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Cabinet Member Misses Senator's Obit

Maybe Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt and his staff are just in denial. Or maybe they don't read the papers, thus missing the sad news that Sen. Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.) died Monday, seven months after he was diagnosed with leukemia.

Whatever the case, Leavitt's office called Thomas's office late Thursday afternoon to request a meeting with the late senator.

Needless to say, grief-stricken Thomas staffers were stunned. One aide to Thomas sent the following e-mail to a friend (both names have been redacted):

From: (Thomas staffer) <@thomas.senate.gov>
To: (Staffer's friend)
Sent: Thu Jun 07 16:49:36 2007
Subject: RE:

Oh yeah, note to Secretary Levitt's [sic] office: Senator Thomas passed on Monday, 4 June. You may want to pass that along to his staff especially after they called today to get a meeting with the late Senator.

Call me if you'd like, really unbelievable!

HHS spokeswoman Christina Pearson says she does not know who from the agency called Thomas's office to set up a meeting but she acknowledged "obviously it's a mistake." She added, "Senator Thomas is held in the highest regard by the secteray and this office. We're very sorry for their loss and very sorry if something like this did occur."

A weary-sounding spokesman for Thomas, who has been busy all week fielding calls from reporters about the senator's death and helping plan arrangements for Friday's memorial service in Wyoming, said in his best joking voice, "Well, in a meeting today with the Employee Assistance Program Counselors, they said denial is part of the grieving process."

The aide, Cameron Hardy, confirmed that the late senator's office "did get a call from HHS staff today to see whether our boss wanted to meet with nominees. HHS was following up with us because they hadn't heard from us since early May. It's been an emotional and tough week for us, so I'm sure that it wasn't taken well. However, it's not every day that a sitting senator passes away either. Thanks."

The Sleuth would like to extend deepest condolences to Thomas's family and staff, and a sincere hope that Leavitt attends the funeral.

By Mary Ann Akers  |  June 7, 2007; 7:01 PM ET
 
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Comments

Sheesh.

Posted by: Mosarf Brynmawr | June 8, 2007 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Sheesh.

Posted by: Mosarf Brynmawr | June 8, 2007 9:08 AM | Report abuse

typical brynmar intellectual comment preceeds this observation.

Posted by: jane | June 8, 2007 1:05 PM | Report abuse

This may be an honest mistake on the part of a Bush administration official, albeit pretty dumb. But there's the Bush adminstration for you. They sort of have blinders on, they do what they want to do and circumstances that may dictate otherwise may not be considered.

My condolences to Sen. Thomas' family, staff and colleagues.

Posted by: D.S. | June 8, 2007 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Boy, the GOP is really desperate for votes, aren't they?

Posted by: jurassicpork | June 10, 2007 1:44 AM | Report abuse

The Bush Administration doesn't care if you're dead, it only cares how you're going to vote.

Posted by: radlib1 | June 10, 2007 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps Mike Leavitt will sail westward and sacrifice a goat.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | June 10, 2007 6:29 PM | Report abuse

Yeah radlib1, and the Dems WANT you dead so they can make sure you vote for them.

Posted by: r man | June 11, 2007 8:05 AM | Report abuse

Oooh - trot out the fake "voter fraud" again.
The fact is that ain't happening and the U.S. Attorneys who didn't prosecute these lame cases were fired. Those who did prosecute them (Wisconsin for example) were laughed out of court when the case was reviewed and the shoddy evidence examined.

For a follow-up Mike Leavitt will meet with Mel Carnahan, who died in a 2000 plane crash but still managed to beat John Ashcroft in the Missouri Gubernatorial election.

Posted by: Greg | June 11, 2007 11:20 AM | Report abuse

This is quite typical of the Bush Administration. They don't read newspapers, they watch FOX. Apparently, FOX didn't cover Thomas' death, therefore, it never happened. This incident reminds me of something that happened a couple of weeks ago when Bush visited Grand Rapids, Michigan, a community much like Albania, where Boy George can still be greeted as a "rock star." All the time denying it was a nice photo-op, GWB decided at the last minute to swing by and see Gerald R. Ford, who is buried just outside his museum on the Grand River. The AP photo show George, wearing the same blank, dumb look that has endeared him to righties across the nation. You can imagine him wondering, "What the ...? Ford is DEAD?"

Posted by: Bob | June 11, 2007 12:03 PM | Report abuse

By the way, nice mention of Mel Carnahan, Greg. Perhaps Leavitt could also do lunch with Senator and Mrs. Paul Wellstone later. But he should check with Karl Rove for some talking points first. Only Karl knows why Carnahan and the Wellstones had to die - and how.

Posted by: Bob | June 11, 2007 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Secretary Thomas is also wondering why President Reagan isn't responding to his calls.

Posted by: Tom | June 11, 2007 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Bush's Health and Human Services department tries to set up a meeting with a recently deceased US senator? That has be front-runner for Metaphor of the Week.

