Ronald Reagan vs. Barack Obama; a matter of life and death

Ronald Reagan vs. Barack Obama; a matter of life and death

Phil Boehmke

 

Today we celebrate the Ronald Reagan Centennial. Revisionists on the left
have been busy reinterpreting and recasting the life of President Reagan in an
attempt to explain his continued popularity. Time magazine photo-shopped President Reagan with his hand on Barack Obama’s
shoulder for last week’s cover in a curious attempt to link the two polar
opposites.
The gulf that separates Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama cannot be bridged by
media hype and superficial comparisons. Perhaps no issue defines the differences
between President Reagan and Mr. Obama more closely than their views on
abortion. Last month Barack Obama marked the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade by
re-affirming his unyielding support of abortion. During his lack-luster career
in the Illinois Senate, Mr. Obama revealed his extreme and radical pro-abortion
agenda.
On March 30, 2001, Obama was the only Illinois senator who rose to speak
against a bill that would have protected babies who survive late-term
labor-induced abortions…Obama rose to object that if the bill passed, and a
nine-month-old fetus survived a late-term labor-induced abortion was deemed to
be a person who had the right to live, then the law would “forbid abortions to
take place.” Obama further explained the equal protection clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment does not allow somebody to kill a child, so if the law
deemed a child who survived a late-term abortion had a right to live, “then this
would be an anti-abortion statute.” [1]
In stark contrast to Mr. Obama’s radical views on abortion, Ronald Reagan
as a Christian, believed in the sanctity of life and sought ways to educate and
convince pro-abortion supporters to consider the rights of the unborn. In The
Reagan Diaries the president relates that he had received a wire from a woman in
Peoria, Il in response to his State of the Union speech. The woman was unhappy
with his stance on abortion and felt that he wanted to take away her freedom of
choice. Rather than write a response, President Reagan called her on the
telephone and explained that “there were 2 people‘s rights involved in
abortion-the mother‘s & the unborn child.” After what he termed “a nice
visit,” the woman promised to give the matter further thought. Ronald Reagan
noted that “I think I made a friend.” [2]
During his presidency Ronald Reagan was impressed with the new ultra-sound
procedure and predicted that the new technology would have a powerful impact on
the abortion issue. In a meeting with leaders from the Right to Life movement he
viewed a short film which showed an ultra-sound of an actual abortion being
performed. President Reagan related that the Doctor who had performed the
abortion (and some 10,000 others) was so moved by the evidence that he joined
the pro-life movement. He wrote in his diary “The movie (28 minutes long) was
most impressive & how anyone could deny that the fetus is a living human
being is beyond me.” [3]
Of course President Reagan never met Barack Obama. Standing in stark and
bloody contrast to Ronald Reagan, Mr. Obama was never swayed by evidence which
would assert that a fetus is “a living human being.”
More than once, Obama heard Illinois nurse Jill Stanek testify before the
Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee, relating the following story of an aborted
Down syndrome baby who survived a late-term induced-labor abortion and was
abandoned in the hospital’s Soiled Utility Room because the baby’s parents did
not want to hold him. “I couldn’t bear the thought of this child lying alone in
a Soiled Utility Room,” Stanek testified before Obama’s committee in the
Illinois Senate. “So I cradled him and rocked him for the 45 minutes that he
lived.” Stanek reported Obama was “unfazed” by the testimony. [4]
Ronald Reagan embraced life and had a confident and simple way of
expressing the importance of each life. On July 6, 1983 he wrote:
Nancy’s Birthday! Life would be miserable if there wasn’t a Nancy’s
birthday. What if she’d never been born. I don’t want to think about that.
[5]
On Ronald Reagan’s 100th Birthday if we pause to ask, what if he had never
been born? The response would clearly be, “I don’t want to think about that.”
The United States of America was truly blessed to have had President Ronald
Reagan at the helm for eight wonderful years.
[1] Jerome Corsi, The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of
Personality (New York: Threshold Editions, 2008), p. 238.
[2] Douglas Brinkley Editor, The Reagan Diaries (New York: HarperCollins,
2007), p. 217-8.
[3] Ibid., p. 296.
[4] Corsi, The Obama Nation, p. 238.
[5] Brinkley, The Reagan Diaries, p. 164.
February 6, 2010

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The Role Model: What Obama Sees in Reagan

