Next week, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will be traveling to Israel and, curiously, he won’t be taking any press with him. AshLee Strong, a spokesperson for Walker’s Our American Revival PAC, explained the decision in a statement released two weeks ago:
“Gov. Walker’s trip to Israel will be a listening tour. It’ll happen mid-May and we won’t be having any press join.”
“He is interested in hearing first-hand Israel’s concerns about the future of our alliance and identifying ways to restore the ruptured bonds between our two countries. He is very concerned about the rise of Iran, the spread of radical Islamic terrorism, and the turmoil in Syria and Iraq, and is interested in understanding the views of the Israelis on how we confront these shared challenges. The governor will be discussing his trip once he gets back but wants to use it as an opportunity to see for himself and learn before discussing it as he continues talking about big issues facing our country through Our American Revival.”
Gov. Walker has never held a national position or worked outside of Wisconsin, so this type of trip makes sense. However, foreign trips have not been kind to recent Republican presidential candidates. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) was literally caught without his shirt on at the Dead Sea. He also decided that Jerusalem was the perfect arena to reiterate his stance against foreign aid.
N.J. Gov. Chris Christie’s trip to the United Kingdom, likewise, was overshadowed when he took a position on optional vaccination. After touring a British company that makes vaccines, Christie said:
“All I can say is we vaccinate ours. I also understand that parents need to have some measure of choice in things as well. That’s the balance that the government needs to decide … The concern would be measuring whatever the perceived danger is by a vaccine, and we’ve had plenty of that over a period of time, versus what the risk to public health is and you have to have that balance.”
The backlash from the press was so harsh that Christie canceled all media briefings for the remainder of the trip.
Neurosurgeon Ben Carson, too, had a fun "fact-finding mission" while in the Holy Land. During his trip, an Israeli woman attempted to explain to Dr. Carson the complex Israeli governing system. This prompted Dr. Carson make statements like, "And what is the role of the Knesset?" And, "It sounds complex … Why don't they just adopt the system we have?"
Traveling abroad should not necessarily prompt such historically epic gaffes from presidential candidates. President Obama’s trip in 2008, for example, was given great reviews by the press. In fact, his speech in Sderot was considered a turning point for many undecideds in the Jewish community – to the point where he eventually won 74 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008.
Walker’s strategists most likely believe that allowing reporters on his trip can cause more harm than good, which is faulty logic. Just because Walker’s contemporaries have failed miserably with their trips abroad does not mean he cannot be successful. Clearly, there are presidential candidates and campaigns that have pulled it off; the most recent one just happened to be on our side of the aisle.
What is Walker trying to hide? Is he really such a gaffe machine that on his first major trip abroad as a public servant, he must close himself off to press? Strong’s statement is quite loaded and, if embraced fully, could turn Walker into a foreign policy hawk. Whether Walker knows that or not, he is inexplicably unwilling to share his unfiltered views until he is back on American soil.