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The dude still abides

Wednesday, Mar 20, 2013

* If you want to see what a successful Illinois Republican is - not some ideologically embittered hyperpartisan - then you have to go no further than Big Jim Thompson.

Elected four times as governor, Thompson embodied Illinois Republicanism. Tough, accomplished, governing-focused and pro-business but with a decidedly humane and moderate face.

Thompson spoke this month to the World Presidents’ Organization/Young Presidents’ Organization Chicago Chapter forum and part of his speech has been transcribed. We ran some excerpts the other day, but I strongly urge you to read the whole thing now. This guy still has it

We need to improve the business climate in the state of Illinois because we need to increase employment in the state of Illinois. There is no sounder reason to increase employment and to drive down the cost to the state of Illinois of pensions and pension reform than more jobs in this state. Two million people in a population of 12.8 million, 2 million people in the state of Illinois are on food stamps. Two million, Why? Because they don’t have jobs that can support themselves and their family. They don’t have enough money to buy food, so they’re on food stamps.

Now we’ve got a choice. We can continue all those people on food stamps and just push (them) away, put them behind the curtain, don’t think about them. Or we can work to increase the business climate in this state to provide the jobs that will start taking people off food stamps and off welfare and off government assistance.

Thompson, unlike so many modern “conservatives,” did not demonize the poor and heap condemnations upon them He fervently wants to help them with the only hand up that really matters: A decent job.

* But he’s no automatic mouthpiece for big business, either

We’ve got to scour the tax code of this state, get rid of wasteful tax expenditures, or have a rational tax policy that encourages business and its growth in this state. And you can tell the difference. And yes, various businesses will come and say, “But keep mine.” OK. That happens all the time. But the governor and the legislature can decide who’s right in that one. Academics can help them decide who’s right in that one., Economists can help them decide who’s right in that one. You don’t have to listen to every special plea no matter where it’s from. But if we’re not constantly looking at our tax policy, looking at our unemployment compensation policy, looking at our workers’ compensation policy to make this state a haven for business and send those carpetbaggers from Wisconsin and Indiana and Iowa and Mississippi and Alabama and Texas back to their own states. Thank you very much, we’ve got just as good a business climate in Illinois as any that you can conjure up to make our people move. If we don’t put our efforts behind that, if we don’t link it to government expenditures beginning with pension reform, we are going to be in even bigger trouble.

* And he wants us to think big, like he did back in the day

We need to substantially repair Illinois’ infrastructure. The governor is going to hope to sell $800 million in bonds shortly that would go for capital projects, infrastructure. It’s not enough. It’s not enough. […]

Look, I used to be proud to say that Illinois was the transportation center of the world. And it was literally true. What’s the largest economy in the world? The United States. What state has more components of a transportation system than any other? Illinois. Sitting in the heart of the nation. Criss-crossed by Interstate highways north, south, east, west. The Mississippi River flowing down, the Illinois River. Railroads running into the state and out of the state. Illinois in Lincoln’s time was the jumping-off place for the railroads to go west, To bring the finished goods from eastern and Midwestern factories out to the West and to bring the grain and the beef back. We still occupy that position even though the cargo that we carry may be different now.

O’Hare until just recently was the busiest airport in the world. Now, if the United States is the largest economy in the world and if Illinois has more transportation components than any other state, then Illinois is literally the transportation capital of the world and we ought to act like it and keep that system in repair. Because when you talk about the economy of this state you have to pay very close attention to what I call the economic backbone. Of the state. What do I mean by that?

The transportation system, obviously. The ability to get the employees to and from work. The ability to get goods out of your factory to where you’re sending them across the world. The ability to get raw materials in to aid in your process of manufacturing. If we don’t have a good, decent transportation system, we will never have a strong economy and won’t have the jobs we want.

* Thomspon also took a swipe at Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Gov. Pat Quinn when he made this point about utility infrastructure

A lot of politicians like to pick on the utilities. Our electric utilities. Our telephone systems. Well that’s all well and good. An attorney general can be the people’s lawyer and bash the utilities and oppose rate hikes and try to hold down profit. I mean, the list is endless.

But governors, governors responsible for the economic climate of the state have to ensure that our utilities as well as our transportation system are doing their job. That our utilities are strong, technologically advanced and dependable. And you can’t have a utilitly system, whether it’s phones or electricity or gas, that’s strong, technologically advanced and dependable if you are consistently trying to starve it in the name of consumers or customers. That’s why the job of attorney general and governor are different. Very different.

* And he made an excellent point about cleaning up government

And we have to scour the state budget to end the boondoggles. I know everybody decries the boondoggles. The press likes to expose them. Grants going to community organizations that turn out to be just for the private profit of those who are running them. Look, it’s not a lot of money. The state budget is $35 billion. Stuff like that is in the millions. Small potatoes. But what it is, it says something about the credibility of the state. It says something about the credibility of state government if you’re wasting money.

