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Walker Dodges Questions On Foreign Policy, Evolution During UK Event

Four-Day Trade Mission Included Few Public Statements From Governor

Still from Chatham House livestream 

Gov. Scott Walker repeatedly sidestepped questions about foreign policy — and even a question about evolution — during a forum at a London think tank Wednesday.

Walker was also pressed repeatedly on budget cuts to the University of Wisconsin System and the recent flap over rewriting the UW’s mission statement.

Walker was the guest speaker at Chatham House on what is officially a four-day trip to promote trade between the United Kingdom and the state of Wisconsin. But like other governors seeking the Republican presidential nomination, Walker’s lack of foreign policy experience is viewed as a weakness. Trips like this one are seen as a way to offset that.

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Hence, it was no surprise that Walker was repeatedly questioned on foreign policy. But time and time again, the governor declined to answer. Once, he was asked whether Britain could be doing more against the Islamic State militant group.

“Well, when I return to the states, I’ll probably give you an answer, he said in response. “But I think common practice is when someone visits in a position like I’m in from the United States, I don’t think it’s polite to respond on policy regarding the United States’ interaction with other countries when you’re in a foreign country.

He added: “I defer to the president, even though I don’t always believe in the same things he does politically.”

Walker answered roughly the same no matter how the questions were phrased, including when he was asked who’s advising him on foreign policy.

I get that everybody’s coming here to hear those sorts of questions, but in deference to the fact that it’s not just being glib, because I am here officially on a trade and investment tour, for me to lay out foreign policy or start answering would go contrary to the reason I’m here,Walker said.

With foreign policy off the table, Walker was asked about Wisconsin issues, including whether University of Wisconsin budget cuts would hurt his ability to grow the state’s economy. Walker said the new autonomy he proposed for the UW would offset that.

Walker was also asked by Chatham House moderator, Justin Webb of the BBC, why his budget rewrote the UW’s mission statement to delete what’s known as the Wisconsin Idea.

Well how did you get in this mess though about changing its sort of — its stated purpose?” Webb asked. “I don’t want to get into too much detail and sort of bore people who don’t know a lot about the University of Wisconsin and I certainly don’t, but you’ve fiddled with something that a lot of people felt very strongly about. Do you regret it?”

“Well, we didn’t do it intentionally, Walker responded.

Walker said he told his budget office to keep it simple, and just add language to the UW mission to promote economic development. Once he found out about what they deleted, he said he immediately admitted it was a mistake.

The thing they got worked up about is I said — I tweeted — that it was a ‘drafting error.’ It wasn’t technically a ‘drafting error.’ The drafters had the language. It was an error in terms of the communication from the policy office to the drafting attorneys,” said Walker. “But in an era where people are asking a lot of questions about an office more than just governor, an ant becomes a molehill.

On a similar note, when Walker was asked why America is such a polarized country, he blamed the media, saying they focus on conflict and don’t write about the times when politicians agree.

This was the governor’s only public event on his London trip, which limited his exposure to the British media. But on the last question of the day, the BBC’s Webb asked Walker a question that made international news.

“Are you comfortable with the idea of evolution? Do you believe in it? Do you accept it?” asked Webb.

“For me, I’m going to punt on that one as well,” Walker said. “That’s a question a politician shouldn’t be involved in one way or the other. So I’m going to leave that up to you.

Webb responded, “But any British politician, right- or left-wing, they would laugh and say, ‘Yes, of course evolution is true.’”

But Walker wouldn’t bite.

“To me, I’ve said it’s just one of those where I’ve said I’m here to talk about trade, not to pontificate on that and other issues, he said.

The governor’s campaign later issued a statement from Walker saying, Both science and my faith dictate my belief that we are created by God. I believe faith and science are compatible, and go hand in hand.

It was more of an answer than Walker gave in London, but likely not enough to keep Walker from being asked about it again when he returns to the U.S.