Thune praises Bush leadership

Thune praises Bush leadership Former Congressman John Thune addresses an audience in Old Main on the campus of USD Monday as a W.O. Farber Distinguished Visiting Professor. by David Lias Former Congressman John Thune told reporters in Vermillion Monday that he's made no decision yet about making a return to politics in the upcoming 2004 election.

Right now, he prefers to view happenings from the sidelines � particularly those at his daughters' sporting events.

"We'll see what happens in terms of political opportunities down the road, but today I'm happy to be going (to my daughters') track meets and soccer games," he said.

Thune, a Republican, lost one of the nation's most significant political races in 2002 by fewer than 600 votes to incumbent Sen. Tim Johnson.

The former Congressman is taking advantage of his time away from Washington to pursue other activities � he visited USD Monday as the W.O. Farber Distinguished Visiting Professor for 2003.

He's also still in the loop when it comes to keeping up with affairs in the nation's capital � even though he no longer works inside Washington's beltway.

"I've had a couple conversations with him (President Bush) and talk regularly with folks in his administration," Thune said. "Whether you agree with him or not on policy issues, I have great respect for this president, because I believe he's a principled leader."

There had been talk in local political circles that Thune would be a likely candidate for South Dakota governor in 2002. He decided, instead, to challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson at the urging of President Bush.

Thune said Monday that the White House hasn't lost interest in his political potential, despite his loss to Johnson last November.

"I have told them what I've told everybody else. Right now I'm plenty busy with other things and at some point in the future, I'll take a look and make some decisions on political opportunities in the future," he said.

Thune grew up in Murdo, and attended Biola University in La Mirada, CA, where he received his bachelor of science in business administration.

He then attended USD, earning an M.B.A. degree.

"After graduating from USD, I fully expected to be working in a financial or business setting," Thune said.

Instead, Thune went to work as a legislative assistant for U.S. Senator Jim Abdnor. In 1987, Thune began his service as a Reagan appointee at the U.S. Small Business Administration.

After serving as executive director of the S.D. Republican Party, state railroad director, and executive director of the South Dakota Municipal League, he ran for Congress in

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1996. He served in the U.S. House for six years, sticking to a pledge that he would not serve more than three terms.

Thune said Monday that he's confident that President Bush won't make some of the same mistakes his father made after Operation Desert Storm.

"I think that this president and his administration clearly learned a lesson from his father's administration. There won't be a lapse where they'll say, 'Gosh, we won a conflict in Iraq; let's enjoy that for awhile.' They are very active addressing concerns here to get the economy going again," Thune said. "The president has put forward an economic package to do that. It's in front of the Congress right now.

"I think that you will see this administration being very focused, and understanding the implications of not getting the economy going again," he said.

Thune believes Bush's leadership style and his success in defending the U.S. from terrorism will lead to long-lasting political changes.

"I think that we are on the verge of a major political realignment in this country. Because of the president's leadership in Iraq and in foreign affairs, and because of the division in the Democratic base on issues of war, it really has established in most people's minds the confidence when it comes to trusting Republicans on issues of military preparedness, foreign affairs, and national security," he said.

If Bush is equally successfully on the domestic front, Thune said, "I think that he and his political party will be very well poised to be the majority party well into this century for the next couple decades. Whoever can come up with a bold plan to get the economy growing again, expanding and creating jobs, will probably have a leg up when it comes to the 2004 elections and beyond."

Thune compared his loss to Sen. Tim Johnson last November to losing an athletic contest by a last second shot.

"When you lose by 524 votes, you can probably think of 100 things you would have done differently," he said.

Thune said his campaign laid out an agenda consistent with values and principles that he finds important and tried to bring that message to the public arena.

"What the other side effectively did is basically convince people that if you vote for John Thune, Tom Daschle isn't going to be majority leader any more," he said. "I think if people had known on Tuesday morning when they voted what they found out on Wednesday morning � that he wasn't going to be majority leader anyway � it would have had a huge impact on the election.

"That being the case, you move forward. You get the balls that are pitched to you," Thune said.

Shortly after returning to the private sector, he formed The Thune Group, a South Dakota-based company that provides advice and consulting services for S.D. organizations with health care, agricultural and transportation interests. Thune is also affiliated with Arent Fox, a law firm in Washington, DC, and served as chairman of South Dakotans for a Responsible Government, an issue advocacy group in S.D. dedicated to promoting South Dakota's values for families, broad economic growth, and a strong national defense.

He and his wife, Kimberly, are parents of two daughters, Brittany and Larissa. Both girls attend public school in Sioux Falls.

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