William Proxmire, RIP

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Last Saturday I described the late Eugene McCarthy as one of the few politicians I admired. Another one just joined Gene in the grave: William Proxmire, the esteemed porkbuster from Wisconsin. He wasn't always consistent in his war on waste—as the Associated Press's obit notes, he never did turn his guns on his constituents' beloved milk program—but as senators go, he was better than most. And I hope we can all agree that he was an improvement over his predecessor in office.

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  1. If only the Democratic party still had people like him. Imagine how effective he could have been in mobilizing his peers against something like the Highway Bill.

    If there were just a few people like him at the head of the Democratic Party, they could take on the “fiscally responsible” banner (well, not entirely, but they would at least make themselves look better than the current GOP) and crush the GOP in 2006 with an organized plan.

    But alas…

  2. I can seriously respect that, while working for the taxpayer, he actually bothered to show up for votes. Beyond that though, I’m more familiar with him trying to kill penny-ante research projects while pimping for the dairy industry.

  3. He was a lot better than SenselessBrenner, also.

  4. Who was it who wrote a short story in which Proxmire hires a scientist to perfect time travel so Robert Heinlein can be innoculated before World War II?

  5. Answered my own question: Larry Niven, “The Return of William Proxmire,” 1988.

  6. As admirable as his efforts against pork were, it would be a shame if that’s all Proxmire was remembered for. This brave man gave a speech on the floor of the Senate every day it was sitting for almost 20 years, 3000 in all, in favour of American ratification of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. He was a fighter against government waste, but his legacy is much, much larger than that.

  7. It’s too bad he considered NASA and space exploration in general as “pork”.

  8. Proxmire’s seat in the Senate was so secure, his biggest campaign expense was reputed to be for postage to send contributions BACK to the contributor.

  9. The suggestion that La Follette had been guilty of war profiteering (his investments had in fact been in a radio station), was deeply damaging and McCarthy won by 207,935 to 202,557. La Follette, deeply hurt by the false claims made against him, retired from politics, and later committed suicide.

    Talk about McCarthyism, doesn’t that comment essentially imply that Joe drove the poor man to suicide?

  10. Answered my own question: Larry Niven, “The Return of William Proxmire,” 1988

    Niven also used “to proxmire” as a verb in Fallen Angels.

  11. He wasn’t always consistent in his war on waste — as the Associated Press’s obit notes, he never did turn his guns on his constituents’ beloved milk program …

    Sadly, it would be a healthy improvement if Congressmen worried only about their own constitutents’ pork.

  12. William Proxmire was one of only 4 Senators to vote against Nixon’s Wage & Price Controls – Barry Goldwater was the only Republican to vote the same way.

    Proxmire consistenly opposed conscription and the Vietnam War, and he even spoke at the New Hampshire Libertarian Party convention. Few officeholders today exhibit the commitment to principle that Senator Proxmire showed.

  13. I read that Larry Niven story. I remember an exchange between the characters that went something like this.

    PROXMIRE: I worked to cut government waste and abuse.

    PROTAGONIST: Milk price supports.

    PROXMIRE: Without milk price supports, there are families that couldn’t afford to buy food.

    PROTAGONIST: And why is that?

    PROXMIRE: I just remembered, I don’t have to answer those questions any more. I’m retired.

  14. Let’s not forget his appearance in the dreamlife of Edith Bunker.

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