The Role Model: What Obama Sees in Reagan

By Michael Scherer and Michael Duffy
In May 2010, Barack Obama invited a small group of presidential historians to the White House for a working supper in the Family Dining Room. It was the second time he’d had the group in since taking office, and as he sat down across the table from his wife Michelle, the President pressed his guests for lessons from his predecessors. But as the conversation progressed, it became clear to several in the room that Obama seemed less interested in talking about Lincoln’s team of rivals or Kennedy’s Camelot than the accomplishments of an amiable conservative named Ronald Reagan, who had sparked a revolution three decades earlier when he arrived in the Oval Office. Obama and Reagan share a number of gifts but virtually no priorities. And yet Obama was clearly impressed by the way Reagan had transformed Americans’ attitude about government. The 44th President regarded the 40th, said one participant, as a vital “point of reference.” Douglas Brinkley, who edited Reagan’s diaries and attended the May dinner, left with a clear impression that Obama had found a role model. “There are policies, and there is persona, and a lot can be told by persona,” he says. “Obama is approaching the job in a Reaganesque fashion.”
When Obama stood before Congress, the Cabinet and the American people to deliver his second State of the Union address, both the Reagan persona and policies put in appearances. He proposed a freeze in discretionary spending and federal salaries, a push to simplify the tax code and billions in cuts to the defense budget, and he made new calls for a bipartisan effort to repair Social Security.  Each of these had been proposed before by another third-year President coming off a midterm defeat in a period of high unemployment. “Let us, in these next two years — men and women of both parties, every political shade — concentrate on the long-range, bipartisan responsibilities of government,” Reagan said in his 1983 State of the Union, “not the short-range or short-term temptations of partisan politics.”(See Reagan in TIME’s top 10 memorable debate moments.)
At a glance, it’s hard to imagine a President who had less in common with Reagan than the Ivy League lawyer from Hawaii who seeks larger federal investments, a bigger social safety net and new regulations for Wall Street and Big Oil. But under the surface, there is no mistaking Obama’s increasing reliance on his predecessor’s career as a helpful template for his own. Since the November elections, Obama has brought corporate executives into the White House, reached out to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and made compromise his new watchword. He signed a surprise $858 billion tax cut that would have made Reagan weep with joy and huddled with Reagan’s former White House chief of staff Ken Duberstein for lessons learned when the Gipper governed amid economic troubles. Over the Christmas break, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs tweeted that Obama was reading a Reagan biography, and just to confirm the bond, Obama recently wrote an homage to Reagan for USA Today. “Reagan recognized the American people’s hunger for accountability and change,” Obama wrote, conferring on Reagan two of his most cherished political slogans.(See “From Actor to Politician: 1966, Ronald Reagan’s Pivotal Year.”)
Every man who occupies the Oval Office discovers that the place is haunted — by both the achievements and the failures of his predecessors. It is only natural for them to ask, How will I stack up? Where will history rank me? And do I really belong here with the likes of Washington, Jefferson and all the rest? LBJ worried constantly about Eisenhower’s opinion. Reagan often modeled himself in style on Franklin Delano Roosevelt, for whom he cast his first vote for President, in 1932. George H.W. Bush asked himself, Can I be another Teddy Roosevelt? When George W. Bush was asked after his first term whether he thought more or less highly of any of his predecessors, he replied that having sat in the chair himself, he thought more highly of all of them.
Obama’s affection for Reagan’s political style carries with it a clear self-interest. White House aides gaze fondly at the arc of the Reagan presidency in part because they pray Obama’s will mirror it. Both men entered office in wave elections in which the political center made a historic shift. Both faced deep economic downturns with spiking unemployment in their first term. Both relied heavily on the power of oratory. “Our hope,” admits Gibbs, “is the story ends the same way.” (Read “The Reagan Revelation.”)
What Reagan Taught Obama
In many ways, the Gipper gave Obama his start. Obama’s first public political act occurred on Feb. 18, 1981, just 29 days after Reagan took the oath of office in Washington. The 19-year-old sophomore, who had just abandoned the nickname Barry for his birth name Barack, climbed onto an outdoor stage at Occidental College to urge his school to divest from companies doing business in apartheid South Africa. “There’s a struggle going on,” he called out. “I say, there’s a struggle going on.” As he spoke, Reagan was already laying the groundwork to shift U.S. policy on South Africa in the opposite direction, giving cover to the all-white government under a policy called constructive engagement. (Comment on this story.)
In the years that followed, Reagan would come to epitomize all that Obama opposed. Reagan cut social spending in America’s cities, backed what Obama called “death squads” in El Salvador and began to build what Obama regarded as an “ill conceived” missile-defense shield. “I personally came of age during the Reagan presidency,” Obama wrote later, recalling the classroom debates in his courses on international affairs. When he graduated from Columbia in 1983, Obama decided to become a community organizer. “I’d pronounce the need for change,” Obama wrote in his memoir. “Change in the White House, where Reagan and his minions were carrying on their dirty deeds.” A decade later, he was still at it, leading a 1992 Illinois voter-registration effort aimed at breaking the Reagan coalition’s hold on his state’s electoral votes.

But in Obama’s story line, Reagan has been more than just the antagonist. As the 1980s rolled on and Obama matured, Reagan became a model for leadership. The attraction was less substantive than stylistic and instinctive. Both had strong mothers and dysfunctional fathers. Both prided themselves on bringing people together. Obama even conceded that he sometimes felt the emotional pull of Reagan’s vision. “I understood his appeal,” Obama recalled in his second book, The Audacity of Hope. “Reagan spoke to America’s longing for order, our need to believe that we are not simply subject to blind, impersonal forces but that we can shape our individual and collective destinies.” The Great Communicator, it seems, had struck a chord.
This admiration stayed with Obama after he rose to the U.S. Senate and as he weighed a run at the White House. In late 2006, his top strategist, David Axelrod, laid out an Obama-as-Reagan theory of the race. “I remember talking about the fact that this had the potential to be one of those big-change elections like 1980,” Axelrod says now. “The Republican project seemed to have run out of gas.” Axelrod believed the political pendulum, which had swung left with the New Deal and had been reversed by Reagan, was once again reaching the end of its arc. (See Patti Davis on her father Ronald Reagan’s best qualities.)
Among Obama loyalists, the Reagan theory was received wisdom, and for political reasons it was closely held. In January 2008, Obama broke cover. “I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that, you know, Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not,” Obama told a newspaper editorial board in Nevada. “He tapped into what people were already feeling, which is, We want clarity, we want optimism.” Obama’s comments inflamed the Democratic left (not to mention the Clinton operation), but his aides thought little of it at the time. “I basically told headquarters, ‘Sorry I didn’t call this in,'” remembers Gibbs, who was traveling with Obama at the time. “I had just heard him say this so many times.”
In the 2008 general election, Obama’s aides saw their challenge as the same one Reagan faced against Jimmy Carter: a need to demonstrate authority and credibility to the American people, many of whom thought Reagan might not be suitable as Commander in Chief. While Reagan solidified his support in a televised debate with Carter, Obama did it by outmaneuvering John McCain with his far steadier handling of the financial collapse. Obama’s campaign team even sought for a time to stage an event at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, where Reagan made history.
Theory into Practice
Shortly after the election, reporters Dan Balz and Haynes Johnson asked Obama if he thought his victory marked the end of the Reagan era. “What Reagan ushered in was a skepticism toward government solutions to every problem,” Obama said. “I don’t think that has changed.” But then he went on to say he believed his election would spell “an end to the knee-jerk reaction toward the New Deal and Big Government.” In Obama’s mind, his election was not an endorsement of the outsize government role that Reagan battled — bureaucratic, ever expanding, self-interested — but a cry for government that could carry out its basic missions more effectively. “I think what you’re seeing is a correction to the correction,” Obama explained. (See Reagan in TIME’s top 10 political defections.)

That’s not the sort of slogan that fits easily on a bumper sticker. One reason was that, unlike Reagan’s, Obama’s central theme remains somewhat mysterious. No one was unclear about Reagan’s guiding philosophy: “Government is the problem,” he declared on his Inauguration Day, and by then he had been saying it for nearly 20 years. Obama’s is more complex. He wants to reset the public’s attitude toward government, reverse 30 years of skepticism and mistrust and usher in a new era in which government solutions are again seen as part of the answer to the nation’s ills. But the yearlong health care debate only reminded Americans of government’s tendency to slow things down, muddle the choices and perhaps make them more expensive. A September Gallup poll found that 7 in 10 Americans had a negative impression of the federal government; they used words like too big, confused and corrupt to describe it. Obama’s signature initiative, a vast expansion of the federal role in health care, has mostly polled under 50% since mid-2009.
Yet even the midterm wipeout has become part of the borrowed Reagan script. For months, aides like Axelrod warned Obama to expect a drop in the polls like the one Reagan suffered during the 1982 recession. Reagan “wasn’t the Great Communicator then,” notes one senior Obama aide. Just as Reagan’s revolutionary agenda coincided with a historic recession, massive unemployment and a humbling defeat in the 1982 midterms, the story went, Obama’s new spending programs coincided with a historic recession, deep unemployment and midterms that cost the Democrats control of Congress. As the 2010 elections approached, White House aides struggled to recast press expectations in the mold of Reagan’s early struggles. “The most analogous election to the midterms probably isn’t the environment Clinton faced in 1994,” argued communications director Dan Pfeiffer. “It’s the one Reagan faced in 1982.”