I know that candidates’ favorite refrain is “fraud, waste and abuse.” They’re going to end fraud, waste and abuse and then when they get elected it’s the last you ever hear about it, and they start participating in fraud, waste and abuse. And I’m not here to tell you, as some politicians have before me, that if we cut fraud, waste and abuse we can cut taxes and don’t have to spend as much. That’s all wrong. It’s wrong. That’s such a miniscule part of the state government that makes no difference except that it debases state government. And people feel less about their state government when they read something like that in a newspaper and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t get rid of it.

* Another invaluable insight

The point is, people in Illinois — and in other states; we’re not the only ones – the point is that people in this state have allowed things to go so far that they think they can get away with anything. And they have. They have. And let’s stop pointing fingers about who’s responsible for this, the legislature, the governor, the public employees – it’s irrelevant. They’re all responsible. And we’re all responsible.

Right freaking on.

Yeah, he made his share of mistakes, kicked his share of cans down the road. I could give you a very long list of all of that. But, man, the dude was a giant, and he loved every square inch of this state and had the skills to make his visions a reality.

This used to be a great state. We still are in many respects, but we’ve slipped partly because we’ve completely lost our confidence - and for good reason. Too many clueless governors and voters. Too much inertia, partisan and otherwise. Not enough vision.

I don’t know about you, but, personally, I’d vote for Big Jim if he ran again. This is exactly the sort of leader we so desperately need in Illinois right now.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Downstate Illinois - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 11:49 am:

    He definitely understood all aspects of the state more than most politicians out of Chicago.

  2. - Small Town Liberal - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 11:56 am:

    - I don’t know about you, but, personally, I’d vote for Big Jim if he ran again. -

    If he runs in the 2018 Democratic primary I’ll give it some thought, I don’t think he could make it through a Republican primary these days.

  3. - AFSCME Steward - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 11:57 am:

    I voted for him every time he ran. Of course I voted for him the first time because he put my Alderman (Tom Keane) in jail. Always grateful for that.

  4. - Fred's Mustache - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 12:00 pm:

    I think that this blog post brings up an interesting point. Did Illinois become so “blue” because the voters or demographics have changed so much, or did Illinois become so “blue” because the Republican Party has moved so far to the right? I think a lot of Illinoians can relate to what Thompson is saying here, regarding of their political persuasion.

  5. - Fred's Mustache - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 12:01 pm:

    I meant regardless of their political persuasion

  6. - BrianG - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 12:01 pm:

    The reason why Big Jim looks so great is because of all the jokers who have followed. I admired his service; I have even tailgated with him, but he is not exactly asking for a balanced approach. He is, in my opinion, just like any other elite politician, asking for more sacrifices from the poorer citizens of the state and prescribing too little sacrifice from the wealthiest among us.

  7. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 12:03 pm:

    ===Did Illinois become so “blue” because the voters or demographics have changed so much, or did Illinois become so “blue” because the Republican Party has moved so far to the right? ===

    It’s a little bit of both, with serious GHB hatred thrown into the mix.

    The Democrats did very well here in 1998, except they lost the governor’s race to a Republican who ran well to their candidate’s left on gays, abortion and guns. That was the Dems’ race to lose, and they lost it.

  8. - Anon - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 12:05 pm:

    Rich, did you just pull up an old article about what the GOP needs is another Ronald Reagan and just “find and replace” with Jim Thompson? You do realize that was almost two generations ago?

  9. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 12:05 pm:

    ===asking for more sacrifices from the poorer citizens of the state===

    I don’t think public employees are the “poorer citizens of the state.” Seriously, that’s kind of silly.

  10. - RNUG - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 12:06 pm:

    Worked for the State during his entire administration and moved from being a peon to upper management, so I’m not a unbiased observer. His tenure was good for my career. But I’m also not blind to some of his past faults.

    I agree with Rich, he was a giant. He could work across the aisle and get things done. I’m not sure some of the deals would stand up to scrutiny today, but there was never a doubt Big Jim thought he was doing what needed to be done for the State.

    He didn’t take things all that personally. He could joke about some of the ’scandals’; I still remember one about the Xerox jet. His biggest asset, from my perspective, is most the deals were done in the light of day. When questioned by reporters about this or that deal, one of his classic responses was: “If you don’t like it, print it”.

    You might not have agreed with all his methods, but he got things done. And yeah, I’d vote for him again.

  11. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 12:07 pm:

    The Big Lebowski reference aside, I’m not sure The Dude is really abiding here.

  12. - x ace - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 12:09 pm:

    Better than any since - but is that “boondoggle” South Side Ballpark clouding your declaration to “vote” ?

  13. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 12:11 pm:

    ===did you just pull up an old article about what the GOP needs is another Ronald Reagan===

    Reagan is dead. He can’t make speeches about Illinois’ future. Thompson is very much alive and I am quite impressed with his current, 2013 vision.

