A Defense of Fred Thompson
George Will has just written an interesting article suggesting that perhaps Fred Thompson is all fluff, and no substance. He goes so far as to compare Fred to the famous Holland Tulip Mania of the 1630s. The point is that Thompson Mania is basically just as ridiculous as Tulip Mania, except that the Tulip Mania produced something with aesthetic value.
Will is an excellent writer, and his writing is very good here. Unfortunately, the facts he marshals to prove his thesis are pretty weak. In fact, they are pretty much nonexistant.
He mentions Thompson's obvious personal appeal and air of sincerity. Oddly, though, Will concludes that his charm must mean that he has no real ideas. Will finishes off his evidence-free assertion by remarking that Thompson is "ninety-nine percent charm".
This makes one wonder if Will has ever read anything Thompson wrote, or listened to any of his radio commentaries. How many other candidates, before they jumped in the race, actually talked about their ideas on the radio? In front of an audience of about twenty million? Does Rudy Giuliani, who is George Will's favorite candidate, have any original ideas?
Maybe Will missed the story of how Thompson aided the Libby defense team. Or the episode where he helped prepare John Roberts for his Senate grilling. Maybe he has forgotten Fred's great response to Michael Moore's invitation to debate. George Will should read these articles, which are transcripts of Thompson's radio addresses. These articles lay out his positions clearly.
George Will does manage to make one legitimate criticism of Thompson when he quotes Thompson about the 1986 immigration bill that gave amnesty to so many illegal aliens: "Twelve million illegal immigrants later, we are now living in a nation that is beset by people who are suicidal maniacs and want to kill countless innocent men, women and children around the world." Now, that thought makes absolutely no sense, and is in fact amazing in its sheer stupidity. But what Presidential candidate hasn't had a few gaffes? Ronald Reagan once suggested that he believed that nuclear missiles, once fired, can be recalled. Rudy Giuliani once said "Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do", a statement that makes Fred Thompson's immigration declaration look like the work of Socrates.
In his last paragraph, Will for some reason concludes that Thompson bubble will burst soon. Why? All that he has managed to prove so far is that Thompson has charm and made at least one stupid gaffe. Is this going to derail Thompson's campaign?
Ironically, Will fails to mention the one thing that could block Thompson's nomination-namely, abortion. Thompson started out in politics as a pro-choice moderate, and was seen as pro-choice all the way up to 2000. National Review ran a piece discussing the possible Vice-Presidential candidates, and mentioned that Thompson was pro-choice. Thompson then contacted the National Review staff and told them that he was pro-life, which he has been up until June 6th. During an interview with Sean Hannity, he seemed to be on the verge of saying that he wouldn't criminalize abortion at the state level if he had the chance (it's a confusing clip that you can watch here). However, Hannity cut him off, saving him from saying that he was pro-abortion. At this point, interesting, no one can say for sure exactly what Thompson's position on abortion actually is.
Since Fred Thompson has not expressly said that he is pro-choice, we should give him the benefit of the doubt on that issue. Even if he was an abortion supporter, however, he would still be the most conservative of the Big Four. Giuliani is very anti-gun (he participated in lawsuits against gun manufacturers as major of New York), and is pro gay marriage has well. McCain is a liberal as well, and no one is sure what Mitt Romney's views are from day to day. While I like George Will, he is wrong on this issue.