This is where the Obama-Reagan comparison begins to break down. Lou Cannon, who wrote the Reagan biography that Obama read on vacation, points out that economic growth in the U.S. in the four quarters following the 1982 elections averaged a steroidal 7%. Most economists expect the U.S. economy to grow no more than half as fast this year. “If you were to say to anyone now that the U.S. would have a 7% growth rate in 2011, they would be writing the second Inaugural speech already,” says Cannon.
Duberstein, Reagan’s chief of staff, believes that Obama and Reagan share some traits: both loners more than backslappers, both heavily reliant on their spouses, both more trusting of their instincts than their advisers. But the 44th President has some ways to go before matching the 40th in the communications department. “Obama for the first two years has tried to forge a consensus in Washington,” Duberstein says. “He needs to take a page from Reagan and forge a consensus in America. Let his aides worry about the back and forth in D.C. He needs to be communicating with the American people.” (See TIME’s 2004 appreciation piece on Reagan.)
When Obama’s Jan. 25 speech soared highest, it streaked far above Washington’s often pointless political skirmishes and spoke directly to the nation’s pride. “As contentious and frustrating and messy as our democracy can sometimes be,” the President said, “I know there isn’t a person here who would trade places with any other nation on earth.”

Right Guard: Reagan fashioned a revolution that was positive and optimistic and found approval among both Republicans and Democrats

New Centrist: Chastened by voters in November, Obama is leading his team back toward the middle
Blessed by Weakened Rivals
Historians have noticed that Obama’s current situation shares one other similarity with the dark days of the Reagan era: the eroding unity of their opponents. Democrats were splitting in two in the early 1980s, into a labor-backed left and a new group of moderates who wanted to move the party to the center. Today, Obama faces a Republican Party that is struggling to reconcile its traditional, business-friendly wing and the upstart, impatient Tea Party faction. The split is starting to be distracting for the GOP. After Obama’s speech, Republicans came back with two responses — one from the party’s leadership and one from a junior Congresswoman from Minnesota, Michele Bachmann, under the Tea Party banner. Bachmann said she did not intend “to compete with the official Republican remarks,” but that was exactly the effect. “It was problematic and confusing for the Republican Party,” says Mark McKinnon, a former strategist for John McCain. When reporters asked McCain about the Bachmann rebuttal, he said with a wink, “It’s a free country.”
Reagan’s fiercest defenders naturally are suspicious about Obama’s bromance with Reagan. “He’s been trying to unspool everything Reagan stood for,” says one old hand. Nor is the Reagan role model something the President can really boast about to his nervous allies on the left. Obama will not take part in the 100th birthday celebration for Reagan at Simi Valley, Calif., in early March, though he may have something to contribute when a black-tie gala is held in Washington later this spring. (See TIME’s photo-essay “Ronald Reagan’s Fulcrum Year: 1966.”)
Obama invited Nancy Reagan to the White House 19 months ago, when he signed legislation creating a commission to plan for her husband’s centennial. The meeting was cordial and generous on both sides. Nancy and Michelle Obama had lunch. Nancy, who in her ninth decade retains a healthy sense of humor, didn’t miss a chance to point out one difference between Obama and her late husband. “You’re a lefty,” she said as Obama inked the Reagan commission into law.
“I am a lefty,” Obama replied. A lefty who wants to be remembered just like Ronnie.

Sarah Palin: Remembering D-Day

Sarah Palin: Remembering D-Day

Remembering D-Day
 Today at 12:15pm
Today, on the 66th Anniversary of D-Day, let’s remember the courage and sacrifice of our Greatest Generation whose actions helped liberate a continent. I’d like to share with you excerpts from President Reagan’s beautiful speech on the 40th Anniversary of D-Day honoring the Rangers who took the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc:

“Behind me is a memorial that symbolizes the Ranger daggers that were thrust into the top of these cliffs. And before me are the men who put them here. These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war. Gentlemen, I look at you and I think of the words of Stephen Spender’s poem. You are men who in your “lives fought for life and left the vivid air singed with your honor.”….

Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here. You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet, you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief. It was loyalty and love.

The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead, or on the next. It was the deep knowledge — and pray God we have not lost it — that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.

You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One’s country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.” – Ronald Reagan

May we never forget the sacrifices made for liberty.

– Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin’s Reagan Qualities

Sarah Palin’s Reagan Qualities

By Steve Flesher

Sarah Palin has taken the country by storm, electrifying the grassroots conservative movement in a way no Republican presidential or vice-presidential candidate has been able to in a very long time. 
The last person responsible for uniting grassroots conservatives to such an energizing degree was the great conservative himself, Ronald Wilson Reagan. Reagan was the grassroots rebel to the mainstream media in a weary America — entrenched in weak national defense and poor economic leadership, which barely withstood four years of Jimmy Carter. Come the end of 1979, fifty-two Americans had been held hostage by Islamic militants for 444 days, unemployment was through the roof, and national inflation rested in the double-digits.
As in the Carter era, Americans of every stripe are beginning to feel that weariness again. This is clear from a tremendous growth in unemployment, which correlates with president Obama’s diminished approval ratings in his first year — described by Gallup as “the largest [drop] … ever measured for an elected president between the second and third quarters of his term, dating back to 1953.”
In addition to the immense-yet-strangely-encouraging disapproval of Sarah Palin among the media, Hollywood celebrities, and every liberal, Palin also finds herself at the editorial mercy of “conservative pundits” like Kathleen Parker — or David Brooks of the New York Times, who proclaimed to George Stephanopoulos on the November 15th episode of “This Week” that Sarah Palin is “a joke.”
Brooks, who used to be a liberal, was also responsible for parodying conservative pundit William Buckley, Jr. Naturally, one wonders how much attention Brooks actually paid to the 1980 presidential campaign. 
As is the case with first-generation immigrants like Arianna Huffington and George Soros, who come to America with an immediate desire to reform it, many conservatives are suspicious of liberal-to-conservative “converts” who enter their side of the aisle with a drive to dictate how to change it.
Moreover, while some progressive types scramble to suddenly defend Reagan conservatism by writing articles titled “Sarah Palin is NOT the new Reagan,” the life stories of Reagan and Palin contradict their theories by revealing stark similarities between these two fascinating Americans.
Reagan and Palin were raised with similar values, attended similar schools, had similar competitive interests, and embarked on authentic, gradual segues into public service, with an undeniable connection to conservative Americans. 
Just like Ronald Reagan, Sarah Palin was born in a small town. Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois, while Palin debuted in Sandpoint, Idaho — both in February. As a youngster, Reagan had a job as a lifeguard and developed an enriched passion for competitive sports — particularly football — in high school. Sarah worked with her family, getting up with her father on many early mornings to hunt for the family’s meat supply. In high school, she became known as “Barracuda” on the basketball court, and she eventually led her team to the state championship. 
Just like Ronald Reagan, Sarah Palin never attended an Ivy League college. Reagan chose Eureka College in Eureka, Illinois, while Sarah Palin attended local and state-level universities. Both obtained bachelor’s degrees and sought work as sportscasters — Reagan for the University of Iowa, Palin for local Anchorage news station.
Just like Ronald Reagan, Sarah Palin got involved in politics by taking small steps. Reagan began writing speeches (which often espoused political messages supporting pro-business conservatism) while working for General Electric. Sarah Palin got involved with her local PTA and ran for city council of her small town because she was concerned about how her tax dollars were being spent. 
Just as Ronald Reagan did, Palin contains an instantly recognizable honesty factor among the grassroots. Through honesty, both politicians’ careers in public service continued to escalate in small but definitive steps. 
Though he was honest and had good intentions, Ronald Reagan was dropped from General Electric as his speeches continued to grow more effective and persuasive. Identically, Sarah Palin made a large handful of political enemies in both parties in Alaska when, with the people’s best interest at heart, she took on the same type of establishment politicians and opinions which continue to criticize her to this day.
Two years after his dismissal from General Electric, and in the same year Sarah Palin was born, Ronald Reagan kicked off the start of his enormous grassroots influence on a national level by giving his famed “Barry Goldwater” speech in 1964. Similarly, Sarah Palin remained impressively modest while giving one of the most powerful and effective speeches of all time during the 2008 Republican National Convention. 
Just like Reagan, Sarah Palin was able to demonstrate how one lives and learns through personal moments of grievance and despair. Last year, the mainstream media went wild over Sarah Palin upon learning about her daughter’s pregnancy during the same time she was being vetted by the McCain campaign. With Ronald Reagan, liberals in the media took aim at the fact that he was “the only divorced president.” 
Just like Reagan, Sarah Palin had been out of the country only a limited amount of times before running for national office. Even during Reagan’s service to his country, his nearsightedness kept him from serving overseas
Liberals and Republicans alike declared Ronald Reagan unqualified to be president, especially after Gerald Ford beat him for the Republican nomination in 1976. Even after four years of Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford himself remarked as late as March 1979 that Reagan was “unelectable.”
Gerald Ford is not the only member of a previously-failed presidential campaign to make such a proclamation. Just last month, Steve Schmidt, who headed the losing McCain ticket, claimed that Palin would not be “a winning candidate” for president.
With the release of Palin’s Going Rogue this month, Nielsen reports Palin selling an astonishing 469,000 copies in the book’s first week of release. This trounces Obama’s The Audacity of Hope, which sold 67,000 in the same period. On her nationwide book tour, Palin is reaching out to the masses and once again drawing record crowds — and her grassroots fame gave Oprah her highest ratings in two years.
Just like Reagan, Palin continues to plow through her opposition, remaining successful by holding onto the nationwide support she had from last year while growing an entire base of new admirers from the bottom up. With the left and the elite Republicans scrambling for their best anti-Palin rhetoric while she innocuously sells her book, one wonders what they will come up with if she ever does run for president.
Most importantly, given classic Reagan history, and while some in the media ponder whether Sarah Palin will ever get support from Washington’s beltway, all grassroots conservatives seem to be energized by the obvious: She never needed it.

Page Printed from: http://www.americanthinker.com/2009/12/sarah_palins_reagan_qualities.html at December 03, 2009 – 08:45:55 AM EST

Michael Reagan On Palin: Welcome Back, Dad

Reagan’s men are backing – an actor

Reagan’s men are backing – an actor
Telegraph.co.uk ^ | 4/29/07 | Tim Shipman

Posted on 04/28/2007 4:34:10 PM PDT by Politicalmom

Ronald Reagan’s closest allies are throwing their weight behind the White House bid by the late president’s fellow actor, Fred Thompson.

The film star and former Republican senator from Tennessee will this week use a speech in the heart of Reagan country, in southern California, to woo party bigwigs in what insiders say is the next step in his coming out as a candidate.

Fred Thompson, Reagan’s men are backing – an actor Fred Thompson’s character in Law and Order is ‘the president all Americans want’

A key figure in the Reagan inner circle has now given his seal of approval to Mr Thompson, best known as a star of the television crime drama Law and Order.

As deputy chief of staff, Michael Deaver was a key member of the “troika” of aides who kept the Reagan White House on track. With the chief of staff James Baker and special assistant Ed Meese, he was the master of image and presentation.

Mr Deaver sees the same raw material in Mr Thompson as was perceived in Ronald Reagan, describing him as someone “that could really make a difference”. He added: “He is very popular in his party. He could change this whole thing and turn this primary system upside down.

“As Ronald Reagan used to say, after he stole a line from Al Jolson, ‘Stay tuned, you ain’t seen nothing yet’.”

Mr Thompson’s political and acting careers have been closely interwoven for more than 20 years. He originally worked as a lawyer and -Republican campaign -manager, and was a key legal counsel in the Watergate scandal in the Seventies

He was then asked to play himself in a 1985 film about a real-life judicial corruption scandal in Tennessee, supposedly because the producers could not find a professional actor who could portray him plausibly. That launched his acting career, which he has maintained alongside stints as a senator and continued Republican campaigning. advertisement

He has been a popular choice for on-screen authority figures, playing variously a White House chief of staff, a CIA boss, a highly placed FBI agent, and a senator. As one New York Times critic noted: “When Hollywood directors need someone who can personify governmental power, they often turn to him.”

Mr Deaver voiced the view of many Republicans that the current crop of declared candidates is unsatisfactory. Of the front runner, the former New York mayor Rudi Giuliani, he said: “His popularity may be a mile wide and an inch deep. I’m sure that lead will shrink.”

Mr Deaver’s intervention is significant. He is very close to Mr Reagan’s widow, Nancy, and is seen as the keeper of the Reagan flame.

Clark Judge, a White House speechwriter for Mr Reagan, said: “Fred Thompson, like Ronald Reagan, is a man of tremendous substance. There is a sense in the party that none of the candidates is quite ‘it’.”