  14. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 12:11 pm:

    If My Party can not get behind a Jim Thompson (warts and all) we in the ILGOP nned to ask ourselves a simple question;

    Will a majority of voters vote for Jim Thompson’s GOP, or will a majority vote for Jim Oberweis’ GOP.

    Which…”Jim”… would make the ILGOP more viable in Cook, the Collars, Downstate, and Southern Illinois. Not most, not half, but ALL those areas?

    Just an appetizer…

  15. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 12:18 pm:

    He certainly established the template for a successful big-tent GOP candidate. No litmus tests, no sectionalism, no whining and a lot of hustle.

    The dude would go everywhere and anywhere in the state and talk to the folks. Their problems were his problems. You might not agree with his solutions to the problems, but the effort was there.

    He didn’t play off one section against the other. He didn’t constantly play the victim. He took charge, accepted responsibility and was accountable. And elected four times.

  16. - Jimbo - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 12:19 pm:

    Rich was “GHB Hatred” a typo or something? I don’t get the reference. Thanks.

  17. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 12:20 pm:

    Yeah. Typo. Meant GWB.

  18. - downstate hack - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 12:37 pm:

    I don’t know about you, but, personally, I’d vote for Big Jim if he ran again. This is exactly the sort of leader we so desperately need in Illinois right now.

    Hell yes, I’d vote for him twice. Oh ya, this is Illinois I probably can.

  19. - siriusly - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 12:38 pm:

    Great point about GWB Rich. I don’t think his negative impact on swing, social moderate, independent voters in Illinois cannot be ignored.

  20. - siriusly - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 12:39 pm:

    Please mentally delete the “don’t” I apologize for the double negative to my freshman year English teacher.

  21. - Lefty Lefty - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 12:39 pm:

    I’ve said it here a number of times–give us liberals/progressives/Democrats someone from the Republican Party who’s not chasing after abortionists and homosexuals and they’ll find their way to governing. Many of us have had it with the Dems, but the Reps are a farce until Thompson-like approaches are the norm from the minority party in IL.

  22. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 12:44 pm:

    I met Jim Thompson in 1985. He was larger than life back then, a governor straight from central casting.

    Today’s IL Republicans think he is the personification of a RINO. He raised taxes, spent tons of money (Build Illinois), was pro-choice, etc. Since the mid-1990s, the civil war in the ILGOP has been between guys like Thompson, Edgar and moderate, country club Republicans who are establishment vs. the activist, purity seeking, no compromise, litmus test types who happen to vote in primaries.

    They can label Thompson with RINO or any other name they want, but they should also add “electable” in that list.

    The purists can only win primaries these days and have driven many of their potential voters over to the Democratic Party. The purists would rather be “right” than win. That makes me both happy and a little sad at the same time. A comeptitive ILGOP would make my party better.

    I saw Thompson speak recently and I agree with Rich, he could probably get elected again if he ran.

  23. - LincolnLounger - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 12:44 pm:

    I’d vote for him again, too; however, I always think Illinois worked much better with divided government.

    For the record, that includes ‘94-’96 when the GOP ran everything.

  24. - Jack - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 12:49 pm:

    California seems to be doing well after recycling Jerry Brown. So why not?

  25. - CarrollCounty - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 12:52 pm:

    Iowa brought back their old and respected GOP gov, maybe IL can too.

    Now that Obama has carried forward huge amounts of W’s policies, maybe the hate of the GOP can settle out a bit. There is a lot to agree on. Thompson ‘14!

  26. - Greg - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 1:15 pm:

    Sorry, but Thompson is a little old at age 76 for a comeback to governor. He should have ran against Blago. Or Quinn. There should be an alternative to the current sorry crop of GOP governor hopefuls. (No, not you Joe Walsh.)

  27. - Kasich Walker, Jr. - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 1:23 pm:

    “….you can’t have a utility system, whether it’s phones or electricity or gas, that’s strong, technologically advanced and dependable if you are consistently trying to starve it.”

    I missed the part about the Dems starving utilities, but maybe a new-old IL GOP can successfully run on slashing pensions while giving the utilities more choices at the buffet table.

  28. - qcexaminer - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 1:26 pm:

    Let’s get real about Big Jim. When he ran in ‘76 he got $80K from the IEA—his largest contributor. After he was elected, Thompson approved collective bargaining for teachers. Pay for play all the way, baby! For the record, I voted for Thompson every time he ran.

    All this reminds me of the GOPers who say if we just could get another Reagan, all would be well.

    Um, no it wouldn’t because Reagan’s ’80s era is completely different from today, just as Big Jim’s day is over. Thanks in part to him, Big Labor is now more powerful than it was back in his day—does anyone really believe Big Jim would buck Big Labor and Big Law who are against Tort reform, Worker’s Comp reform and collective bargaining? To say nothing of how Thompson would handle the massive deficits in pensions and bills, which didn’t exist in his time. What would The Dude do? Probably more pay for play–business as usual in Illinois. Why would Thompson be any different now?

