Tommy Thompson



The information presented below reflects the 2008 election season and is not representative of changes in titles, roles, or policy views expressed since then.

Tommy Thompson Former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson ended his brief run for the Republican nomination in August 2007 as a result of low fundraising and a lackluster poll performance. During his campaign, Thompson touted his record in political office, which includes four terms as governor and a term as president of the Council of State Governments. He joined the Bush cabinet in 2001 as secretary of health and human services, where he helped bring major changes to Medicare and Medicaid. In the cabinet, Thompson also chaired the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. He is now chairman of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, a consulting firm.

Thompson refrained in his campaign from weighing in on many important foreign policy issues, including North Korea and defense policy. His statements on Iran and climate change were vague, and he said the Iraqi government should decide whether the United States continues its presence there. Since abandoning his campaign, Thompson endorsed former rival Rudy Giuliani for the Republican nomination. When Giuliani dropped out of the race in January 2008, Thompson endorsed Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

Campaign Issues

U.S. Policy toward India

The former health and human services secretary has boasted of a “productive bilateral relationship” with India in the fight against HIV/AIDS. He cited funding granted for Indian scientists on AIDS vaccine research and for the expansion of “government and free market interventions in HIV, TB, and malaria treatment and prevention efforts” there.

Darshan Dhaliwal, the Indian-born head of Bulk Petroleum, has pledged to raise $1 million for the Thompson campaign.

Military Tribunals and Guantanamo Bay

Thompson says Guantanamo should remain open.

Domestic Intelligence

Thompson’s stance is unknown.


Like most of his fellow Republican candidates, Thompson does not appear to agree with the criticisms of the war on terror from Democrats like Edwards and Biden.

To win the war on terror, Thompson says, the United States must “rebuild our military,” use medical diplomacy to gain allies, and follow his “three-step plan” for Iraq, which includes allowing the Iraqi parliament to vote on whether the United States should remain there.

Democracy Promotion in the Arab World

Former Health and Human Services Secretary Thompson has said that “medical diplomacy" should be a key component of U.S. efforts to promote democracy. Writing in a 2005 Boston Globe editorial, he said medical diplomacy can be a “complement to our approach to Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Energy Policy

As governor of Wisconsin, Thompson said that his state needed “a balanced course of building more power plants and erecting more transmission lines.” As governor, Thompson initiated a partnership with the private sector to reduce energy consumption in state buildings through the use of renewable fuels, efficient lighting, cogeneration and recycling. Thompson also adopted the National Governors Association policy on Global Climate Change.

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Thompson called the U.S.-Israeli alliance “essential” in fighting terrorism.  He has not made many comments directly relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or what his policy for the region would be if he were elected. He was criticized by many pro-Israel constituents for saying in a speech that earning money is “part of the Jewish tradition."

North Korea Policy

Thompson’s stance on North Korea is unknown.

Cuba Policy

Tommy Thompson’s stance on this issue is unknown.

U.S. Policy toward China

Thompson has made few public statements on his views of China. However, in his past roles as Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) and as governor of Wisconsin, Thompson did occasionally deal with China-related issues. As HHS Secretary, Thompson and Chinese Health Minister Zhang Wenkang agreed to collaborate to stop the spread of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

As Governor of Wisconsin, Thompson declared March 20, 2001 Tibet Day in his state, in part to “commemorate the 41st Anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising against the Chinese occupation of their country.”

Defense Policy

Tommy Thompson’s stance on defense policy is unknown.


Thompson says talk of withholding funding or withdrawing forces in the short run is “shortsighted and counterproductive.” But he acknowledges the difficulties in resolving the conflict, adding: “It is unrealistic for us to believe we’re going to end these divisions and force peace upon people who do not share our goals.” Thompson supports a three-step plan: first, have the Iraqi parliament vote on whether U.S. forces should remain in Iraq; second, hold local elections in all of Iraq’s eighteen provinces; third, Iraqi oil should be split three ways, with one-third to the federal government, one-third to the territories, and one-third to the Iraqi people. This way, he argued in a May 2007 Republican debate, all Iraqis will “feel they have a stake in their government.”


As governor of Wisconsin, Thompson served as the chairman of the National Governor's Association Committee on International Trade and Foreign Relations. In 1991, he wrote an article for Business America urging his fellow governors to play a larger role in international trade.

Homeland Security

In 2002, Thompson, then-Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), praised the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, saying it “will ultimately help us improve the safety of American families in their homes and communities.”

As HHS Secretary, Thompson engaged with DHS in efforts to enhance preparedness in case of a terrorist attack, and urged Congress to pass the Project BioShield Act in a 2003 testimony before the House Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness and Response of the Committee on Homeland Security. The Project BioShield Act, which President Bush finally signed into law in 2004, allocated $5.6 billion over 10 years for the purchase of vaccines for potential bioterror weapons like smallpox and anthrax. The bill, said Thompson, would “enable the government to develop, procure, and make available countermeasures to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear agents for use in a public health emergency that affects national security.”


Thompson has been rather vague regarding his stance on Iran. He has said that through a joint diplomatic effort with NATO and the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), the United States should be able to pressure Iran to stop its nuclear activities.

Climate Change

His campaign website says the United States “must aggressively take on global warming—a goal that can be accomplished in a manner that doesn’t provide false choices between environmental stewardship and economic progress.” Other than that, however, his specific plan for confronting climate change is unknown.


Thompson is in favor of a guest worker program and “opposes amnesty or a pathway to legalization,” the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports.

United Nations

Thompson’s stance on the UN is unknown.



NCDs and an Outcome-Based Approach to Global Health

Authors: Thomas J. Bollyky, Ezekiel Emanuel, Eric Goosby, David Satcher, Donna E. Shalala, and Tommy Thompson
The Lancet

Once thought to challenge only affluent countries, cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are now the leading cause of death and disability in low-income and middle-income countries. International efforts should focus on specific NCDs and risk factors that are prevalent in poor working-age (younger than 60 years) people in low-income and middle-income countries, and for which there are low-cost interventions that can be integrated with existing global health platforms.

See more in Global; Health