Posted by: jjohannson | June 11, 2007 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Yo, Greg, I'm probably a little older than you. Chicago mayor Richard Daly's Demo machine put a president in office using voter fraud in 1960. It may be an old election, but there was nothing fake about that fraud. But when you look at the results Kennedy was more conservative than Nixon turned out to be, and significantly more conservative the the current crop of Dems. At least he understood capitalism and the negative impact of unrestrained taxation on the nation's economic well being. Oh that's right, Reagan was being Kennedyesque when he cut taxes. More lately it was Bush. How ironically appropriate that an icon of Democratic party politics had more common sense than the socialist leaning do gooders who are now doing their best to redistribute wealth in a way that will ultimately increase the ranks of the poor. But that's the voter base they want to increase to retain power. They don't really give a damn about their constituency of the poor when seen in the overall context of economic reality.

Posted by: r man | June 11, 2007 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Maybe my memory is shoddy but didn't Reagan also raise taxes quite a few times during his administration to make up for the shortfall of cutting taxes? Caused quite a recession there didn't he when he cut those taxes. Bush Sr. didn't even like that trickle down "voodoo economics" and his administration suffered from Reagan's poor economic choices.

Posted by: Bob Ross | June 11, 2007 3:42 PM | Report abuse

God, I HOPE it was an honest mistake and not an attempt to get on "Crank Yankers" or "Punk'd"...

What qualifies as "gross incompetence" to Republicans? They seem to be able to dismiss and all manner of faux pas as "honest mistakes"... disastrous wars, politicization of the Justice Department, botched disaster responses... all "honest mistakes"...

Amazing...

Posted by: keithengland | June 11, 2007 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Cribbed from "atrios": The WaPo's own David "Dean" Broder on Mike Leavitt, c. 2004 --

"I should confess that I am an unabashed Leavitt fan. For a decade, I have looked forward to interviewing him at these summer meetings of the association and to seeing him occasionally on his visits to Washington. He is one of the rare politicians from whom you always learn something new, because he is out front of most public officials in identifying and thinking through emerging policy problems."

He's not a man to let mere death stand in the way of a meeting, anyway.

Question: If Broder died, would anyone be able to tell the difference?

Posted by: sglover | June 11, 2007 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Jane, if you can't spell Brynmawr, maybe you shouldn't be spouting off about him.

Yes, it could be an oversight, but SOMEONE in that office could have read a paper, watched a news broadcast, or at least pulled up CNN. Interesting that one of Leavitt's priorities is Information Technology.

Posted by: i_told_u_so | June 12, 2007 12:02 AM | Report abuse

The story is tragically comic. It is yet another glaring example of what some see as the idiocy of the current administration and others see as well-intended mistakes. I have have very strong personal opinions about which category it falls under, but I don't think that this is an appropriate forum for harsh politcal arguments.

Regardless of your personal feelings about Sen. Thomas or Republicans in general, a man has died and a boneheaded phone call has compounded the grief of his associates. There are a lot of other message boards for attacking the bush adminstration or those who oppose bush that would be a more appropriate forum for the mudslinging that passes for political discussion in this country.

Posted by: Michael F | June 12, 2007 11:43 AM | Report abuse

r man [does it stand for righteous?]
repeats the sad story of Daley stealing
illinois for Kennedy in '60. Nixon refused to contest that result because he knew the R's in the rest of the state were just as guilty. It is always wonderful how the R's always picture themselves as guilt free and the D's as scoundrels. It must be breeding.

Posted by: joe q | June 12, 2007 6:48 PM | Report abuse

Oh, get rid of this woman, for Pete's sake. Readers deserve better than the nonsense she dishes out.

Posted by: anti-Sleuth | June 12, 2007 9:01 PM | Report abuse

Joe Q, the "r" has nothing to do with politics. When it comes to career politicians, I'm a cynic who considers them all to be likely scoundrels porking out at the public trough regardless of their ideology. They may have been bright eyed idealists in their early days but eventually they place retaining their position and power ahead of the good of their constituents or the nation and are not trustworthy. As I've said before in this blog, the failure to limit terms of office for Congress is the greatest weakness of the Constitution. The reference to Chicago in '60 was primarily a seque to my views on taxation and economic common sense.

Posted by: r man | June 14, 2007 9:18 AM | Report abuse

I have to suspect that some staffer at HHS simply was going through a list of members on a certain committee or something like that (perhaps all the offices) and didn't think to check. They probably were making a bunch of meeting requests and were doing the calls in a "The Secretary would like to visit [fill in Senator's name here] manner. The staffer would have said Senator Henry Clay if it was on the list. Honest mistake most likely since those call lists or guide books don't get updated that quickly.

Posted by: give them a break | June 21, 2007 12:05 PM | Report abuse

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