    Does anyone really believe any of his suggested moderate reforms could possibly pass Dem controlled legislature?

    Back in the day (’76) Democrats were more moderate and the GOP was more moderate—that ain’t the real world in 2013. I seriously doubt Big Jim could get nominated as either a Dem or GOPer governor today. He is speaking about and to a Land Before Time. Nostalgia rules, reality drools.

    If you believe Jim Thompson’s pretty words in ‘13—I’ll bet you believed Barack Obama’s pretty words in ‘08, too. So Thompson says all the pretty words we want to hear but unfortunately, they are completely detached from current Illinois reality.

    Democrats tend to get too wrapped up in what a politicians says, rather than what he/she does.

  29. - anonx - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 1:29 pm:

    He did get things done, but also had money and jobs to offer to broker bi-partisan support. Governing in today’s climate of shrinking budgets with fewer exempt positions means that the gov has substantially less to offer legislators or others who might be swayed to support legislation. It is easy to talk about politically difficult things to accomplish for the good of the state, but actually getting them done just by appealing to legislators’ better angels is not going to make it so.

  30. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 1:31 pm:

    Jim Thompson gave the Illinois Republican Party many things, but the one gift Thompson gave seems to either be misplaced, misused, or just plain forgotten.

    There is a kids game out there with 30 faces on a board and the goal is to find WHICH face is the one that is the “special” one.

    “The face does NOT have blond hair”, “The face does NOT have glasses.” “The Face has a round nose.” And so it goes, until there is ONE.

    I have been thinking about that kids game as the Blood Oathers and Litmus Testers dwindle My Party.

    “Must be for 2nd Amendment.” “Must be pro-life.” “Must be for tradtional marriage.”


    Pretty soon, that ONE face will look like the faces we find in the lack of diversity we are seeing in our General Assmebly Caucuses. That silly child’s game, teaching kids to deduce who that one face is, is actually RE-ducing My Party.

    Jim Thompson understood Illinois like very few have, or currently do, especially in My Party. Thompson embraced the differences in geography, making himself at ease wether he was in Cairo or in Springfield, Chicago or the Quad Cities.

    How Republicans in My Party now that can do that? How many downstate Republicans have the “stomach” to go to the “Evil Cook County”. How many Cook, or Collar County Republicans embrace Southern or Western Illinois? How many in My Party embrace the differences we have as a group, let alone that we have as a state. Jim Thompson understands Illinois and tries to teach us to understand that the differences are what make us as a state great. They are not “challenges” to be overcome, the differences are assets used TO overcome adversity.

    We need to stop this idea that “whoever is more Republican” should make us all be like them, but instead look at what unites us all to be the best of ALL that is good.

    Jim Thompson wasn’t afraid to work with Democrats to find common ground to move things. What is amazing in My Party is the lack of understanding what “compromise” means.

    “I am willing to compromise if I get what I want.” Huh?

    “I am willing to bend, but my position on that is unwavering.” What?

    Jim Thompson did heavy lifting, and compromised when he knew the best interest of the state were at stake. He listened to ideas, and worked on solutions, and the people loved him for it. He was/is about jobs and business, and helping getting Illinois forward on a Republican agenda, that happens NOT to be 100% Pure of of the Ideology demanded by the “all or nothing” Litmus Testers.

    The bottom line is Thompson is a Reagan Rule of 80%, and that meant Geographically, Ideologically, and even Governmentally. That is what a great leader does. They find the best sloutions, within the parameters of their beliefs, while looking for solutions and compromising for the betterment of Man. I find no words like Litmus Tests, or Blood Oaths, or even “scorecards” in that thought.

    You rate leaders, even your party leaders, on how they lead, and how they get other who may disagree… to follow your lead. They are optimists, while being realists, dreamers while being grounded, giants …while just being human.

    We all could learn a great deal from Jim Thompson, regardless of party, but I hope as we again face a fractured party on the Republican side, we remember once again how leadership can not be bought, can not be forced, and shines when give the opportunity to look at the best of who we all are.

  31. - Road Dog - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 1:32 pm:

    I recently went to see Governor Thompson speak at SIUC. You can tell he loves to speak to people both one on one and to the large group that night. While some of his remarks were a trip down memory lane, he did have thoughts on how to improve Illinois today. I can remember his administrations and while he wasn’t perfect, he got things done for ALL parts of the state. I long for the days when we had an effective governor that worked to better us all

  32. - Cook County Commoner - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 1:32 pm:

    What would make former Gov Thompsom appealing in a governor’s race today is that he should be financially independent. The years as chairman at Winston and Strawn should have beefed up the bank account and rolodex listings. At least, it seems, he would not need to play toadie on issues for party money.

  33. - Hatless - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 1:35 pm:

    I have to disagree with you on Thompson. I think some of his “deals” especially with Bill Cellini were sketchy at best: Concordia Seminary and the casino license for starters. I know personally of other stories of public servants being replaced at the State Police computer division with close friends of Thompsons. The friends screwed everything up and the public servant had to be rehired at a much higher salary to clean up the mess.
    Thompson at best skirted the rules. He is a smart man that would have likely adapted his style or he would be in a cell right alongside Blago and Ryan.

