Keeping a small man like Ryan Walters small
State superintendent earns more blowback from his fellow party members, yet the key remains making that blowback stick. Here's how.
Here’s an idea.
Can we all start taking Ryan Walters seriously by, you know, no longer taking him seriously at all?
Here’s an example.
Walters, as you should know, is not only our state’s elected school superintendent, but still education secretary in Gov. Kevin Stitt’s cabinet — which, by the way, means he’s double-dipping into the state trough (and what are the chances he’s working 80-hour weeks?) — and back on Feb. 23, hardly a week ago, he came out against the fitness of our state’s institutions of higher learning, again playing the big baby role in his crusade against made-up problems in spheres he plays no role in regulating.
“I have great concerns about our state universities,” Walters said during a state department of education meeting. “Are they setting up our young people to be successful in the workforce or are they worried about ideology.
“It gives me great concern and makes me question if we should be continuing to recommend that young people go into these universities. That will be something we continue to look at as an agency.”
As they should, of course — and kudos for taking on a member of their own Republican party — state reps Rhonda Baker (Yukon), Mark McBride (Moore) and Anthony Moore (Clinton) issued a collective statement in response.
“It’s clear the State Board of Education has no purview over Oklahoma’s system of universities and colleges, which are maintained by The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, a constitutional board,” part of it read. “Even in his capacity as the governor’s appointed secretary of education, Walters has no true authority over the state’s system of higher learning … We implore the state superintendent to focus on the job he was elected to do.”
It’s a fine statement.
It’s the due diligence that should be done and it’s a shame 50 other Republican legislators didn’t join them or follow with their own, but it doesn’t cut through beyond the statehouse, because, alas, it’s still par-for-the-course political parlance.
It may even elevate Walters’ dunce capacity, because every time he says something idiotic, ridiculous and stupid, and he does it all the time, serious responses like Baker’s, McBride’s and Moore’s make it appear they’re responding to somebody with a valid, though different, point to make.
A political catch 22.
Damned if you do.
Damned if you don’t.
Far better is what McBride did and said in response to previous Walters’ silliness that actually does relate to the job for which he was elected.
In the week prior to Walters’ state universities rant, McBride, in his role as chairman of the House Common Education committee, introduced a bill giving the state legislature a bigger hand in overseeing the state board of education.
He did it in response to a Walters’ proposition the board adopt a rule that, in the telling of NPR affiliate KOSU, “would, among other things, require school employees to disclose to parents any ‘material changes’ related to a student’s sexual orientation or gender identity.” *
*Because, I guess, what we really need in public schools is a spying program that would make the old Iron Curtain and current North Korean regime proud.
The bill McBride introduced would bar the board from issuing any new such rules and require statutory authorization from the legislature instead. And what he said about it was this:
“I want to put this gentleman in a box. I want to focus on public education instead of his crazy destruction of public education.”
That’s how you talk about a buffoon.
That’s how you get eyeballs and earballs on what you’re saying.
You come strong. You ridicule.
You make him small because he is small.
Because Walters’ is a cancer on the body politic, on every strata of education, not to mention on the psychological health of our state.
So treat him like one.
Honestly, were he a M*A*S*H character, he’d be Frank Burns.
Were he a Beatle, he’d be Pete Best.
Were he a member of The Four Horsemen, he’d be Paul Roma.
Were he an Animal House character, he’d be Niedermeyer.
Were he a golf course, he’d be Lakeside, the old and forgettable nine-hole ranch off Shields Avenue the Catholic Church purchased and removed to make room for the Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine.
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Walters is a sad small man.
Commentators and colleagues should begin calling him “that yahoo.”
News organizations should cover him in the context of his corruption — ClassWallet, hello — craziness and endless dry-erase board campaign. They should begin to respect the titles before his name the moment he begins to respect them.
All that and the governor should be grilled in every one of his media meets about how it is his two-salary-receiving, apparent education-secretary-for-life has yet to rescind remarks questioning the wellness of our state universities just three weeks after he, himself, in his state-of-the-state address, challenged Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to raise their enrollments to 40,000 by 2030, a 36 percent leap.
And yes, we should add Mark McBride to the list of Republicans who, independent of political calculation, stand ready to take on the corrupt and idiot actors in their own party, thus joining attorney general Gentner Drummond and labor commissioner Leslie Osborn.
Because when it comes to Walters, Stitt and the dunce roster of backbench Republicans, we badly need members of that same party to do two things.
One, not just disagree with them, but call them out in the public square, by name, with an authenticity they didn’t first run by their office, their donors or their voters.
Two, wield their actual power to stop them.
The more grievance-vomiting and embarrassingly trivial Walters becomes, we should all hope and demand, the more reasonable members of his own party will come out swinging to take him down.
He’s a small man.
Keep him small.