Thompson a “reliable” conservative

Former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson is in Des Moines today, and during an interview with Radio Iowa he outlined his ideas for tackling some of the nation’s largest problems — like the rising cost of health care — and discussed his reasoning for the claim that he is positioned well to become the GOP’s 2008 nominee for president.

My first question was: why do you want to be president?

Thompson said he thought "the country is in need of good Midwestern common sense."  Thompson declared that the "country is in trouble."  Thompson said he brings a "conservative view" while still being able to work with Democrats.  Thompson, who served four terms as Wisconsin’s governor, pointed out that he always had to work with a Wisconsin legislature headed by Democrats.  Thompson claims to be the "father of welfare reform" (a title that always made former Iowa Governor Terry Branstad mad since Iowa policymakers, including Branstad, enacted reform of the Iowa welfare system before Thompson did in Wisconsin).  Thompson pointed to his presidency of the Global Fund and work worldwide on diseases like AIDS, TV and malaria.  "I’ve been all over the world," Thompson said.  "I know how things work."

Thompson, the director of the US Department of Health and Human Services durign the current President Bush’s first term, said there is a looming "health care crisis" and he is the candidate best-positioned to offer solutions because "no other candidate is as steeped in" the issue.  Thompson also said he had been "very active" in helping to promote the ethanol industry when he was governor of Wisconsin and during that time formed a group that included leaders from other ethanol-producing countries like Brazil & Russia. 

"I have ideas and solutions," Thompson concluded.  My second question was:  what are your health care solutions?

Thompson said Americans will spend $2 trllion on health care this year, accounting for 16 percent of GDP.  If nothing is done, the projection is that will rise to 21 percent of GDP by 2013.  "That would make our country non-competitive," Thompson said.  Thompson said first, the nation’s health care system must be changed from a "curative" focus to focus instead on wellness and disease prevention.  He said today, about 93 percent of the dollars spent in America on health care are on dealing with chronic illnesses and "break-downs" in the body rather than on preventing those chronic diseases in the first place. 

Thompson also said just eight percent of American physicians are "e-prescribing" — the rest use paper prescriptions.  That kind of antiquated system helped lead to 98,000 deaths attributed to medical errors last year, many of which were caused by mis-prescribed medications.  Thompson said he would offer a way to cover the uninsured (noting at one point that 42 percent of Americans are already covered by some form of government-paid health insurance).  Mediacare reforms and changes in the liability system are also key, according to Thompson, if the nation’s health care system is to be righted.  He predicts health care reform will be the "dominant issue" of the 2008 campaign.

Thompson noted that General Motors is growing less competitive, and Toyota will become the world’s top automaker, in large part because of the costly burden GM faces in providing health care benefits to its employees.  The person selling a GM car, according to Thompson, has to deal with $1300 more in health care expenses than the Toyota salesperson.

The next question:  how do you become your party’s nominee when the GOP often chooses the nominee who is next in line, like McCain?

Thompson said he would take the campaign "straight on" and declared himself in the best position of all the candidates in Iowa because he’s from a neighboring state, has addressed issues like health care and energy.  "Everybody is trying to get to the position I am in," Thompson said, describing himself as a "common sense" conservative.

Steve Grubbs, a 42-year-old consultant from Davenport who served in the Iowa House, who served as chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa and led Steve Forbes’ presidential campaign in 1996, has signed onto the Thompson campaign.  Grubbs piped in at the end, with the assertion that Thompson is the "reliable" conservative in the race (no, Grubbs did not mention Romney by name but I’m guessing he wants reporters like me to make the comparison).  Grubbs also added that Thompson is a "Midwesterner who understands the future of ethanol."  That is another "contrasting statement" to set Thompson apart from John McCain, who has opposed federal subsidies for the ethanol industry.

Thompson met with other Iowa reporters and was scheduled to meet with former Iowa Governor Terry Branstad as well.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.