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Tommy Thompson's Greatest Hits

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{Originally posted at my blog Senate Guru.}

Republican dolt Tommy Thompson is making noise about challenging Senator Russ Feingold this year. And Thompson is reminding Wisconsin voters what a D.C. insider he is by headlining a lobbyist fundraiser. But Thompson isn't just best buddies with Washington's top corporate lobbyists. He's also a proud champion of right-wing idiocy. Thompson has been responsible for numerous instances of stupidity, bigotry, abuse of office, and putting partisanship ahead of the public interest. Without further ado, here are some of Thompson's greatest hits.

2001: Tommy Thompson versus liberal ol' science

By the time 2008 rolled around, America had seen plenty of the Bush-Cheney administration's attempt to politicize and undermine science. But did you know that Tommy Thompson was one of George W. Bush's first crusaders against science?

In 2001, Nobel laureate physiologist Torsten Wiesel was nominated by Gerald Keusch (then an employee of HHS: director of the Fogarty International Center, the branch of the National Institutes of Health) for a position on an advisory panel in the National Institutes of Health to advise on assisting research in developing countries. Thompson, who at the time was Secretary of Health and Human Services, rejected Wiesel. Thompson's office rejected 19 of 26 nominations and in return sent résumés for other scientists that his employee Keusch described in an interview as "lightweights" with "no scientific credibility". When Weisel's name was rejected, an official in Thompson's office told Keusch that Wiesel had "signed too many full-page letters in The New York Times critical of President Bush." This incident was cited by the advocacy group Union of Concerned Scientists as part of a report detailing their allegations of abuse of science under President George W. Bush's administration.

Political agendas grounded in partisan ideology over scientific fact and public interest - that's the Tommy Thompson way!

July 2004: We don't need no stinkin' government transparency!

In addition to politicizing science, Thompson's tenure as Secretary of Health and Human Services was marked by the politically motivated hiding of cost data for key Bush initiatives, as well as the threatening of a government accountant who might reveal the real data to the American people, data that, again, the Bush-Thompson HHS worked to hide from the American people:

An internal investigation by the Department of Health and Human Services confirms that the top Medicare official threatened to fire the program's chief actuary if he told Congress that drug benefits would probably cost much more than the White House acknowledged.

A report on the investigation, issued Tuesday, says the administrator of Medicare, Thomas A. Scully, issued the threat to Richard S. Foster while lawmakers were considering huge changes in the program last year. As a result, Mr. Foster's cost estimate did not become known until after the legislation was enacted.

Predictably, the Bush-Thompson HHS investigated itself and found that - shockingly - it had done nothing wrong:

William A. Pierce, a spokesman for the department, said Tuesday that the threat was not illegal because the actuary was supposed to report to the head of the Medicare program, who, Mr. Pierce said, had a right to dismiss him in case of insubordination. ''No laws were broken,'' Mr. Pierce said.

But Representative Pete Stark of California, the senior Democrat on the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, said, ''It sounds as though the Bush administration examined itself and found it did nothing wrong.''

The Tommy Thompson HHS apparently had as its motto: "Lie to the American people or you're fired."

December 2004: Thompson emboldens terrorists to attack our food supply.

Yeah, outgoing HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson actually said this:

"I, for the life of me, cannot understand why the terrorists have not, you know, attacked our food supply because it is so easy to do," he said. "And we are importing a lot of food from the Middle East, and it would be easy to tamper with that."

As far as I know, Thompson has not sent terrorists a map or any toxins with which to do the job - only moral support and encouragement.

2006: "Reform" is just another word for "whatever is good for my bank account."

It is no doubt coincidence that Thompson advocated for specific initiatives that would, to no one's surprise, financially benefit Thompson's post-Bush corporate benefactors and the Thompson family bank account:

Last week, Tommy G. Thompson, the former secretary of health and human services, proposed overhauling Medicaid in ways that he says would be good for the country. Critics contend that some of Thompson's recommendations also could be good for companies that he works for. [...]

