by Jeffrey Robbins
A great many Republicans seem to be clamoring for the believed soon-to-come July announcement from Fred D. Thompson that he will be running to become the 44th President of the United States. I don't know all the assorted reasons, but from what I read it is the obvious comparisons to Ronald Reagan that draw many into Fred's orbit. They are both actors, and like Reagan, Thompson carries a certain swagger and confidence. Perhaps there is some "outsider" appeal to Thompson as well. After all, it is rumored he quit Law & Order in light of his rumored candidacy. What many point to are his genuine conservative credentials. It is on many points that potential supporters of Fred Thompson might better serve their country by throwing support another direction.
Admittedly, Thompson has a fairly conservative voting record. Among the likes to many conservative will be: appears pro-life after votes to ban late-term abortions, voted to limit the number of appeals available on death penalty cases, voted for the balanced budget amendment, voted for increased penalties on drug offenses, voted for school vouchers in DC, appears to be pro-gun rights, votes to expand ANWR exploration, votes against a minimum wage hike, and a host of other votes will be touted to show that he is a bold and true conservative.
While he has voted in support of banning late-term abortions, some social conservatives are wary. They are circulating a clip of Thompson from a Senate floor debate in which he said he didn't support banning all abortions. "Should the government come in and criminalize, let's say, a young girl and her parents and her doctors as aiders and abettors? . . . I think not," Thompson said.
I am not sure votes FOR a balanced budget amendment should be taken to mean one has a constitutional view of spending. Why do we need to amend the Founding document to get a balanced budget? After all, when push came to shove, a balanced budget may simply mean raising taxes.
I don't like seeing an American Flag burned out of protest. However, I also don't believe a persons right to do so should be restricted (again, by voting to amend our Founding document), but Thompson voted to restrict this freedom of speech. He was being consistent though when he also backed the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Law.
He also showed his true big government core belief in voting for the large expansive step toward socialized medicine casting a vote for the Medicare Part D drug benefit plan creating a new trillion dollar liability on the backs of you, the taxpayer.
He also cast his vote with the neo-cons in voting for authorizing the President to be the sole determinant on the use of force in Iraq. Again, a circumvention of the Constitution.
This should come as no surprise as he is a Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. http://www.aei.org/scholars/filter.all/scholar_byname.asp
A perusal of this list shows he is rubbing elbows with purely Establishment Republicans. Lynne Cheney, John Bolton, Newt Gingrich, Irving Kristol, Lawrence Lindsey, and Richard Perle, among others.
Thompson is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, members of which comprise Bush's entire Cabinet. Are we to believe Thompson would appoint (or have appointed for him) a philisophically dissimilar Cabinet?
In a recent interview with the "Weekly Standard" Thompson called for "regime change" in Iran, although admittedly he didn't detail that would necessarily happen down the barrel of a gun (like the Iraq war he supports to this day).
In the 2000 election he supported Lamar Alexander until such time it was obvious Lamar was all but finished. Which staunch conservative drew not only Thompson's endorsement but also drew him as co-national campaign chair? John McCain. My favorite soundbite of Thompson on McCain is that he is "no wishy-washy conservative." Hmmm. Which way would you guess Thompson might vote on McCain-Kennedy immigration bill? McCain is the man Washington Post columnist Perry Bacon Jr. reminded us was described during the 2000 campaign by Thompson as "a man of the highest integrity and courage."
He also voted in favor of permanent favored nation trade status with China. All along the way Thompson has been a supporter of 'free trade.' However, this is ignorant of the long term design of NAFTA, CAFTA, and the like. They are really movements toward supra-regional governments such as the European Union. Anyone who supports these should draw suspicious ire at the least.
He does have a reputation to some as a maverick. He bragged in a recent column he penned for National Review of losing some votes 99-1 on the Senate floor due to his "federalist" views. He opposed bills providing funding for local police departments to buy bulletproof vests and was the only vote in the Senate against a 1997 bill that would have shielded volunteers from liability suits; he argued that both were instances of the federal government reaching into areas that should be restricted to states. Votes such as this rightfully hold sway with true conservatives.
Others will recall fondly his renting a red chevy pickup for his campaign in 1992 to serve the second half of Gore's term (elected VP in 1992 election) and campaigning on a "cut their pay and send them home" message.
He did vote against one of two impeachment charges on Clinton, arguing that perjury was not grounds for impeachment.
Thompson has remained a GOP activist along the way acting as advisor to Justice John G. Roberts Jr. during his confirmation hearings and more recently served on the advisory panel for the legal defense fund of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
Thompson backed Bush's income tax cut proposals in 2001 and while he joined McCain on votes such as McCain-Feingold, he did not join McCain and the Democrats on the Patient Bill of Rights legislation.
While I cannot speak to the rating system that the American Conservative Union uses to rank our Representatives and Senators (for instance, do they use a strict test of Constitutionality?), Thompson did score an 86 out of 100 lifetime rating, just ahead of his good friend McCain (82), but behind for instance another candidate, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan) who scored a 94.
Perhaps more reliable is "The New American" magazine's "Conservative Index" which typically had Thompson in the 70's during his time as U.S. Senator, sadly a comparatively good score if one is comparing him versus most of his peers and not against the Constitution. This magazine's ranking is based on a strict original intent "Is this Constitutional?" test to grade members of Congress. As contributor Warren Mass points out in one issue of "The New American," giving Thompson the benefit of the doubt may mean he is better suited as a potential Cabinet member for someone who follows the Constitution 100% of the time.
For comparison purposes the most recent ranking from The Conservative Index for the 109th Congress were: Sen Sam Brownback (R-Kan) at 45%, Congressman Ron Paul (R-Tex) at 100%, Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-Cal) at 42%, Sen John McCain (R-AZ) at 44%, and Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-CO) at 73%.
Thompson has long been involved in Washington DC politics. After graduation from Vanderbilt Law in 1967 he went on to become assistant U.S. Attorney from 1969-1972. He became campaign manager for Tennessee Senator Howard Baker's re-election campaign in 1972. Thereafter he was co-counsel on the Senate Watergate Committee to 1974. He worked as a lobbyist from 1975-1992 in DC, before becoming a Senator.
He recently recruited Dorinda Moss, who had served as the Midwest Regional Campaign Chair for 2004 Bush-Cheney.
Is Thompson more conservative than most Republicans in this election? Undoubtedly, yes. However, when one digs deeper at who he surrounds himself with at the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Enterprise Institute, his anti-Constitutional votes, his failure to consistently uphold the Constitution, and his longtime involvement with the Establishment, I don't believe one can honestly view a Thompson Presidency and Cabinet as one likely to uphold true conservative views, let alone the Constitution.