A recent article appearing on the Web site of the Atlantic Monthly provides perhaps the most alarming in all of this story's peculiar twists:
Two weeks into the collective bargaining protests in Madison, the interior of the Wisconsin state Capitol feels like a high-traffic liberal website given physical form. It's a world of text. Sheets of paper are affixed to every reachable surface with little strips of blue non-staining painter's tape. Some pages have slogans markered on them, others have columns of dense printing. "Retired teacher from California supports Wisconsin Workers" "One day longer!" "You can't silence Wisconsin." "Why can't we be friends with benefits?" There's a printout of a George Lakoff article, notices of other protests around the state, a lost-kid board, and a flier for somebody's self-published apocalyptic novel. Ranging up and down both sides of a grand marble staircase are printouts of 10,000 e-mails from Wisconsin citizens to Gov. Scott Walker (R), opposing his proposal to strip collective bargaining rights from public sector workers.
But the boisterous messages hide a sobering reality as the stalemate over Walker's budget repair bill deepens. A deal floated by moderate Republican state Sen. Dale Schultz, under which collective bargaining rights would automatically reactivate in 2013, seems to have drawn no interest from either side. One possible reason: the Wisconsin veto makes such a compromise impossible to enforce.
What most people outside Wisconsin don't know is that our governor wields a veto power on appropriations bills so strong as to be frankly comic. It's not just a line-item veto; Walker has the power to veto individual phrases and words (PDF) -- like "not" -- from sentences. If the state Senate returns to session and passes a bill with time limits on Walker's favored provisions, he can strip out the new language and sign his own decompromised version into law. If that sounds crazy, keep in mind that until 2008 governors of Wisconsin could -- and did! -- veto multi-page sections of bills, leaving in place only eight or nine words spelling out a law the governor wanted to enact. And that, in turn, was a much-narrowed version of the so-called "Vanna White veto" power enjoyed by Wisconsin governors prior to 1990, when they could veto individual letters out of words and individual digits out of numbers.