Mr Reagan, he said, had “embodied the mission of the party – entrepreneurial growth, limited government and a strong national defence. Whoever can bring that mission into this age will be the nominee. And it may be Fred Thompson.” Roger Stone, who was a Reagan campaign strategist, said: “The president Americans want is, in fact, the guy they see on Law and Order: wise, thoughtful, deliberative, confident without the cockiness of George W Bush, urbane yet country. Fred Thompson communicates all those virtues.”

In 1965, when Mr Reagan, then the host of the television show Death Valley Days, was considering whether to enter politics, members of the Lincoln Club in Orange County persuaded him to run for governor of California.

On Friday Mr Thompson will address the 45th annual dinner of the Lincoln Club, which is billed as the “largest and most active political club in the United States.” The invitation was one that other Republican candidates had tried to secure.

The club includes some of California’s richest businessmen – a necessity if you need to raise $20 million quickly in order to compete with Mr Giuliani, John McCain and Mitt Romney. The club found $100,000 for the 2003 campaign to oust California’s Democrat governor, Gray Davis, which helped Arnold Schwarzenegger into the post.

Mr Thompson has shown that he recognises the importance of assuming the Reagan mantle. He is on record as saying: “Ronald Reagan believed in something. How much we need that today. He showed what can be done if you have the will to push for tough choices, and the ability to ask the people to accept them.”

Mr Reagan himself, asked whether his training as an actor had prepared him for the presidency, once replied: “I don’t see how any fellow that wasn’t an actor could do this job.”

Americans need not wait for Mr Thompson to win next year’s election to see him in the Oval Office. He plays President Ulysses S Grant in the film, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, which opens next month.

Fred Thompson auditions for the leading role.

From the Courthouse
to the White House

Fred Thompson auditions for the leading role.
by Stephen F. Hayes
04/23/2007, Volume 012, Issue 30

A strange thing happened a few weeks back when I went to the Café Promenade at the Mayflower Hotel for an off-the-record interview with an unpaid adviser to the non-campaign of unannounced presidential candidate Fred Thompson.

Fred Thompson showed up.

Thompson was there to have lunch with Ed Gillespie, former chairman of the Republican National Committee and a powerhouse consultant with ties to the White House. The two men worked together in the fall of 2005 on the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee John Roberts. Thompson had invited Gillespie to lunch to discuss a potential presidential bid.

On March 11, just a week before, Thompson had appeared on Fox News Sunday and told Chris Wallace that he was giving “serious consideration” to running for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. Ever since, advisers on other campaigns have tried to figure out how he’ll affect the race if he runs.

Several patrons in the restaurant recognized Thompson. One well-dressed man with thick white hair approached him for an autograph. It’s possible that this man wanted the autograph because Thompson served for eight years as a senator from Tennessee. But it’s more likely that he wanted a memento of the day he ate at the same restaurant as Arthur Branch, the sagacious district attorney on Law & Order; Law & Order: Special Victims Unit; Law & Order: Criminal Intent; Law & Order: Trial by Jury; and Conviction, a spin-off of, well, you can probably guess. The same man returned to the table twice more. Each time Thompson put his conversation on hold and graciously tolerated the interruption.

After an hour, Thompson and Gillespie–currently chairman of the Republican party of Virginia–rose and left the restaurant. Ten minutes later, Thompson walked back in with former senator Bill Frist. They were led to a different table, but Thompson’s waitress was the same. She laughed as she took his new order. Thompson says this second lunch was unplanned. Although he and Frist talk daily, the two Tennesseans met this time by chance. Finding they both had gaps in their schedules, they spent the next two hours at Café Promenade talking about a Fred Thompson for President campaign.

There is some discontent among Republicans with the current choices for the party’s nominee in 2008. The complaints are well known: Senator John McCain, the maverick Republican, is too much maverick and not enough Republican. Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani is thought to be too willful and too liberal: He recently suggested he would allow his new wife to attend cabinet meetings and reaffirmed his support for federal funding of abortion. Mitt Romney seems pleasant and competent, but pleasant and competent doesn’t beat Hillary Clinton. Senator Sam Brownback is unknown and uncharismatic. And former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee is from Arkansas.

According to an adviser to one of the leading candidates, the rationale for a Thompson run is best illustrated–as so many things are–by The Simpsons. In one episode, Homer Simpson’s civic-minded neighbor Ned Flanders tells a large crowd of fellow Springfield citizens that they must choose someone to lead an anticrime campaign in the town.

“Who should lead the group?”

“You,” shouts a man from the crowd. The entire mob begins to chant.

“Flanders! Flanders! Flanders!”

When Flanders humbly begins to explain that he doesn’t have much experience in such matters, Moe the Bartender cuts him off.

“Someone else!”

The crowd joins in.

“Someone else! Someone else! Someone else!”

One obvious advantage Fred Thompson has is that he’s someone else.

In recent Republican presidential preference polls, Thompson tends to run third, behind Giuliani and McCain but ahead of Romney and the rest of the field. In a Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll released last week, Thompson came in second, just ahead of McCain, with support from 15 percent of those surveyed. In late March, Thompson won a straw poll of Republicans in conservative Gwinnett County, Georgia, earning more votes than all of the other candidates combined. And Iowa Republican party executive director Chuck Laudner told the Washington Times, “He’s the biggest buzz in the state.”

Representative Zach Wamp, a fellow Tennesseean who is running an effort to “Draft Fred,” tells me he expects 60 congressional Republicans to show up early next week at a meet-and-greet with Thompson. Mark Corallo, who has volunteered to answer press inquiries for Thompson, has been getting dozens of calls each day–not only from reporters, but from Republicans around the country who have seen his name in the newspaper and tracked him down at his private consulting firm to sign up for a Thompson campaign. Politicians are reaching out to Bill Frist to offer their support. Says Frist: “I have governors who have called me, fundraisers I’ve known from my days as majority leader who are ready to go.”

All of this, for a candidate who has not yet announced for anything.

Last week, I went to Thompson’s home in the verdant Washington suburb of McLean, Virginia, to talk to him about his prospective presidential run. We spoke for more than four hours about his life in Tennessee, his family, his acting career, his foray into politics, and his future.

I was 30 minutes late. Thompson, who was on the phone with Howard Baker, his political mentor, didn’t seem to care. He hung up, extended his large hand, offered a friendly greeting, and led me to his office. We were alone. Thompson’s work space looks just like what the home office of a successful politician or CEO should look like–though a little messier: a large desk, dark wood, leather furniture, lots of books and magazines and newspapers, a flat-screen TV, and box upon box of cigars–Montecristos from Havana.

The presence of the cigars and the absence of a press chaperone were clues that Thompson is taking a different approach to his potential candidacy. A campaign flack would have insisted on hiding the cigars–Senator, how did you get those Cuban cigars? Isn’t there a trade embargo?–and might have dampened Thompson’s natural candor. On subjects ranging from Social Security to abortion, the CIA and to Iran, there would be lots of candor over the next several hours.

