A Tale of Two Dougs

Learned long ago that Doug Thompson is a common name. Competed against another Doug Thompson in statewide forensics competition in high school. The St. Louis area phone book listed nine Doug Thompsons when I lived there.

Learned long ago that “Doug Thompson” is a common name. Competed against another Doug Thompson in a statewide forensics competition in high school. The St. Louis area phone book listed nine Doug Thompsons when I lived there.

Ran into even more during 25 years in Washington, including one who worked on Capitol Hill at the same time. In 1987, a Doug Thompson carrying an Arizona driver’s license with my date of birth and Social Security number died in a Northwest Airlines crash in Detroit, my first brush with identity theft. We even have three Doug Thompsons in tiny Floyd County (one teaches vocational ed in high school and the other is a retired headmaster from Blue Ridge School).

A villain named Doug Thompson terrorized women in an episode of the TV series Streets of San Francisco. Doug Thompson was a character in Adam Sandler’s movie, Happy Gilmore and a character’s name on the old cable TV series Remember WENN.

Google Doug Thompson and you will find a city councilor in Canada, a Realtor in California, a race car driver in Kansas, lawyers, and college professors.

You will also find two Doug Thompsons who write political columns on the Internet. I’m one. The other lives in Arkansas and writes for the Arkansas Morning News and Arkansas News Bureau.

“I’ve never wondered aloud whether President Bush is drinking again or called him a terrorist. That’s the other Doug Thompson. He wrote in a column Saturday.  “That Doug Thompson has more readers than I ever will. He works in Washington, D.C., and started writing columns long before me. He writes with an armor-piercing directness.”

One minor correction. Used to work in Washington. Retired from that gig last year and moved permanently to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. But you know the press. We never get anything right. The other Doug writes on:

I’ve known I’m the second-fiddle Doug Thompson columnist for years, but never wrote about it. I didn’t mind much, and assumed nobody else would notice or care.

Last week, though, I started getting e-mails from people asking about “my” article claiming that Bush, who struggled with alcoholism, may be showing signs of a relapse.

The time has come to make some distinctions between the Dougs. After all, we both write columns available to everyone on the Internet. Those columns have been straightforward about the president’s shortcomings. Doug and Doug are both big guys will full beards. I’m not as gray as D.C. Doug, but I’m catching up.

One other correction. I’ve read the other Doug’s work for some time. He’s good. Damn good. Second fiddle? Hardly.

An example from a recent column about Hurricane Katrina:

This debacle also marks the death of local or state accountability. Everybody sang the praises of New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani when he took responsibility for his town. It’s all right to talk about local leaders when they do well, apparently. Fingers started pointing at Louisiana leaders only after the counterattack to defend the president began.

I can’t believe that people are defending Louisiana leaders and attacking Bush, or defending Bush and attacking Louisiana leaders. Nobody in any position of responsibility will get out of this with a clear conscience or a whole skin.

Good stuff, a brand of skeptical reporting you don’t see often enough in today’s mainstream media.

Another example:

Jesse Dirkhising was somebody’s classmate at Lincoln Middle School.

Dirkhising, 13, died in 1999 in Rogers. He suffocated while gagged, sedated, tied up and left on a mattress. Two men were convicted of rape and murder in that case.

Fewer than 100 books with sexual content, scattered along the rows in five Fayetteville school libraries, are stirring up more fuss about risks to children than Dirkhising’s death did.

It’s easy for me to sit in my mountaintop retreat and write scathing columns about national leaders. It’s another to live in a relatively small town like Fayetteville, Arkansas, and write that the problem of sexual abuse against children is more than dirty books in the school library. Towns like Fayetteville don’t take kindly to newspaper columnists who challenge preconceived notions and traditional norms. I wrote a column like that during the 60s for The Roanoke Times and the 70s for The Telegraph in Alton, Illinois, and know all too well what can happen when you take on the status quo.

I’m a regular reader of the other Doug Thompson’s columns. More than once I’ve stopped and said “damn, wish I’d said that.”

Take some time and read his stuff. You’ll be glad you did.

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