  34. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 1:38 pm:

    Hatless, there’s no doubt that the man was far from perfect. It’s admitted to up top. Overall, a great governor who is still vital and thinking about the future.

  35. - Arthur Andersen - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 1:49 pm:

    Like RNUG, AA moved through the ranks from grunt to front office in the Thompson days. He’s no spring chicken any more, but it would be great to have him back for one more rodeo.
    One of the things that I thought distinguished JRT’s tenure was the great people that he brought into the administration. Many now sit as Federal judges, CEOs, and other high positions. Yeah, there was Tristano. Nobody’s perfect.
    The guy could also work a crowd, anywhere, anytime, with the best of them.

  36. - Marty - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 1:51 pm:

    It is refreshing to occasionally have an adult in the room for a while. Far from perfect, sure, but political reality doesn’t leave much room for perfect. Good enough, maybe a bit better than good enough, and able to think and talk like an adult, all that looks pretty good.

  37. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 1:58 pm:

    –Thanks in part to him, Big Labor is now more powerful than it was back in his day—-

    Who’s Big Labor, where and how are they more powerful?

  38. - Endangered Moderate Species - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 2:00 pm:

    Big Jim would be at a farm event and if you didn’t know anyone or anything you would have assumed Big Jim was one of the farmers.

    I saw him standing in line during the noon hour at the Champaign McDonald’s and it was not an election year. He was not glad-handing. Along with the other customers he seemed to be waiting to place his order.

    My favorite moment was when he was on stage with Willie Nelson at the State Fair and he signed the law that abolished annual testing for pick-up trucks.

    He was as as big and diverse as the great state that he governed.

  39. - Jak Tichenor - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 2:09 pm:

    Gov.Thompson was our guest on the WSIU InFocus series back in October of last year. Here’s a link to the program in our archives:

  40. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 2:24 pm:

    –The guy could also work a crowd, anywhere, anytime, with the best of them.–

    You’re not kidding. Best one-on-one, small group campaigner I ever saw (never covered Clinton, who I’ve been old could charm a possum out of a tree).

    The Dude loved a parade, too. He’d have Skilbeck march about 20 yards in front with a megaphone, announcing “Ladies and Gentlemen, the governor of Illinois, Big Jim Thompson!”, while Thompson would run back-and-forth across the streets, taking a pull on an offered beer every now and again.

    As the national GOP goes through it’s autopsy, or reexamination, I hope he clears his throat and lets it rip.

  41. - Quiet Sage - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 2:32 pm:

    Vast overestimation of Thompson by all concerned. He, more than anyone else (until Blago) was responsible for the underfunding of the pension systems that is crashing down on us today.

  42. - C. Falsani - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 2:38 pm:

    But the rug really tied the room together!

  43. - shore - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 2:47 pm:

    1. He uses the term newsmagazine which no one under 35 reads and no one over 35 buys anymore. newsweek was sold for $1-a few years ago. As a general piece of advice if you are going to speak to any group with the word “young” in it, it’s terribly important you use the words of the day.

    2. The problem with edgar/thompson-ism speaking as one who comes from the most liberal area of the republican party in the state is that they’ve discredited themselves with us by their frequent embrace of Rahm and party figures like George Ryan. Thompson’s connections to George Ryan are a major disqualifier. Edgar was asked repeatedly to run for office and deferred and his protege Kirk Dillard filmed an ad for Obama. This to me is the biggest issue that I have with the moderate establishment and that includes mark kirk and now fell north shore-an rauner, they see the mayor of chicago and compromise as their real friends and the party base and its principles as the enemy.

    3. Every state has a jim thompson, a bill weld, a george pataki, a john engler, a christie todd whitman, a john danforth, a schwarzenegger. It takes a generation for that era to end, a democratic era to come on and fail, and a new era to blossom. The longer the edgars and the bradys and the dillards and thompsons dominate the scene the longer the 3rd part of that process will take to flower.

  44. - Hunterdon - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 3:00 pm:

    Illinois desperately NEEDS Big Jim again in 2014. Or someone exactly like him, anyway!

  45. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 3:01 pm:

    Shore, I respect your partisanship, I really do.

    But, in the Illinois context, don’t you see a direct line from guys like Thompson and Edgar to Kirk?

    Don’t you think that voices like Thompson and Edgar offer a better path for the Illinois GOP than those like Ailes and Rush? We’re not Alabama, daddio.

  46. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 3:12 pm:

    Not a Big Jim lover. He got things done, but there were too many deals for special interests. Too much pinstripe patronage. And I can’t forget his special shelf.

  47. - Irish - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 3:16 pm:

    The difference is in the approach/attitude/environment.

    Jim Thompson was positive all the way. The we can do it, get it done, feeling was pervasive and inspiring.

