two-man debate might violate election law. So Reagan ponied up his own campaign money to invite Bush and all the other candidates.

    Those sentences conflict.

    • #19
  20. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    Klaatu:Two decisive shows of strength and neither man felt the need to call anyone stupid, moron, loser, or wonder if it was that time of the month.

    I guess sometimes we forget what real leadership looks like.

    RIP Gipper.

    To take it a step further, doing that wouldn’t have been a show of strength.  That moment from Reagan would be remembered… rather differently if he’d shouted “loser” instead.

    • #20
  21. Jon Gabriel, Ed. Admin
    Jon Gabriel, Ed.
    @jon

    ctlaw:

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: Since several other candidates were running, the FEC warned this two-man debate might violate election law. So Reagan ponied up his own campaign money to invite Bush and all the other candidates.

    Those sentences conflict.

    A newspaper funding a debate between only two candidates was an FEC violation. Reagan’s campaign paid for the debate, but he wanted all the candidates included.

    • #21
  22. 6foot2inhighheels Member
    6foot2inhighheels
    @6foot2inhighheels

    Scott Walker is pretty popular in Michigan, and we know what it’s like to get pushed around by union goons.  The mean little toad Jimmy “Hitman” Hoffa Jr., is actually bragging here about “knocking” the Tea Party off the Capitol steps in Lansing during Michigan’s version of union protests in December of 2012.  Egged on, the mob ended up destroying thousands of dollars of property, as well as scaring the bejeebers out of the little group of Right-To-Work supporters.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5X9r9OSBEs

    • #22
  23. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    So I read this again…

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: I’m confident this wasn’t Walker’s first experience with a labor-backed heckler

    Just “confident?”  That is sarcastic, isn’t it?

    • #23
  24. Mate De Inactive
    Mate De
    @MateDe

    Great passion from Walker in that clip. He has been through hell and back and has the scars to prove it, he should milk that a bit more for this run.

    As to the Reagan moment I do believe man he was referring to’s name was actually Breen, not Green but in throws of annoyance Reagan made that common mistake.

    • #24
  25. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Ha. I wouldn’t count on it Jon. It is Trump all the way down. Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump…

    Maybe if Walker set himself on fire he might be able to garner some attention, though I’m sure the press would wonder how this move by Walker will effect Trumps campaign.

    • #25
  26. J. D. Fitzpatrick Inactive
    J. D. Fitzpatrick
    @JDFitzpatrick

    Meh. You can put a muppet in armor, but it still looks soft inside.

    And I say this as someone who’s been a huge fan of what Walker’s done for his state.

    • #26
  27. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.:

    ctlaw:

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: Since several other candidates were running, the FEC warned this two-man debate might violate election law. So Reagan ponied up his own campaign money to invite Bush and all the other candidates.

    Those sentences conflict.

    A newspaper funding a debate between only two candidates was an FEC violation. Reagan’s campaign paid for the debate, but he wanted all the candidates included.

    You are missing the point. Reagan paid for the debate so that it could be limited to Bush and himself. He then snuck the other candidates in.

    Bush would only debate Reagan one on one. To do otherwise would diminish Bush’s stature. Reagan realized this. Perhaps Reagan thought the other candidates would attack Bush more than Reagan. Perhaps Reagan thought he would look better amongst the other candidates.

    • #27
  28. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    It isn’t clear from this whether Walker is responding to a member of a real labor union or to a member of a government employee union.

    (And I would be more impressed if Walker took on the Bush machine, as Reagan did.)

    • #28
  29. OkieSailor Member
    OkieSailor
    @OkieSailor

    ctlaw:

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: Since several other candidates were running, the FEC warned this two-man debate might violate election law. So Reagan ponied up his own campaign money to invite Bush and all the other candidates.

    Those sentences conflict.

    Yes, ALL Govt. Mandates (regulations) are contradicted by other regulations; that’s the Catch 22.

    • #29
  30. KiminWI Inactive
    KiminWI
    @KiminWI

    Umbra Fractus:

    Majestyk: Are these union morons so thick as to think that this was somehow going to do anything but tee the ball up for Gov. Walker? I mean, center-cut fastball at thigh high. It’s… Convenient.

    My experience since around 2001 or so is that, “This might make us look bad,” never seems to enter their minds. Code Pink dressing up as giant vaginas? Union members invading the Special Olympics to shout down Gov. Walker? Anti-life protesters barely prevented from throwing used tampons at Texas legislators? BLM’ers chanting, “We want dead cops?” I think the evidence is firmly in favor of, “Yes, they really are that clueless.”

    I live  2 doors away from a small town school district border.  When unions were marching in Madison, trashing the capital, the district on one side closed schools for a day because of teacher “sick-outs,” to go protest.  In the other district, in a wacko-left college town, no less,  there is frequent snark toward the few conservative children of conservative parents. But in this case, there was a school funding referendum pending. They knew the vote was close and they surmised that closing your neighbor kids schools would not be popular with voters. The same voters  who usually buy the argument that it’s “for the children” from the teachers they see in church and the grocery store and summer parades. They still wrote their letters to the local paper, but they stayed at work.

    • #30

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