And by the end of the conversation, two unexpected realities had emerged. If he joins the race for the Republican nomination, and if he campaigns the same way he spoke to me last week, Fred Thompson, a mild-mannered, slow-talking southern gentleman, will run as the politically aggressive conservative that George W. Bush hasn’t been for four years. And the actor in the race could well be the most authentic personality in the field.

Thompson seems to recognize that he wins the guy-I’d-want-to-get-a-beer-with primary the moment he announces. He comes across as a regular guy–“folksy” will be the political cliché that attaches to his candidacy–and punctuates explanations of his positions with the kind of off-the-cuff homespun witticisms that Dan Rather spent a career trying to come up with.

We sat facing each other in leather armchairs, and after some small talk I asked him what life was like growing up in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. He began talking, and about 30 minutes later it was already 1994 and he was about to be elected to the U.S. Senate. I’d tried to interrupt with questions here and there, but he had a story he was determined to tell.

It’s a good story. Thompson was born in Alabama and lived for most of his young life in Middle Tennessee. His father sold used cars and his mother took care of the house. Neither one graduated from high school, although Thompson’s father earned his high school equivalency certificate later in life. His family ate dinner every night at 6:00 P.M. “It was like clockwork,” he says. Thompson was not a great student in high school. At one point, he says, several of his teachers worked together to strip him of the title given to him by a vote of his peers–Most Athletic–because his grades were substandard. His father was something of a jokester, but also when necessary a disciplinarian.

“I grew up not having anything to live up to from an economic or professional standpoint, but having a lot to live up to from a growing-up and becoming-a-man standpoint,” says Thompson.

That example would be important at a young age. Thompson married his high school sweetheart at 17, and together they enrolled at Memphis State University, where he studied philosophy and political science. Thompson worked several jobs to put himself through college and support a growing family.

“I sold clothing,” he says. “I sold shoes. I sold baby shoes. I sold ladies shoes. I worked in a factory.”

His wife’s uncle and grandfather were both lawyers, and Thompson says he wanted to live up to the professional standards of her family. The law school at Vanderbilt University had seemed an unattainable goal for an underachieving high school student from a family without means. But it was a goal nonetheless. Thompson got serious academically as an undergraduate, and won admission.

Once a lawyer, he had a brief stint with the U.S. attorney’s office, then went into private practice–“hung out my shingle,” he says–and volunteered to work for Howard Baker’s reelection campaign for Senate in 1972. Shortly after Baker returned to Washington he asked Thompson to join him for what he thought would be a short-term project. A special committee had been established to look into the Committee to Reelect President Richard M. Nixon, and Baker, the panel’s top Republican, asked Thompson to serve as minority counsel. Thompson could often be seen at Baker’s side as the investigation grew from a routine oversight hearing into the proceedings that would cause a president to resign. Thompson, who wrote a book about his experiences called At That Point in Time: The Inside Story of the Senate Watergate Committee, asked the question that led to the revelation of the White House taping systems. “Mr. Butterfield, are you aware of the installation of any listening devices in the Oval Office of the President?” And Thompson is often credited with feeding Baker the line that would become one of the most famous of an era: “What did the president know and when did he know it?”

Thompson says he passed up several offers with big Washington law firms to return to Nashville, where he entered a private practice with two law school classmates. He took the case of Marie Ragghianti, the head of Tennessee’s Parole and Pardons Board. Ragghianti had grown concerned about what she saw as a pattern of suspicious pardons ordered from the office of Governor Ray Blanton. Her suspicions were later confirmed and Blanton was forced from office in a cash-for-clemency scandal that continued until his last day.

Peter Maas, author of Serpico, turned Marie Ragghianti’s story into a book creatively titled Marie and published in 1983. Director Roger Donaldson bought the movie rights and came to Nashville to interview the major players. After meeting Thompson, Donaldson asked him if he’d like to play himself in the movie. Thompson agreed.

Over the next two decades, Thompson would appear in dozens of films and television shows as a character actor, often one who personifies government strength. It is a role that seems to fit. “Literally, I don’t think Fred ever acts,” says Tom Ingram, a longtime friend from Tennessee who now serves as chief of staff to Senator Lamar Alexander. “He played himself in Marie, and he’s been playing himself ever since.”

When Donaldson needed someone to play the role of CIA director in his next film, No Way Out, he turned to Thompson. A string of movies followed: The Hunt for Red October, Days of Thunder, Die Hard 2, Curly Sue, Cape Fear, In the Line of Fire. And there were cameo appearances on TV’s Matlock and later Sex and the City.

Thompson never moved to Hollywood, choosing to stay in Tennessee, where he continued to practice law and remained involved in Republican politics. When Al Gore was elected vice president, Tennessee’s Democratic governor, Ned McWherter, appointed one of his top advisers to serve until the 1994 elections, when a replacement would be elected to fill the final two years of Gore’s term. Thompson’s name came up early, and eventually, in July 1993, he filed papers for an exploratory committee.

Thompson knew from the beginning that it would be a difficult race. His opponent was Jim Cooper, a popular conservative Democrat who had developed a national reputation as a legislative expert on health care, widely considered one of the country’s most important issues. Thompson started the race well behind Cooper. He told the Memphis Commercial-Appeal that he was a moderate Republican. The reporter who interviewed Thompson described him as “pro-choice,” but noted that he supported restrictions on abortion at the state level and opposed federal funding. (A 1994 story in National Review also described Thompson as pro-choice.)

In a poll taken in February 1994, 36 percent of those surveyed said they would vote for Cooper, while just 17 percent supported Thompson. The Hotline, a Washington-based digest on campaigns and elections, reported the poll results under the headline: “They Know Thompson’s Face, But Not His Name.” It would prove to be an accurate diagnosis of Thompson’s difficulties.

“For a year, I didn’t scratch,” Thompson says, looking back.

At the low point, Thompson met at a Cracker Barrel with Ingram. Thompson told his friend that he wasn’t having any fun campaigning and was pessimistic about his chances to win. He was considering dropping out. Thompson had had it with the rubber-chicken Republican dinners and the rigors of campaigning across the state. “Fred was beleaguered by the traditional way of running for office,” Ingram remembers. “He was expressing his misery over things.”

Ingram had a question for Thompson: What would you do if you ran the way you wanted to run? Thompson thought for a minute, then said he’d shed as much of the campaign apparatus as possible and drive around the state in a pick-up truck. Ingram suggested he do just that, and Thompson thought it a good recommendation. Thompson would soon be known for his red pick-up truck. Cooper’s campaign complained that it was a Hollywood-style gimmick designed to make Thompson look down to earth, and it surely was that. “But it was more than a device,” Ingram insists. “It made Fred comfortable as a candidate. He felt liberated to just be himself.”