    That has changed into a very negative, finger pointing, finding fault, blame everybody else, attitude that festers and accomplishes nothing except to get everyone cowering in the corner unwilling to do anything.

  48. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 3:26 pm:

    Yes he was an insiders insider with a nose for wealth and antiques and all that, but he’d still make all these twerps look like, well, twerps.

  49. - Ahoy! - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 3:29 pm:

    Great post Rich, it almost gives me hope for our State. I’d vote for Jim too, or anybody that I felt was genuine who came out and said what he just said.

  50. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 3:34 pm:

    –The difference is in the approach/attitude/environment.

    Jim Thompson was positive all the way. The we can do it, get it done, feeling was pervasive and inspiring.–

    I don’t think that can be underestimated. Chronic doom-and-gloom is a long-time loser for winning elections and governing. Inspire and speak to aspirations. The greatest examples are FDR and Reagan.

    You can get some of the people, all of the time, by appealing to their bitterness and sense of victimization.

    It’s a lucrative business model for Rush and Fox. But it’s a losing electoral model for the GOP.

    The fight is on between the infotainment business model and the governing model for the GOP.

  51. - proudstatetrooper - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 3:36 pm:

    That guv really tied the room together

  52. - Arthur Andersen - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 3:39 pm:

    Quiet Sage, Thompson signed the first “pension reform” law in his last term. No one under the dome grasped the enormity of the potential problems in the early 1980s.

  53. - Publius - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 3:44 pm:

    Thompson was a delight to work for. Creative, interested, clever, intelligent, humorous and always challenging. He believed that gonernment was there to get things done, good things for people. As a director of a small agency, i was constantly amazed by how much he knew about my specialized area. He is a man of integrity and honest principals. Remember he was the guy who sent the first governor to jail. We could sure use another jim thompson today.

  54. - Just The Way It Is One - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 3:50 pm:

    Oops…that should have been spelled “Political” Arena (obviously)…!

  55. - Sir Reel - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 4:07 pm:

    I remember him giving impromptu press conferences in the halls of the Capitol. Sharp on every topic.

    I also remember Blago’s impromptu press conferences, few that there were. Dull on every topic.

    Thompson was the last Governor who made State agencies work together on an economic development
    plan. Edgar and Ryan tried but didn’t put their weight behind it.

  56. - downstate commissioner - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 4:33 pm:

    I have always wondered if Mike Madigan would have voted against Edgar, who he seemed to be able to work with, if he had came back and ran against Blago. Probably he could still work with Thompson, rather than Quinn.
    Now, would I vote for Thompson against Lisa? Probably. Could Thompson actually beat Lisa now? Probably not. She is a younger, fresher face with a high approval rate.
    On the other hand, if she didn’t run, Thompson would have a good chance of beating Quinn. At his age, Thompson would probably be expected to only be in for four years. Maybe a “draft Thompson” campaign might be a good thing for Illinois AND Lisa Madigan. And all she would have to do is work quietly behind the scenes to get Thompson to run, and “then” decide not to run for governor this time. In four years, she would still probably be a shoo-in, without the worries of an expensive primary. Thompson could help the state; he probably wouldn’t make it any worse, and if he did, she could safely point her finger at him, and say “it’s all his fault, he was too old this time”… Big Jim for Governor!!!!

  57. - downstate commissioner - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 4:37 pm:

    Oh, Rich’s parting shot was that he would vote for him- against Lisa??

  58. - Langhorne - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 4:40 pm:

    I met him a few times, mainly as a junior staffer in the room, tho i did do a fly around w him and rode on the sikorsky helo. That finally convinced my father in law i was worthy of his daughter. I bumped into JRT years later at norbs, told him the story, and he laughed heartily.

    I had my pic taken w only a couple pols–JRT and kustra

  59. - Percival - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 4:41 pm:

    Big Jim’s very greatness and strengths unintentionally sowed the seeds of present sad state of the Illinois GOP. Beginning with his long and powerful tenure, the GOP began to be increasingly dependent on the Governor’s office for influence. The GOP State party withered, as all revolved around the Governor’s power through the Edgar and Ryan administrations. By 2002, when the Governorship was lost to the Ryan scandal, George Bush and HotRod, the anemic condition of the state party became obvious, and the GOP just collapsed in Illinois. Two big things happened in the wake of that collapse. First, GOP leaders and candidates began to fight for their own personal interest, ignoring any promotion of the party as a whole (the 2010 Gubernatorial Primary being a classic example), since sacrifice for party unity gave no real benefit, as the GOP had nothing to give. Second, the big money in the state began to tip heavily in favor of the Democrats, since the GOP could deliver nothing the corporate types wanted or needed, and no longer held the levers of power to induce “respect” (i.e., fear). Since the GOP has not been able to produce either a real leader or a real agenda since 2002, those two effects still prevail.

