13 Sep Reading Tommy Thompson's diary: Imagining unspoken thoughts about 2008
Well, after all those years of living on government pay, I’m finally banking a few bucks. I’m president of one company, on the board of directors for a few others, and getting paid by a law firm and an accounting firm – all at the same time. People are even hiring me to speak, which might surprise those folks who poked fun at “the old Tommy.”
But I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit it: I miss the flags, fanfare and fun of the executive branch. And my withdrawal symptoms get worse every time I think of how the guy in charge right now is misfiring on a daily basis.
Jim Doyle? No, I’m not talking about the governor of Wisconsin. I’m talking about George W. Bush.
That’s right, the same President Bush who hired me to run the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and then eased me out the door when I dared to question the 28-year-old “yes men” who surround him and that Rasputin-like Karl Rove in the White House.
I suggested we might want to try a little “medical diplomacy” in Africa, the Middle East and a few other places around the world, and they looked at me like I was some sort of peacenik.
I asked them to actually listen to the nation’s scientists now and then, and they treated me like the Vatican treated Galileo when he suggested the Earth orbits the Sun.
I said properly regulated human stem cell research might be an OK thing, and they stopped just short of asking the Rev. Pat Robertson to pray for me.
I mentioned the United States might actually be losing ground in the fight to provide health coverage for more of its citizens, and they thought I was Hillary Clinton in a suit.
I called for a national effort to upgrade medical information systems, so doctors aren’t writing illegible prescriptions that wind up killing people, and they shrugged their shoulders.
When people suggested I might make a good second-term Homeland Defense secretary, given I had already run an agency that set up a national health emergency response system, they put me on ice.
Now comes Hurricane Katrina, and the chickens are coming home to roost. The mayor of New Orleans and the governor of Louisiana were clueless, to be sure, but that guy Michael Brown at the Federal Emergency Management Administration was one piece of work. But he met the Bush loyalty test – so damn the resume, full speed ahead!
Michael Chertoff at Homeland Security is a fine man, but he’s not a good politician, nor is he particularly nimble at motivating people during a crisis. That was evident when New Orleans was submerged and Chertoff was still insisting everything was under control. Didn’t the White House give him a TV?
Finally, there’s Bush himself, turning that poor mother who lost her son in Iraq into a national celebrity, taking an Endless Vacation on the ranch, and showing up in the Gulf Coast a day late and several billion dollars short. I may be deaf in one ear, but at least I’m not completely tone deaf.
So, what do I do about it? Well, probably not much for now – except continue to speak out publicly on problems I still care about, like health care and medical diplomacy. That’s what I was doing a few weeks ago in Detroit when a reporter asked me if I had ever thought of running for president. “Well, hell yes!” I told him. I thought about it in 1996 and 2000. Show me a governor who says he or she has never thought of running for president, and I’ll show you a candidate for a lie detector test.
There are a million reasons for me to stay away from politics forever, but it’s hard to be quiet when people repeatedly do goofy things. I’ll keep talking – and maybe people will keep listening.
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