Conservatives, Beware of Fred Thompson
ConservativeHQ ^ | 7-2007 | Richard A. Viguerie
He disappointed conservatives during his eight years in the Senate. Is there any reason to think this Washington insider and veteran trial lawyer would be any better as President?
The frustration of conservatives is understandable. Faced with the prospects of Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, or Mitt Romney as the next Republican presidential candidate, many are pinning their hopes on former Senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee. Could this actor-politician be the new Ronald Reagan?
Mainstream media types assure us that he is. His record suggests otherwise.
This is the second time conservatives have pinned their hopes on Thompson. When he was first elected in the Republican sweep of 1994, he was seen then as the “new Reagan”—a charismatic movie star turned politician. Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole quickly picked Thompson to give the five-minute GOP rebuttal to President Clinton’s economic address, and no less than The New York Times swooned with its headline the next morning, “A Star Is Born.”
He turned out to be a shooting star—a dazzling flash in the sky, soon gone, not there dependably, night after night, like the Big Dipper. Or, as The Tennessean later put it, “A year ago [Thompson] looked like a rising star. Today he looks more like a fading comet.”
Especially to conservatives who have taken the time to examine his record.
Rumors circulated that Thompson was lazy, uninterested in the daily grind that comes with being a Senator—and one can understand that Capitol Hill is a lot more tedious and less glamorous than a Hollywood movie lot. More important were Thompson’s failures of will and his lack of leadership on any legislation that would promote the conservative cause. Instead what little leadership we got from Thompson advanced the liberal Establishment agenda.
Failure of will: Charged with investigating the Clinton White House’s Asia fundraising scandal (“Asiagate”), Thompson managed to draw a tiny blood sample from Bill Clinton but little more. If he’s that ineffectual against an easy target like Bill Clinton at the height of his parade of scandals, why should we expect Thompson to be any more effective against, say, the other partner in the Clintons’ 20-year plan to rule the nation?
On the wrong side of the fence: The McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill, championed by Fred Thompson, is the only important piece of legislation where he played a major role. And that is not an accomplishment to be proud of as a conservative. In fact, now that he’s running for President, Thompson is trying to flip-flop on this issue. Well, he can run, but he can’t hide from his record.
Why McCain-Feingold is so important—and so bad
Never mind that it was patently unconstitutional, as the courts are starting to declare. McCain-Feingold was also, from the beginning, a sham and a lie.
Its stated purpose—its claim to being a “reform”—was that it would take big money out of politics. Well, you can see how successful it’s been! The big corporate and union lobbies are more powerful than ever, and bored billionaires with nothing else to do are eyeing the Senate and the White House as the next trophies on their mantelpieces.
No, the real purpose of “reform” legislation like McCain-Feingold is to serve as incumbent-protection laws. Establishment politicians aren’t threatened by the K Street lobbyists: they feed off them. They are threatened by grassroots organizations that keep an eye on how they vote and pass that information on to their members.
From the National Rifle Association to the Sierra Club, from Right to Left, these groups call incumbents on the carpet. So the incumbents pass laws to restrict the activities of these groups.
McCain-Feingold, the most prominent recent addition to campaign regulations, does this by prohibiting these groups from broadcasting any issue ads that refer to specific candidates for federal office in the 30 days before a primary, or 60 days before a general election.
Why were those dates chosen? Because “that’s when people are most interested in the elections,” according to Congressman Martin Meehan (D-MA), one of the law’s most ardent supporters. In other words, McCain-Feingold and similar laws are intended to silence the voices of ordinary citizens who contribute to these organizations. And they are designed to do so at exactly the times when grassroots citizens can have the greatest impact.
The real purpose of McCain-Feingold-type laws is to silence your voice in the campaign process, by placing a gag on the organizations that represent you and your views. Such measures are the gravest threat to your free speech that exist today.
And who was the only other Republican Senator to join John McCain in pushing hard for this assault on your First Amendment free speech rights? Fred Thompson. Indeed, campaign finance “reform” was the only issue on which he seemed to show any passion.
Thompson was deeply involved in writing the law, lobbied for it among his fellow Republicans, and was even inclined to call it “McCain-Feingold-Thompson.” He and McCain were able to convince only five of their fellow Republicans in the Senate—but added to the Democrats, that was enough. “You were essential to our success,” Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) told Thompson in a gushing thank-you note after passage of McCain-Feingold.