I attended Representative Mike Thompson's meeting with constituents in Gualala, California on Sunday, September 12, 2010. It was not a Thompson for Congress event, just the usual incumbent's use of the priveleges of their office that happen to coincide with the election calendar. Mike said some things that surprised me, so I'll start with those first. I note that these statements may not represent the Congressman's actual positions when it comes to voting, as it seems to me his votes often reflect a different reality than his public rhetoric.
Most significantly, while Mike has never voted against money for homeland security or the Pentagon (unless you count Republican sponsored bills that were supplanted by even more generous Democratic Party sponsored spending), he really did say that he does not think that the U.S. military is an effective way to deal with Al-Qaeda in the Afghanistan / Pakistan region. He'd prefer to use special operations to directly pursue terrorists rather than defend the current government of Afghanistan, which he called "corrupt." Thompson's words, exactly:
Mike could have saved us a lot of trouble if he had just voted against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to begin with, or had voted to cut off their funding at any time in the intervening years, but it is refreshing to hear a frank assessment from the Chair of the House Intelligence Subcommittee on Terrorism/HUMINT, Analysis and Counterintelligence.
Mike said he voted against the Bush tax cuts, but in re-listening to my tape I note that he indicated by this that he voted against extending the Bush tax cuts, which would be a recent vote. My notes show he voted with the Republican Party for the Bush tax cuts when they were created. He seemed to think that President Obama's proposal to renew the middle-class Bush tax cuts, but not the Bush tax cuts for those making over $250,000 a year, (Frankly, I'd feel rich if I even made $100,000 a year) is likely to pass Congress. If they don't act, if there is gridlock, the Republicans lose because all those tax cuts go away. Mike did defend the Estate Tax cut, at the 2009 level, saying it, and even greater protection, is important for multi-generation family farms. Not mentioning that Napa vineyards started by former Silicon Valley types and San Francisco tax layers would also get a big old tax loophole if he gets his way. He said the Democratic Party in Congress this term exempted the estate tax from its pay as you go rule.
Again, although he voted to invade Iraq, with the benefit of hindsight Mike said "we went into Iraq, a place we should not have gone into, we had no business there, they were no threat to us. We should have just stayed out and take care of Al-Qaeda and come home as quickly as we could."
Mike mentioned that "We were one step away from being in a depression. Had we not done some very unpalatable things, things that we are getting a lot of criticism for now, stimulus and bailout, we would not be in this recession. We would be in a full-blown depression."
The Gualala crowd being pro-single payer health care, Mike talked about that without saying he has actually never supported single-payer health care. He talked about falsehoods told about the health plan that was passed told by certain of its opponents.
Talking about the Willits Bypass project, and trying to get federal funds released so that work can start on that, he said he had to personally meet with Caltrans and the Army Corps of Engineers. "I came away from the meeting, the last meeting I had with CalTrans and the Corps, believing that I may have sat just down with the two most incompetent bureaucracies in the world ... but I think we've got them both moving in the right direction."
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Mike Thompson is the current elected member of the United States House of Representatives for California's 1st Congressional District.