Thompson ran on a strong small-government–even antigovernment–message. “America’s government is bringing America down, and the only thing that can change that is a return to the basics,” he said. “We will get back to basics and make the sacrifices and once again amaze the world at how, in America, ordinary people can do very extraordinary things.” Thompson emphasized issues that would appeal to disaffected voters–making laws apply to the members of Congress who pass them; congressional pay raises; entitlement reform.

It was a message that began to resonate. Two months before the election, a poll by national Republicans put the race dead even. And as Thompson increased his advertising–allowing voters to put his famous face together with his name–he took the lead, and it grew. “Some people knew me and knew my face, but I started out 20 points behind” he says. “I just had to work at it until I raised enough money to go on television and then I went up pretty fast.” Cooper asked for and was given free air-time for his ads after stations played movies starring Thompson. But it was too late.

Thompson won 61 percent of the vote, Cooper just 39 percent. Part of the explanation was that Thompson was swept along in the historic Republican tide of 1994. But Cooper would later say that he’d underestimated the political importance of Thompson’s film career. “He was in so many movies,” Cooper told the Nashville Tennesseean in 2002. “I should have been more worried than I was because that is a powerful way to present yourself to the public.”

Thompson’s new colleagues in Washington immediately tried to capitalize on his ability to communicate. Bob Dole, recently elevated to Senate majority leader, picked Thompson to present the televised Republican response to a national address by President Bill Clinton.

On Christmas Day, 1994, Thompson was a guest on ABC’s This Week. Sam Donaldson opened the interview by telling viewers that while they might not know the name Fred Thompson, they might recognize his face. “I want to just show people how accomplished you are, because if they have been sitting at home saying, ‘You know, I know this guy, I know this guy,’ there’s a reason,” he said, before playing clips of the actor.

Thompson was at his most self-deprecating. “When they needed some middle-aged guy who’d work cheap, they’d call me for a little part and I’d go out there two or three weeks and knock one out,” he explained to Donaldson.

Donaldson asked Thompson why he was chosen to give the GOP response to Clinton. “I want to keep boring in on this question of–perhaps you were chosen because the Republican leaders said, ‘Fred Thompson is not just another pretty face.’ I mean, Fred Thompson–”

“That’s for sure.”

Then Donaldson asked Thompson about presidential politics. “Who are the Republicans going to put up to run for the presidency in two years?”

“I think that it’s going to be wide open,” Thompson replied. “I think that there’s at least a half a dozen people out there. There might be someone that hasn’t been mentioned.”

“Let me give you a name,” Donaldson pressed. “Let me give you a name: Fred Thompson. Senator Fred Thompson.”

Thompson found the suggestion amusing. “There’s one thing, I think, for certain that I’ve observed around here over the period of time that I’ve been here, and watching all this for years, and that is when people come to town, somewhere along the line, if they do anything at all, if they’re shown to be able to put one foot in front of the other, they’re mentioned for the national ticket. So now you’ve mentioned me, and I appreciate it, so we can move on to more serious topics.”

Thompson had not yet been sworn in.

In eight years in the Senate, Thompson developed a reputation for an independent streak, yet he compiled a voting record more conservative than one might expect of one who had described himself as a moderate in his first campaign. Over the course of his time in Congress he earned a lifetime rating by the American Conservative Union of 86 percent. He was not quite as conservative (using 2002 numbers) as Rick Santorum (87), Strom Thurmond (91), Trent Lott (93), or Jesse Helms (99), but more conservative than Arlen Specter (42), Olympia Snowe (52), John Warner (82), and John McCain (84).

His voting record suggests a strong belief in federalism. Thompson was frequently a lonely voice opposing the federalization of what in his view were state issues. His unwillingness to compromise on that principle even put him on the losing end of a 99-to-1 vote on the so-called Good Samaritan law, legislation that protected individuals from being sued if their good faith efforts to help someone in distress were unsuccessful. He thought it should have been left to the states.

Thompson also served as chairman of the Senate Government Relations Committee, which he used to investigate fundraising irregularities in the 1996 presidential election cycle. Republicans had high hopes that Thompson’s inquiry would add to the political difficulties of the Clinton White House stemming from its malfeasance on campaign financing.

After the hearings ended, Fox News Channel’s Brit Hume described Thompson as “flying high before his hearings . . . and shot down once they started and all the way through them.”

Thompson says “the congressional investigative function is not a prosecutorial function” and acknowledges that the hearings produced “mixed result in many respects.” He believes the criticism stems from the fact that “few people went to jail.”

As Thompson considered his future, he began telling friends that he was not certain he wanted to seek reelection in 2002. He changed his mind after the attacks of September 11. Thompson, who served at the time on the Senate Intelligence Committee, announced in late September that he would run again. “Now is not the time for me to leave,” he said. “This is the way now, it’s perfectly clear, for me to contribute the most.” He spent the next several weeks traveling to churches throughout Tennessee talking about the attacks and the coming U.S. response to them.

At a hearing of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee on October 4, 2001, Thompson sounded a skeptical note about the prospect of reorganizing the federal homeland security bureaucracy. “The government, basically, cannot manage large projects very well,” he said. “Maybe we can learn from our past experience with other government agencies and other crises and things of that nature and not make the same mistakes as we go about trying to rearrange these boxes and decide who reports to who and who has what authority. And maybe we’ll take the lessons that we’ve learned from our other management problems in particular.”

Then in late January 2002, his daughter Elizabeth Panici died suddenly following a heart attack. She was only 38. Thompson’s friends say he was devastated. A month later he announced that he had changed his mind–he would not seek reelection. “I simply do not have the heart for another six-year term.”

At a press conference after his announcement, he lashed out at the media for their intrusive coverage of his private life. “Every public official has to understand that he or she is a public official and that’s the price you pay. For the most part, that’s appropriate,” he said. “That’s the price your whole family pays. There are lines to be drawn. I think it’s extremely unfortunate and uncalled for for the local newspaper to discuss the details of this. Her death obviously played in my decision, but the details of all of that, what news value does that have? Why did she have to pay that price? Why does her little five-year-old boy have to pay that price because her daddy chose to try to serve his state and his country? It’s over the line and more like the National Enquirer-type stuff than anything else.”

In his final months in the Senate, Thompson concentrated his efforts on legislation that would create the Department of Homeland Security. He fought efforts by Democrats to subject the new workforce to union and collective bargaining rules that apply to federal employees more broadly. The bill passed two weeks after the 2002 midterm elections, on a vote of 90-9.

“This is the most significant thing I’ve been involved in and certainly the most significant thing I’ve had my name on because it involves the main function of government, and that is protecting its citizens.”

