Thompson predicts immigration bill will fail
CHICAGO – The immigration reform bill worked out late last week by Senate Republicans and Democrats will likely fail, former senator and possible presidential candidate Fred Thompson said here Sunday.
Thompson, speaking at the National Restaurant Association annual show, said the bill will not win the support of the American people because they don’t trust senators’ promises to block illegal immigrants from crossing the Mexican border into the U.S.
“Nobody believes them. It goes to the bigger issue of the lack of credibility our government has these days,” said Thompson, who was greeted with hoots and applause from the 2,300 convention attendees who filled a ballroom at the McCormick Place convention center.
Thompson also was harshly critical of China, saying the military and economic threat the country poses is among the critical issues – along with untamed growth in entitlement spending – that are not being dealt with while the U.S. is fixated on the war in Iraq.
“I call it ‘The Day After Iraq,’ ” Thompson said. “It’s not a pretty picture.”
He said China is “making deals with every bloodthirsty dictator they can” to feed its growing economy’s need for energy.
Thompson made the meatier comments during the question-and-answer session with audience members, which followed a 45-minute tale of his path from Tennessee lawyer to Watergate prosecutor, to actor and Republican senator.
Dressed in a black suit, the towering Thompson casually leaned into the lectern and wandered away from it as he spoke in a laid-back style that was almost inaudible at times. Other times his responses were somewhat jumbled. But the crowd of restaurant professionals ate it up, giving Thompson a standing ovation as he entered and another when his remarks ended.
Kevin Mundy, who works for a Maryland restaurant company, said he thought Thompson was “being real.”
“It’s just what the country is looking for – somebody who is going to cut through the political jargon and get to the point,” Mundy said.
Rebecca Eastham, a hotel management teacher at Oklahoma State University, found Thompson “genuine and down home.”
The crowd even cheered when Thompson admitted to a questioner that he didn’t know much about Indian gaming and “wasn’t going to soft-shoe” on the issue.
Among the loudest ovations came when the possibility of Thompson running for president was mentioned.
On that subject, Thompson remained coy, while saying he was not being coy. Current speculation has Thompson making a decision in mid-June, a timetable that he did not dispute when one of his questioners suggested it.
The idea that it was too late to get into the race that now has 10 Republican candidates is “baloney,” he said.
But he conceded that, to have a chance a candidate, he must enter the race “in a decent time.”
Thompson’s next speech is scheduled for June 3 at a Virginia Republican Party gala in Richmond, two days before the next GOP presidential debate in New Hampshire.