  60. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 5:28 pm:

    –Beginning with his long and powerful tenure, the GOP began to be increasingly dependent on the Governor’s office for influence. The GOP State party withered, as all revolved around the Governor’s power through the Edgar and Ryan administrations.–

    Huh? How about all those jobs for the GOP crew, the folks who ring doorbells?

    He picked Jack Ryan out of the chorus and made him Cook Couny State’s Attorney. That’s a big job, daddio, especially for a Republican.

  61. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 5:29 pm:

    Excuse me, Jack O’Malley. Forgive me, St. Patrick.

  62. - Esquire - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 5:31 pm:

    I meant to say “until the US Supreme Court rendered such a position meaningful…”

    Thompson’s former approach was to call himself “pro-life” so long as his hands were tied and he was not expected to be able to do anything about the issue. When subsequent court cases gave the states some latitude, Big Jim flipped.

  63. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 5:33 pm:

    Dear Big Jim:

    According to Feeding America, the 14th largest nonprofit in America and largest in Illinois, 2/3 of food stamp recipients are children, seniors or people with disabilities.

    Many food stamp recipients do work, they just don’t make enough to feed their family. Remember that the next time raising the minimum wage comes up. For those who can work but are jobless, the program sets time limits and job training mandates.

    You may have Tinman’s heart, but you don’t have Scarecrow’s brains.


  64. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 5:41 pm:

    for what it is worth, a sense of “desperation” is exactly the last thing we need right now.

    Desperation is what nominated Rod Blagojevich and Alan Keyes.

    We need aspiration and perspiration, not desperation or inspiration, and it must come from the neighborhoods up, not the Capitol down.

  65. - Esquire - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 5:47 pm:

    It is hard to evaluate Thompson’s service as governor because so many things have changed. For his first two gubernatorial terms, the General Assembly was a larger legislative body and the Republicans had the House (George Ryan was speaker for a time and he was a conservative then). The Cut Back Amendment changed the landscape considerably and the Equal Rights Amendment fight caused some bleeding that cost the GOP the remap in the Eighties.

    I only mention a few of these details because a few comments were posted to suggest that there was no “right wing” in the Republican Party at the time. There was. As such, the free fall of moderates was not on account of the sudden rise of the right.

    After 1994, for a brief time, the Republicans held everything except for a majority on the Illinois Supreme Court and Cook County.

  66. - Boone Logan Square - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 6:19 pm:

    Let’s focus on what the man said. I hope his comments about infrastructure are heard, in Springfield, in Chicago, and in Washington. Reminds me more of Eisenhower than Reagan.

  67. - county chairman - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 7:36 pm:

    i wonder if he was talking about the 500.000 in heroin that was seized at the airport that was destined for chicago good way to use the chicago hub system nice city

  68. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 8:04 pm:

    –Reminds me more of Eisenhower than Reagan.–

    I have no problem with either.

    But the usual, head-injured, problem children called Ike a commie for pushing the gasoline tax to fund the Interstate Highway System.

    They are now the mainstream of the national GOP.

  69. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 8:09 pm:

    =This to me is the biggest issue that I have with the moderate establishment and that includes mark kirk and now fell north shore-an rauner, they see the mayor of chicago and compromise as their real friends and the party base and its principles as the enemy.=

    And this will be the downfall of ILGOP.

    =But, in the Illinois context, don’t you see a direct line from guys like Thompson and Edgar to Kirk?=

    And I see absolutely no “direct line” or resemblance between Thompson and Kirk.

    Edgar and Kirk (with McKenna in between), definitely.

  70. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 8:13 pm:

    I wish Jim would fix the GOP. At this point, I think he’s the only one who can do it.

  71. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 8:31 pm:

    I have “sat this out” enjoying all the Thompson-era knowledge that was just before my time. Great post, Rich, and to everyone else responding, great stuff.

    To that,

    I remember when Jack O’Malley was the answer. He became a judge in the long run, but the original “Jack” could have been more for us in the GOP. That was a miss for us.

    There was a great picture of that 1994 slate with Pate and Lee standing with them. It was like time stood still when the ILGOP was on top. Twenty years, in 2014, but lifetime ago. Wish I had that picture, just to have it. Cool shot in today’s context.

    Thanks to - wordslinger - and others for arguing the Thompson “case” in it’s context and usefulness today. Well said all.

  72. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 8:45 pm:

    Interesting analysis, Percival.

    My one huge disagreement, however, resides in your statement re: “and no longer held the levers of power to induce “respect” (i.e., fear).”

    There is a difference between being respected because people willingly offer it based on your achievements and your behavior and being “respected” because people have, or believe they have, reason to “fear.”

  73. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 8:48 pm:

    OW, do you not see yourself in shore’s statement that I quoted?

  74. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 8:49 pm:

    You should.

  75. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 8:49 pm:

    –I remember when Jack O’Malley was the answer. He became a judge in the long run, but the original “Jack” could have been more for us in the GOP. That was a miss for us.–

    Forgive me if I’m wrong, in any are all parts, but this is the way I remember it.

