Dan O’Donnell writes about this state’s lieutenant governor:
Mandela Barnes is a serial liar, of that there can no longer be any doubt. He is now even lying about his lies. After admitting to The Isthmus that he never graduated from Alabama A&M University after years of claims to the contrary, he blamed the confusion on a staffer.
The Associated Press reported Thursday:
A candidate questionnaire that Barnes’ campaign returned to the Wisconsin State Journal last year said Barnes had a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from Alabama A&M University.
But Barnes told Isthmus newspaper for a story published Thursday that he didn’t graduate from college because he didn’t complete a course. A&M spokesman Jerome Saintjones confirmed Barnes attended the school but didn’t graduate.
Barnes spokesman Earl Arms said in an email that Barnes has always said he attended A&M rather than saying he graduated. Arms said the questionnaire response was an error by a campaign staffer, and that Barnes “regrets that oversight.”
This is a rather obvious lie. Barnes himself has been claiming throughout his political career that he graduated from college. What other possible inference could one draw from this tweet?
Or how about this retweet?
The article linked in the tweet indicates that “Barnes graduated from college in 2008 and got his start as a field organizer for Obama that year in Louisiana.” Where would The Atlantic have gotten that information? From a staffer? Or from Barnes himself since The Atlantic interviewed him for the story?
Barnes himself said on the “Wedge Issues” podcast in September that he “finished college in 2008.” He said the same twice in a November interview with The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The plain meaning of the phrase “finished college” is to graduate, so while Barnes may have thought he was being clever with semantics since he technically didn’t say he graduated, but that was clearly the inference he wanted readers to make.
It is also completely untrue.
This fits into a troubling pattern of dishonesty from Wisconsin’s lieutenant governor, who lied about a delinquent property tax bill in June. When The Journal Sentinel’s Dan Bice confronted him with this unpaid bill, Barnes tried to claim that he was in fact paying his taxes in installments and sent a screenshot of his bill as proof.
“There is no installment plan, and the taxes are delinquent,” Jesicca Zwaga of the city Treasurer’s Office said Friday.
Barnes disputed the information earlier this week, sending the Journal Sentinel a screenshot of a portion of a 2018 tax bill that he said was proof that he was paying his property taxes in installments.
But Zwaga said the record from Barnes was just the original tax bill that included the monthly amounts he would owe if he opted to pay in installments instead of a lump sum. She said he failed to make the first payment in the agreement by Jan. 31.
“It is delinquent,” Zwaga said.
Barnes countered: “How is there no installment plan if it (the bill) says installment plan? I’m done with this one.”
That wasn’t his only lie.
Records show Barnes bought his Milwaukee condo in October 2017. There is a small unpaid tax bill for about $70 for the 2017 tax year, according to city records.
Barnes said there was a problem with that debt because the bills were being sent to Arizona where the previous owner of the property moved. He said she owed that sum.
But Zwaga of the city Treasurer’s Office said Barnes would owe this outstanding sum. “Taxes follow the property, not the owner,” she added.
In spite of this, Barnes doubled down on this demonstrable falsehood in a tweet when the story was published.
A month earlier, when Barnes came under fire for the exorbitant cost of his security detail and extensive use of State Patrol vehicles, he lied about using them only for official government business.
Only more work wasn’t being done. Barnes wasn’t just using state vehicles and security detail for official state work. As The Wisconsin State Journal reported:
The records show that Barnes had protection for seven days when he had no official events, based on the WisPolitics.com review. Three of those days were Sundays, when the only entry on Barnes’ calendar was church. Another day, a Saturday, all Barnes had listed was a 30-minute phone interview.
On one of the Sundays, Barnes received 18 hours of protection when he attended church with Evers in Milwaukee and then came to Madison six hours later.
In other words, the cost of shuttling Barnes around the state wasn’t sky high because he was doing so much more work than his predecessor. It was because he just wanted to have State Patrol officers guarding him whenever he felt like it.
Once again, he lied.
This seems to be his natural defense when confronted with his various misdeeds. No matter how minor an infraction–failing to graduate from college, for example–Barnes believes he can lie his way out of it.
More troubling, however, is his equally instinctive accusation of racism against anyone who calls him out on his dishonesty. The Isthmus reports:
He calls the GOP narrative about him “race baiting.”
“They don’t challenge me on my policy positions, ever,” he adds. “This is a tried and true strategy: racism. It’s not any different than what Reagan did with that supposed welfare queen. It’s not a dog whistle if everybody can hear it. And these are people who hate taxes. Which is a disgusting irony.”
Answering legitimate criticism of his irresponsibility with the vile presumption that such criticism is race-based is both beneath the dignity of his office and yet another example of Barnes’ fundamental dishonesty. Republicans constantly challenge his policy positions: They just spent the past seven months battling him and Governor Evers on the state budget. Did a single Republican launch a single attack on Barnes that could possibly be construed as racist during that tense fight? Of course not. Yet Barnes hurled the smear anyway.
This reveals far more about his character than that of his critics, and this entire episode has shown Barnes’ character to be quite lacking. There is simply no other way to say it: Mandela Barnes is a fundamentally dishonest person.
A conspiracy theory I hatched after the 2018 election was that Tony Evers was just a figurehead and that Democrats had Barnes as the real power in the governor’s office. Whether my theory is correct or not, our Barack Obama wannabe will remain lieutenant governor because of Barnes’ skin color and because Democrats are feckless.