Saturday, December 17, 2005

Sen. William Proxmire

GM's Corner: "A true political giant, William Proxmire died today at the age of 90. ... [H]e was one Democrat that I really liked -- liberal in some areas but a fierce conservative when it came to government spending and encroachment into ordinary life. Proxmire was called once so independent that he was often considered a party of one. He almost always got elected by huge margins, seldom took any money from anyone and often had election expenses of less than $1,000. His Golden Fleece awards [for wasteful federal spending] were absolutely priceless in terms of humor, grace, and caustic wit and absolute correctness."

The Debate Link: "Though most obituaries focused on his admirable opposition to corruption, pork and government waste, Senator Proxmire had a far more important issue he adopted as his own. For 20 years, from 1967 to 1986, William Proxmire gave one speech every single day Congress was in session urging the American ratification of the Genocide Convention. When he started, it was considered a fanciful ambition; 3,211 speeches later, America finally affirmed the absolute and categorical imperative to oppose genocide in an 83-11 vote."

The Xoff Files: "The stories about Bill Proxmire ... all say he was a maverick, and he was. But more than that, he was a character. He was quirky. He was eccentric. On some things, he was a fanatic. At times, there was even a touch of the crackpot. But the people of Wisconsin liked his style. He was known nationally for his Golden Fleece Awards to spotlight and ridicule what he saw as wasteful spending, but he was almost as well-known for his hair transplant and his fanatic exercise and diet regimens. ... Former staffers tell of Proxmire batting out his own press releases on a typewriter in the Senate office. And they recall his insistence on prompt attention to constituent letters, and how [he] might stop at a staffer's desk and ask to see the oldest unanswered letter."

The Needle Man: "In more than two decades, Proxmire did not travel abroad on Senate business, and he returned more than $900,000 from his office allowances to the treasury. He repeatedly sparked his colleagues' ire by opposing salary increases, fighting against such Senate 'perks' as a new gym in the Hart office building. ... Even so, his reputation was that of a workaholic, and even his strongest critics found him to be one of the chamber's most disciplined, intelligent and persistent members. He held the longest unbroken record in the history of the Senate for roll call votes."

POGO Blog: "Although he used the press to draw the public's attention to some of the more egregious abuses of the public, the more telling stories about his concern for the public were ones that never made it to the press. Two examples: During the Vietnam war, he would regularly go out to Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospital to visit with wounded soldiers, but we were under strict orders not to let anyone in the press know about it because
he thought it might embarrass the wounded and he wanted to keep doing it. The second, and funnier, story occurred during the Cuban missile crisis, when the Wisconsin National Guard was nationalized and sent to Oregon. The office kept getting complaints that there were inadequate blankets and intolerable food, even for the Army. Well Prox, being Prox, decided to investigate and, without telling anyone, got on a plane to Oregon. ... That afternoon truckloads of unavailable blankets started arriving, more than enough to double the normal allotment of blankets for the troops and, surprisingly, the quality of the food improved, too. Can you imagine any of the current senators doing that?"

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