Thompson, who served during President Bush's first term, is on the board of Centene Corp., a St. Louis-based company that operates Medicaid-funded health maintenance organizations in Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin. His proposals to move more Medicaid beneficiaries and uninsured people onto such plans could improve the company's bottom line.

Thompson also is chairman of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, part of Deloitte & Touche USA LLP, a consulting firm that has contracted with states to help improve their Medicaid programs. If Thompson becomes a driving force behind revamping Medicaid, states who hire Deloitte may feel they are contracting with a player. Ditto for clients' perceptions of the law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, in which Thompson is a partner and which has health-care and insurance industry clients.

Thompson also is a part-owner and board member of VeriChip Corp., which makes microchips that store data and can be implanted in humans. The company might benefit if Medicaid were to embrace electronic medical records.

After all, what good is public service if you can't turn around and line your own pockets?

April 2007: It can't be anti-Semitic if it sounds complimentary, can it?

First comes Thompson's controversial comment:

Former Wisconsin governor and Republican presidential hopeful Tommy Thompson told Jewish activists Monday that making money is "part of the Jewish tradition," and something that he applauded.

Speaking to an audience at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington D.C., Thompson said that, "I'm in the private sector and for the first time in my life I'm earning money. You know that's sort of part of the Jewish tradition and I do not find anything wrong with that."

Then comes Thompson's ever-so-eloquent apology:

Later, he added: "I just want to clarify something because I didn't (by) any means want to infer or imply anything about Jews and finances and things. What I was referring to, ladies and gentlemen, is the accomplishments of the Jewish religion. You've been outstanding business people and I compliment you for that."

Ignorantly anti-Semitic? Apparently. Mind-bogglingly stupid? Definitely.

May 2007: How many different excuses can one make for a single stupid, bigoted comment?

As above, first comes Thompson's controversial comment:

In Thursday night's Republican debate, Tommy Thompson appeared to endorse the right of employers to discriminate against gay employees, but the former Wisconsin Governor was backpedaling within 12 hours.

Thompson was asked Thursday night, "If a private employer believes homosexuality is immoral, should he be allowed to fire a gay worker?"

Thompson said he "really, sincerely believe(s) that that is an issue that business people have to make their own determination over whether or not they (gay employees) should be (fired)."

"So the answer is yes?" moderator John Harris asked. "Yes," Thompson replied.

And, as above, Thompson's continued re-visiting of his controversial comment only digs his hole further. The next morning, Thompson begins backtracking:

"I misinterpreted the question," Thompson insisted. "I thought that I answered it yes when I should have answered it no. I didn't hear it. I didn't hear the question properly and I apologized. It's not my position and there should be no discrimination in the work place and I believe that."

Thompson suggests that he both misinterpreted the question and misheard the question. Two excuses in one. But that didn't stop Thompson, as he continued digging that hole, from coming up with two more excuses:

Tommy Thompson cited a dead hearing aid and an urgent need to use the bathroom in explaining on Saturday why he said at a GOP presidential debate that an employer should be allowed to fire a gay worker.

Speaking to reporters after giving an address at the state GOP convention, Thompson also said he was suffering from the flu and bronchitis and had been admitted to a hospital emergency room three days prior to the May 3 debate.

"Nobody knows that," Thompson said. "I've been very sick. ... I was very sick the day of the debate. I had all of the problems with the flu and bronchitis that you have, including running to the bathroom. I was just hanging on. I could not wait until the debate got off so I could go to the bathroom."

In summation, Thompson: 1) misinterpreted the question; 2) misheard the question, allegedly due to a dead hearing aid (that didn't seem to impair his performance during the rest of the debate); 3) urgently had to go to the bathroom; and, 4) had an emergency-room-caliber degree of both the flu and bronchitis (that didn't appear to give him the hoarseness of voice that usually comes with severe bronchitis). One stupid, controversial comment and four excuses, at least two of which appear utterly bogus given the context.

I suppose I'll close with this video, at right, of Thompson celebrating a Green Bay Packers victory while, well, pretty drunk. Or, um, does he usually slur his speech that badly in front of tens of thousands of Packer fans?

If the question is "Tommy Thompson for Senate?" then the only reasonable answer can be "Dear Lord, why?!"