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December 15, 2005 1:07 PM   Subscribe

William Proxmire dead at 90. The senator from Wisconsin was famous for the Golden Fleece Award
posted by fixedgear (21 comments total)

 
I read "The Return of William Proxmire" in 1996. A year later, I met Senator Proxmire in the Capitol Subway and we had a brief conversation; about ten seconds after we parted ways I remembered the story and since then have always regretted not asking him what he thought of it. :(
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:32 PM on December 15, 2005


Rats.
posted by pracowity at 1:34 PM on December 15, 2005


I always had mixed feelings about him. On the one hand, I appreciated his zeal as a fiscal watchdog; OTOH, he tended to gun for a lot of projects that i thought were cool...
posted by lodurr at 1:55 PM on December 15, 2005


he tended to gun for a lot of projects that i thought were cool

yeah, it's not all "five hundred dollar hammers" and "nine hundred dollar toilet seats" (standard right wing bludgeons that came into popular lore through proxmire). standing against "pork" is a cheap way to get publicity. everything is pork in one way or another. john mccain has taken up the proxmire legacy by opposing a lot of really good (many of them environmental) projects in the name of slash and burn populism.
posted by 3.2.3 at 2:28 PM on December 15, 2005


Damn, you beat me to it Optimus.
posted by Captaintripps at 2:38 PM on December 15, 2005


Wikipedia:
From 1967 until 1986, Proxmire gave daily speeches noting the necessity of ratifying The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. After giving this speech every day that the Senate was in session for 20 years, resulting in 3,211 speeches, the convention was ratified by the U.S. Senate by a vote on 83-11 on February 11, 1986.
posted by pracowity at 2:39 PM on December 15, 2005




Thanks for that, OC—I just read the story through the magic of Search Inside the Book. Nice touch at the end, with the author's note about sending it to Heinlein.

I have no opinion on the real-life Proxmire, I'm afraid. I'll turn in my MeFi badge at the door.
posted by languagehat at 2:44 PM on December 15, 2005


I'm glad you posted that Pracowity, Proximire was a legend in standing up for the ratification cause. Its too bad that what was ratified watered down the original intent, but Proxmire still nevertheless stands out as being a steadfast icon.

Could you imagine talking for 3000 days about one subject and still finding originality in what you are saying?
posted by phyrewerx at 3:22 PM on December 15, 2005


I always wondered how much taxpayer money was spent on research for the Golden Fleece awards.
posted by forrest at 3:36 PM on December 15, 2005


Remember when some congresspeople cared about a balanced budget?
posted by bardic at 3:42 PM on December 15, 2005


I also know nothing about the man, but I already like him better than nearly every other senator I do know anything about.
posted by MrZero at 3:48 PM on December 15, 2005


.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 5:50 PM on December 15, 2005


.
posted by amberglow at 5:55 PM on December 15, 2005


On the one hand, I appreciated his zeal as a fiscal watchdog

...except when it was his ox being gored. He was real big on dairy price supports, go figure. And I'd be willing to bet that he worked for more billions in dairy price supports (imposing even more unaccounted costs to the public through the inevitable distortive effects as well) than he ever complained about in his Golden Fleece awards. All sizzle, no steak.

The sort of crap he specialized in really irks me, especially because an awful lot of the things he bitched about were scientific research projects that could be made to sound silly (and another serious chunk, like the $400 hammer, were lies or distortions).

It's a shame for his family and people who liked him that he died, same as for anyone, but still.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:46 PM on December 15, 2005


.
posted by drezdn at 10:27 PM on December 15, 2005


...except when it was his ox being gored.

Everyone has faults, blind spots, especially when it comes to supporting things close to home. He was an unusual mix. He was vain -- face lifts and so on -- but he wore cheap suits because he was such a cheap bastard remarkably frugal. If he spent 200 dollars on his election campaign, he thought he was overspending. He was a Democrat with a strong conservative streak, a Democrat against abortion and for Rehnquist. Because he didn't toe the party line, he had detractors on the left and on the right.

But overall he was better than almost any senator I've seen, better at being a senator and doing what a senator should do. He was strong on civil rights and human rights and labor rights, strongly against the war in Vietnam, and strong on spending your money frugally and conscientiously, on keeping an eye out for politicians who, given other people's money to spend, are always trying to pull crazy stuff just because they can.

He was probably pretty vain about being known as the guy who tried to keep everyone honest. I wouldn't have blamed him.
posted by pracowity at 1:18 AM on December 16, 2005


strong on spending your money frugally and conscientiously, on keeping an eye out for politicians who, given other people's money to spend, are always trying to pull crazy stuff just because they can

That's just it. He wasn't.

He was strong on spending my money with wild, drunken abandon on dairy farmers. And, I'd be willing to bet, on other agricultural programs that he needed to vote for to keep the dairy money flowing.

And he was strong on paying people to find smallish projects that could be made to sound silly, useless, or embarrassing, even when those projects had been rigorously peer-reviewed.

Bitching about research projects and the odd bit of defense contracting doesn't make you frugal. Nor does it make you particularly brave as a politician. Fighting against agricultural subsidies or ranching subsidies or highway spending or other programs that cost tens of billions of dollars every year and have powerful interests behind them might make you frugal or brave, but not his Golden Fleece list. That was just advertising for Proxmire.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:16 AM on December 16, 2005


He opposed abortion and school busing.

Anyone want to take that one for me?
posted by zach4000 at 7:08 AM on December 16, 2005


.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 7:10 AM on December 16, 2005


Pracowity, his was actually hawkish on the Vietnam war until 1970 (at least according to NPR).

He definitely had his faults, but he also seemed like a remarkably intelligent politician.

As for Dairy Pork, well, America needs to kick something back to the Wisconsin farmers as the US needs to insure that the finest milks and cheeses in the country continue to be made.
posted by drezdn at 11:25 PM on December 16, 2005


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