Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, speaking Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), an ultra-right political conference held in suburban Washington DC, compared the working class and student protesters who thronged the streets of Madison in 2011 to ISIS terrorists.
"If I could take on 100,000 protestors, I could do the same across the world," he said, boasting that his defeat of the unions in Wisconsin qualified him to wage war in the Middle East.
Following his remarks, Walker was criticized by at least one other potential candidate, former Texas governor Rick Perry, who said on MSNBC, "You are talking about, in the case of ISIS, people who are beheading individuals and committing heinous crimes, who are the face of evil. To try to make the relationship between them and the unions is inappropriate."
In a brief interchange with reporters, Walker backtracked, saying, "There's no comparison between the two, let me be perfectly clear. I'm just pointing out the closest thing I have to handling a difficult situation was the 100,000 protesters I had to deal with."
He continued, attacking the media questioners, saying, "You all will misconstrue things the way you see fit. That's the closest thing I have in terms of handling a difficult situation, not that there's any parallel between the two." Walker's campaign later issued a statement declaring, "He was in no way comparing any American citizen to ISIS."
No one at CPAC was fooled by the subsequent disclaimers. On the contrary, Walker's remarks, including his comparison of protesters to ISIS, were greeted with noisy cheering, and his speech was the most well-attended of the day's events. Walker is a top-tier candidate for the Republican presidential nomination
, leading in party polls in Iowa, the first state primary contest, and well financed by billionaire supporters like the Koch brothers.