    Cecil Partee was in a jam, and the GOP had a real shot at Cook County State’s Attorney. Webb spotted O’Malley at Winston and Strawn, and Big Jim got behind him.

    He won once (twice?), and then the Dems flexed their muscles with a Punch 10 and rolled the GOP out of Cook like Sherman through Georgia.

    After that humiliation, Pate pushed through the end of straight-ticket voting.

    Abought right?

  76. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 9:00 pm:

    From what I remember, I believe Jack’s campaign made a strategic mistake that people would remember him for his achievements, continued to focus on his work as a true public servant would, and many–unfortunately–did not remember without a reminder. I might be wrong, but that’s my recollection.

  77. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 9:02 pm:

    Dan might be able to fix things, too…assuming he’d be willing

  78. - Publius - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 9:14 pm:

    Ike was a moderate, couldn’t get through a republican primary today. After he left the presidency, he served as honorary national chairman of planned parenthood.

  79. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 9:19 pm:

    - Publius -,

    You make a good point on Ike. As the “Right” runs more RINOs away like Ike, at what point is it worth running out winners to be “Pure”

  80. - Capitol View - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 9:23 pm:

    Ike was a war hero, and both parties wanted him to run on their banner. He understood that the nation needed to heal after a major war, and that persons needed to be employed. His major contribution was the interstate highway system, good for moving troops and weaponry around the country as the Autoban helped Germany fight a two front war, plus the effort employed plenty of former soldiers.

    But as for cleaning up the state - Big Jim invented “pinstripe patronage”, throwing big bucks at Illinois law firms and other professional services, with big political contributions coming in return. Not wrong in its day, but a precursor to a lot of outsourcing that did not have to happen.

    My model for the next governor is Henry Horner. Look him up in “Mostly Good and Competent Men”, the compilation of prior governors and their times.

  81. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 9:37 pm:

    About 1990 or so, Lech Walesa came to Chicago for the first time.

    Lech has some issues I don’t dig now, but at the time, he was the cat who hopped the fence at the Gdansk shipyard, popped the Commie in the face, did his time standing on his head, and drove away the totalitarians.

    On a sub-zero day in Daley Plaza, it was Lech, Rosty and Big Jim. Rosty was under the gun from the federales.

    Big Jim, a former federales, gave a rousing, loud, impassioned testimonial to Rosty as the greatest Chicagoan ever, and the greatest Pole who ever lived in America.

    Rosty busted up, bawling. Lech and Big Jim held him up to the cheers of the crowd.

    Big Jim does not walk away from his friends. Ever. Splendid behavior.

  82. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 9:44 pm:

    =Big Jim does not walk away from his friends. Ever. Splendid behavior. =

    And, it should go without saying, that he doesn’t get bogged down in the petty politics of “fear mongering” (because he doesn’t have to), or allow same to get in the way good judgment–even in those instances where he has to make a push for someone with whom he does not necessarily agree on all points.

    Again, splendid behavior, which I’ve seen time and time again. A true role model.

  83. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 9:46 pm:

    Stand-up guy indeed. Thompson always is there for his friends.

    Wish there was more of that. it’s easy to call when you need something, but when you pick up the phone when that friend needs you says a great deal more.

  84. - county chairman - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 9:56 pm:

    will see maybe the real thompson good or bad as bill the godfathers memoirs are starting to be written for publication as we speak

  85. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Mar 20, 13 @ 10:09 pm:

    Horner was the goods. Altgeld was one for the ages.

    Rich talked about a lack of confidence. I know it exists, but I, for one, cannot stand it, or understand it, and will not accept it.

    I’m first-generation. We don’t know from self-pity.

    I do a lot of work with big corporations that are more than happy to be in Illinois. Think Loop. Think Lake-Cook Road.

    I think the biggest issues are outside the metro, in the areas of the economy supported by federal crop insurance.

    That’s where the colleges and universities come in.

    Let’s reason together. We are blessed with public and private institutions of higher education that are the wonder of the world. Let’s maximize the potential of what those before us built.

  86. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Mar 21, 13 @ 8:09 am:

    yeah, Thompson never walked away from his friends: that’s how we got the Rutan decision.

    Thompson issued an Executive Order essentially requiring that anyone who wanted a state job needed a letter of recommendation from their Republican County Chairman.

    Both parties need to move forward, not back.

  87. - Louis Howe - Thursday, Mar 21, 13 @ 8:27 am:

    Yellow Dog Democrat got it right. Read the Rutan decision for a fact based opinion of the Thompson administration. Thompson ramped up state hiring by over 10,000 workers which cost the state billions. However, I do agree Thompson was better than Edgar.

  88. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Mar 21, 13 @ 9:03 am:

    YDD, please. He wasn’t the first and he certainly wasn’t the last. Is it any wonder at all that many of the county chairmen who endorsed Quinn are either on the state payroll or have relatives who are?

    Wake up.

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