Tommy Thompson

Republican presidential candidate Tommy Thompson addresses a crowd at Best Western Frontier in Clinton on Thursday night. The former governor of Wisconsin spoke about his positions on Iraq, foreign policy, healthcare, energy security and immigration. Jerry Dahl/Clinton Herald

The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

CLINTON — Nearly 60 people gathered at the Best Western Frontier as Republican presidential candidate Tommy Thompson brought his “Common Sense Solutions Tour” to Clinton on Thursday night.

The former governor of Wisconsin arrived shortly after 5 p.m.; upon Thompson’s arrival, eager attendees waited in line for an opportunity to pose for a picture with the candidate.

Thompson began his speech on a biographical note, as he endeared himself to the audience by mentioning that he is a native of Elroy, a small town in Wisconsin. He added that he is the only farmer running for president and that he still owns farmland in his home state.

Thompson recalled that at the age of 19, he ran Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign at the University of Wisconsin, beginning his interest in politics. At the age of 23, he ran an unlikely campaign for the state Senate, and successfully defeated a 16-year incumbent.

He highlighted his record as governor of Wisconsin, noting that he lowered the taxes that were driving businesses out of the state. Thompson said 800,000 jobs were created during his administration and he was successful in reforming the state’s woeful welfare system.

“I formed a bond, a partnership, to give poor mothers a chance — a chance to live the American dream,” Thompson said. “To get a job, go to work, and be able to take care of themselves and their families.”

Thompson championed Wisconsin’s school choice program, which allows thousands of students to choose which school they attend, as an effective way for poor children to obtain high-quality education.

Thompson cited Messmer High School, a voucher school, as his success in education reform.

A majority of the students in the downtown Milwaukee school come from low-income families, yet the school has a 98 percent graduation rate with 90 percent of the graduates entering college.

“And you have to sign a contract to get into that school,” Thompson explained. “And the contract says you’re gonna attend classes, and you’re gonna graduate, and you’re gonna pay respect to your administrators and to teachers. And if you don’t do that, they don’t let you in the school.”

As Thompson shifted from speaking about his record to his stance on key issues, he noticeably spoke louder and more emphatically.

His speech centered around the war in Iraq, foreign policy, healthcare, energy security and immigration.

“The Iraq war cost us almost $10 billion a month,” Thompson said. “$10 billion — can you imagine how many schools, how many highways, and how many things we could build?”

Central to Thompson’s plan for Iraq is requiring Iraq’s parliament to vote on whether it desires the presence of American troops.Thompson also proposes supporting the election of local governments in each of Iraq’s 18 provinces, analogous to the 50 United States.

“If you do that, the Shiites are gonna elect Shiite governments, Sunnis will elect Sunni governments, and Kurds will elect Kurd governments. And you’ll get rid of the civil war.”

Thompson theorizes that individuals will gravitate to the provinces that are governed by their religious sect.

“Shiites will move into the territories run by their religious theocracy — they trust them, they believe in them and they will protect them,” he said.

Thompson spoke in favor of sharing of Iraqi oil revenues between the national and provincial governments and the citizens.

“Why don’t we give one-third to the federal government, one-third to the state governments and one-third to every man, woman and child?” Thompson said. “If every man, woman and child is getting a check from the government, from the oil wells, they’re gonna make darn sure those oil wells don’t get blown up.”

Thompson said that aiding other nations with their healthcare needs is the key to improving the country’s standing in the international community.

“There’s one thing that I’ve found in the world,” Thompson said, “and that is that everybody cares about good healthcare for themselves and their families and their community.”

Thompson recalled visiting Afghanistan as Secretary of Health and Human Services. He described touring a dirty, antiquated hospital staffed by untrained doctors.

Thompson said he raised $2.5 million to rebuild and modernize the hospital and train the hospital’s staff.

He recalled an outpouring of gratitude from Afghan women after the safer, improved hospital opened.

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