Tommy Thompson
Former Governor of Wisconsin; Former Secretary, Health and Human Services

The Road to Iraq

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A less than thorough preparation.

Tommy Thompson

From 1987 to 2001, Tommy Thompson served as the 42nd Governor of Wisconsin, having been elected to an unprecedented four terms. Thompson's initiatives during his 13 years as governor of Wisconsin included his Wisconsin Works welfare reform program and school choice program, which allowed low-income Milwaukee families to send children to the private or public school of their choice at taxpayer expense. He also created the BadgerCare program, designed to provide health coverage to those families whose employers don't provide health insurance but make too much money to qualify for Medicaid. Through the federal waiver program, Thompson helped replicate this program in several states when he was appointed Secretary of Health and Human Services by President George W. H. Bush in 2001, a position he would hold for four years. Thompson began his career in public service in 1966 as a representative in Wisconsin's state Assembly. He was elected assistant Assembly minority leader in 1973 and Assembly minority leader in 1981. Thompson has received numerous awards for his public service, including the Anti-Defamation League's Distinguished Public Service Award. In 1997, he received Governing Magazine's Public Official of the Year Award, and the Horatio Alger Award in 1998. Thompson has also served as chairman of the National Governors' Association, the Education Commission of the States and the Midwestern Governors' Conference. Thompson also served in the Wisconsin National Guard and the Army Reserve. Currently, he is an independent senior advisor of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions and a partner at the law firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.
I . . . I wouldn’t go so far as to say “irresponsible”. Not well thought out. I think, you know, that we do have a . . . we do have one, because there was almost a 78% to 82% approval rating of the President of going to war and taking care of Saddam Hussein. Granted, we didn’t find the weapons of mass destruction, but we thought they were there. And it wasn’t just the Republicans. The Democrats did as well. It was prior administrations that thought that Saddam Hussein was building a nuclear capability. But the truth of the matter is they weren’t. But once you’re there, you’ve gotta be able to win that war and then have an exit strategy. We didn’t do that. We tried to do it on the cheap. You know, we tried to go in there and say, you know, “We can do this with 130,000 men and women. And we get in, and then we’ll decide when we get out.” We didn’t have . . . we didn’t do the upfront planning. So you know I fault a lot of us. I fault, you know, myself, because I was a part of the administration. I fault, you know, the Republicans and Democrats in Congress not having a better thought out plan. And I fault the Department of Defense. You know? They should’ve had a plan, you know, of going in there. Because they were told that there were just not enough forces to win the war and stabilize the peace. And we made lots of mistakes. And those mistakes, you know, it’s easy to look back and say, you know, we should’ve corrected them; but I don’t think we did enough upfront planning in order to carry out that war. But now we’re there. How do we get out of it? How do we stabilize the region? How do we win the peace? Recorded on: 7/6/07