Every profile I’ve read on Thompson contains references, by the typical
unnamed coward sources, to him being “lazy”, his Senate career lackluster, and
gasp, there’s not a piece of legislation with his name on it! (Well gee, Teddy
Kennedy has his name on a bunch of bills – and that’s made the nation a better
place, n’cest pa?)
My experience with Senator Thompson dates to when I was the public
affairs chief for GAO, the Government Accountability Office, a legislative
branch agency providing oversight of the feds. Thompson was chairman of the
Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, the complementary panel to GAO. It’s kind of a backwater committee, with not the visibility of say, Foreign Affairs, or
Armed Services, or Appropriations. But the committee is essential to
investigating the mechanics of government – and how those gears can be made to
work more efficiently.
Thompson was committed back of GAO’s High Risk list, another
blockbuster for serious students of government but relegated to a desultory
affair, that identified those agencies in government that were performing sup
par, wasting taxpayer dollars, and thus needed fixing. These are the kinds of
endeavors that are dull as dishwater but vital as air for those who want a
Government That Works. Thompson was the guy who knew all these arcane, and while other members were dancing around getting headlines on the issue of the day, Thompson was grinding it out in Committee; I know, I had to attend those
hearings and they were full of minutiae.
In fact, of the many Members I’ve dealt with in my primo roll as the
number-one Hill hack, Thompson was one of the two or three who always impressed me as immersed in details, the guy who took on these arcane and non-headline issues, and pursued them doggedly. Another, coincidentally enough, was Senator Joe Lieberman, ranking on the Committee and a genuine friend of Thompson’s.
So we zing to the press conference outside the Senate, with just a few
journalists, with Thompson going on calmly about improper payments and Medicare, the maddening system of billings done by Medicare providers that involved waste, fraud and abuse with a capital WFA. Then- OMB director Mitch Daniels was with Thompson, but Thompson knew this subject matter cold.
So now I hear the stories about Thompson, which are typical of 1.
Opponents who want to drag him down, which is the way it works, and 2. A lazy
press corps who but for a few stalwarts, didn’t cover this subject matter when
Thompson was preaching at the wind. Now, I’m too much of a nothing burger to
have any say in this race. But Thompson, whatever his faults, is not getting a
fair shake. When you’re waxing on about OMB circulars and Clinger-Cohen’s
e-billing protocols, you’re not exactly lazy or lackluster. In fact, you’re
actually doing what government is supposed to be doing, which is trying to do
So, while most of the Senators where out trying to get points for the "issue of the day". Ole Fred was busy working. I am tired of seeing our Representatives "grandstanding" on the "issue of the day" anyway. I would rather hear less from them, especially if it means they are working to make this a better country. After all, is not why they are there.
Win, Fred, Win