Sunday, April 19, 2009

Behind the curtain

A Wisconsin Political Fix
not just another blog
April 19, 2009

By Bill Kraus

Dick Cheney would be most people’s nominee for the Bush Administration’s eminence grise.

Not so fast.

John Roach orchestrated a wonderful interview recently with Tommy Thompson for broadcast on the Big Ten Network. I know. I know. The viewers are going to think they clicked on the wrong channel when they get a non-jock program, but put that aside.

The John and Tommy show was first-class theater and journalism. John crafted excellent questions and Tommy delivered candid and articulate responses.

Two subjects in particular offered an interesting insight into the workings of the Bush White House.

Tommy, of course, was the entire left wing of the Bush administration once Christine Whitman got the bum’s rush early on.

He was a consistent advocate of more extensive federal involvement in anything having to do with stem cell research. He didn’t go into the entire history of this advocacy, which must have been extensive.

The one instance he talks about in the show was at a lunch in the White House with the president and Karl Rove. He didn’t claim any progress beyond keeping a bad situation from getting worse.

It is hardly surprising that Karl Rove was at the table when stem cells were on the menu or that there was no winner. Rove would be expected to be in any discussion of a subject where the interests of his beloved base were at risk.

The other Tommy tale that was more surprising was about Tommy’s proposal to put the computerization of medical records on a fast track.

Tommy told the president th at if he was given a high priority he could put the wheels under an initiative to program everyone’s health records in 18 months.

Another lunch in the White House. Same cast of characters. Rove liked this idea but wanted it to be positioned like a moonshot, something that would be done in ten year's time.

Tommy pointed out that putting the merits aside, a ten-year program would pass up all the political benefits.

The president called Tommy later that same afternoon and said, “You lost.”

The question is not why Karl Rove passed on this interesting idea. The question is why he was even in the room.

Do you get the impression that Bush was afraid of Rove and Rove was afraid of his precious voter base?

So do I.

Follow Bill Kraus on:
twitter / wmkraus

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