Monday, July 4, 2011

My former student on the front page of the New York Times

I have been virtually incommunicado for a while, giving papers at conferences, having my electronics from my suitcase after I checked it in at the South Bend airport, and now trying to catch up with the backlog of deadlines.

I briefly awoke from my slumber with today's New York Times article regarding Congressman Mike Thompson, who was a outstanding student of mine. He also used to keep my tractor repaired and his wife would sometimes babysit for us. Both were very, very nice people.

Mike earned an internship with a powerful representative in the state legislature, who taught him the ropes. Later, he ran for state Sen. in our district against the Republican who should have been a shoe-in. Republican, however, got caught up in a scandal and Mike won the office. He later switched districts in order to be closer to his home in the Napa Valley. The congressional seat had switched back and forth between parties, ever since a long standing representative, Don Claussen, was defeated. Mike won and has held the office ever since.

He only contacted me a couple times many years ago and I have not heard from him since. He and Darrell Issa were the two representatives, who met with Saddam Hussein prior to the war, to see if hostilities could be prevented. I should have mentioned that he was also a Vietnam veteran.

I can't tell if the article is attacking him for being overly supportive of the wine industry or if he is self interested as a small wine grower. In reality, he was interested in the wine industry as a student. Consequently, nothing he says seems particularly scandalous.

I understand that Mike is a favorite of Nancy Pelosi. I recall that he identified himself as a blue dog. Our politics are obviously far apart, but I do remember him fondly as an excellent student and a friend, even though I'm not aware of any courageous stands he has taken, with the exception of the trip to Iraq.


mike shupp said...

I gather he's one of about 200 Congressmen with an interest in the wine business. That's about one out of three Congressmen.

I somehow doubt that this one Congresscritter is singlehandedly screwing up the US tax code and agricultural policy all for his own parochial interest. What it suggests instead is that the US has become a major power in the wine world, a la France. We grow the stuff, we drink it, we import it, we export it -- and we pass laws affecting all of that. Your friend is a legislator who has real world experience in something germane to the US economy, and I'm inclined to regard that as a Good Thing.

michael perelman said...

I don't know that it is a good thing to become a representative for any one industry, but as far as the wrongs done by congress, this one certainly does not float to the top. I have no idea what the new content of the story was, but no doubt it was cheaper than a real investigation of congressional abuses.