WASHINGTON -- One of the most famous episodes of the 2011 labor battles in Wisconsin was when Gov. Scott Walker (R) took what he thought was a phone call from conservative billionaire David Koch. He later found out that it was actually a prank call from a journalist. In his new book "Unintimidated," Walker says the incident showed him that God was speaking to him.
The call, from Ian Murphy, editor of the Buffalo Beast, an alternative publication in Buffalo, N.Y., occurred on Feb. 22, 2011. Murphy, posing as Koch, asked Walker if he would be "planting some troublemakers" in the peaceful crowds that were protesting his anti-union legislation in Madison.
Walker replied that his office had "thought about that," in a comment that the Madison police chief later called "very unsettling and troubling."
"It was a really dumb thing to say," writes Walker in his book, which will be released on Nov. 19 but was obtained by The Huffington Post in advance. "The fact is we never -- never -- considered putting 'troublemakers' in the crowd to discredit the protesters. The unions were doing a good enough job of that on their own with the agitators they were bringing in from outside the state. But I had made it seem like we had."
"As you've heard on the tape, we dismissed that and said that wasn't a good idea," Walker said at the time.
Walker also writes that he regrets coming off as "pompous and full of myself" on the call, during which he bragged about his television appearances and the "phenomenal" national response he had been getting.
He adds that after the press conference, he heard God's message for him:
I got through it, but that press conference was one of my toughest days. I felt like an idiot. Sure, I was upset that my staff had let the call get through to my office, making me look so silly. But ultimately, I was responsible for what I said and how I came across.
Only later did I realize that God had a plan for me with that episode.
In my office is a devotional book on leadership by John Maxwell that I read for its daily message. The day we learned the call had been a prank, we had been so busy that I never had a chance to pick it up. After my press conference, when I had a moment to catch my breath, I opened up the book.
The title for that day was: 'The power of humility, the burden of pride.'
I looked up and said, 'I hear you, Lord.'
Up to that point the national media had been all over our story. Conservative circles were writing and saying some pretty nice things about my political future. We were getting all sorts of abuse from the protesters and the mainstream media, so the accolades we were getting nationally were certainly encouraging. But it got to the point where I was reading many of the columns each night and getting pretty caught up in it all. Slowly, it was becoming too much about me.
Walker also states that he only took the fake Koch's phone call after "a week or more of insistent pleas" from his staff. But that's not true, according to Murphy. He told the Journal-Sentinel that he initially called Walker's office around 11:30 a.m. on Feb. 22, and by 2:00 p.m., he was talking to the governor. It took a few hours, not "a week or more."
What most agitated anti-Walker activists was the fact that Walker was willing to take the call from Koch in the first place, when he wouldn't even return the calls of Democratic state senators looking to negotiate. In other words, he was plotting anti-union strategies privately with Koch instead of working out policy with the legislature.
But Walker counters that the incident actually showed how far away he was from Koch.
"It showed that I had never spoken to David Koch before in my life. I couldn't even recognize the guy's voice," Walker writes. "If I had really been doing Koch's bidding, I would have recognized immediately that it was not Koch on the other end of the line. Instead, I spoke to the fake Koch at length."