More than four years later, munching on a turkey sandwich and sour cream and onion potato chips at his dining room table, he displays an unusual willingness to second-guess his own decision. After Thompson criticized the growth of bureaucracy under the new director of national intelligence, I asked him why the new bureaucracy under Department of Homeland Security is any different.

“Well, to tell you the truth, in retrospect, we may conclude that it wasn’t any different. But it got to the point where almost anything would have been an improvement,” he says. “A lot of those agencies were in and of themselves dysfunctional, so bringing them together was not going to make everybody greater. . . . But you’ve got to start somewhere and you can’t wait until everything is just right until you start coordinating. So we were kind of jumping aboard a moving train.”

It was an admirably honest appraisal of what he once pointed to as the crowning achievement of his career in Congress. As we spoke, I was struck by the fact that Thompson didn’t seem to be calibrating his answers for a presidential run. On issue after contentious issue, I got the sense from both his manner and the answers he gave me that he was just speaking extemporaneously. Many of his answers would drive a poll-watching political consultant nuts.

My suspicions were confirmed when Thompson asked at one point if he could have a transcript of our interview. “I found myself talking on some subjects that I haven’t really thought that much about,” he explained. “Oh, so this is what I think, huh?”

* Thompson says he came to respect George W. Bush during the 2000 campaign because of his plan to reform Social Security. Congressional Republicans considered the plan a political liability, and it went nowhere. Thompson says that although it was only tinkering on the margins of real reform, it was a good start. He won’t share his own plan–“I’ll roll that out at the appropriate time”–but the general principle he articulates sounds like a political risk.

“It’s based upon the proposition that granddad and grandmom will be willing to sacrifice a little bit if they feel like it helps their grandkids avoid financial disaster, and that their sacrifice is not going to be wasted down some government rathole,” he explains. “Under most plans, most good plans, you know current retirees probably would not be affected that much at all. . . . We’ve been operating under the assumption in this country that it’s the third rail and that if you talk about it, those people who are most concerned about retirement programs will kill you. I don’t think that’s true.”

* He believes that elements of the CIA were out to get Scooter Libby and his boss, Vice President Dick Cheney. Libby, though not the original leaker of the identity of CIA employee Valerie Plame, was convicted of lying and obstructing justice. “It makes me mad as the devil just to think about it,” Thompson says. He had never met Libby when he volunteered to serve on the advisory board of the Scooter Libby Legal Defense Trust. Is Libby innocent? Thompson answers with one word. “Yes.”

Do you think there will be negative political fallout from defending the convicted former chief of staff to an unpopular vice president?

“I have no idea. I have a hard time seeing it. If I’m wrong about the temperature of the American people on this, then I’m wrong about a lot of things about the American people. And we might as well find out.”

* I asked him about his vote for the Iraq war and the Bush administration’s failure to explain to the American public the real story of the prewar intelligence on Iraq. I ask Thompson how it is possible that a majority of the country believes the Bush administration lied about Iraqi WMD, when the U.S. intelligence community and the world consensus was that Saddam Hussein had these weapons.

“Part of it had to do with what has become almost a knee-jerk suspicion on the part of a lot of people with regards to anybody in authority,” he says. And then he directly faults the Bush administration. “A part of it has been the administration’s inability to sufficiently communicate the reality of the situation. It’s not just the president. . . . You have to have an organized, pervasive ability to get your message across and rebut erroneous misstatements of the history. It is amazing to me how something like this could be perceived so erroneously by so many people. Because we all
 know what the facts are. We’ve all seen the statements and the comments of Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton, and the ranking Democrat on the intelligence committee, and the list goes on and on and on.”

Thompson slips into sarcasm. “It is amazing to me how a man that they say is so dumb fooled so many real smart people. But that’s what they’re saying about Bush. Bush
 canoodled the entire Democratic establishment. Absurd on its face, and yet some people want to believe that sort of thing.”

Then he goes on to give a better defense of the White House than anything that has come out of the White House communications shop in four years.

The irony here is that intelligence services had consistently over the years understated the capabilities of enemies and potential enemies. Now, here there was unanimity among the intelligence services, some of whom are supposed to be better than ours. . . . People don’t understand intelligence. They don’t understand. It’s seldom clear. It’s often caveated. It’s sometimes flat-out wrong. Different people often have different ideas. That’s what a president is faced with. And some today would say that politically a president has got to have unanimity before he can make a choice. And then they say that if he has that unanimity, the president has to make that choice–at the same time talking about how deficient our capabilities are. But if those deficient capabilities produced a recommendation, the president of the United States and leader of the free world has to take that recommendation. That has been so faulty in the past. It’s absurd. Presidents in the future, as always, have to make a determination based on a lot of things, and intelligence is one of them. And the president not only has the right to evaluate the intelligence that he’s receiving, he has a duty to do that. He listens to the British. I mean, if history was any judge, I don’t know about now, but if the Brits tell me that there’s an [Iraqi] deal with Niger and our guys don’t know whether there was or not, I tend to rely on the Brits. I mean, those are the calls the president’s got to make, and the question is really: Which way do you want the president to lean? Caution–that it’s probably not so? When bad news is delivered, he gets mixed messages, he gets various intelligence reports of various kinds. Did you want him all balled up in all of that, you know, trying to apply some kind of a scientific equation to it for fear that somebody in an intelligence committee is going to wave it around at a hearing later on or something like that? Is that what it’s come to? If so, the world is going to be a lot more dangerous than it otherwise already is. You’ve got to exercise the authority and the responsibilities that you’ve been given. I mean, in this debate over intelligence and what it is and what it ought to be and how it’s used and all of that, you know, [it] needs to be dealt with and laid out in a way that people can understand it. . . . The next report says somebody’s got weapons of mass destruction, you know what’re we going to do with that? You know, just because history–a cat won’t sit on a hot stove twice, but he won’t sit on a cold stove either.

* He is equally blunt about Iran. Thompson says that the actions of the Iranian regime–harboring senior al Qaeda leaders, funding and training Iraqi insurgents, supplying terrorists in Iraq with devices that are killing American soldiers–are acts of war. He stops short of calling for a military response, but seems to suggest that he would be saying something different if circumstances were different.

“Unfortunately, today it can’t be considered in isolation, so you have to take into consideration our capabilities and our priorities worldwide right now. And unfortunately we’re stretched too thin.” Nonetheless, he says, the long-term objective in Iran is the same one that led to the Iraq war. “I think the bottom line with Iran is that nothing is going to change unless there is a regime change.”

* In the days since Thompson allowed that he was thinking about running for president, his views on abortion have come under scrutiny. Thompson finds the news reports from his first run for Senate perplexing.

“I have read these accounts and tried to think back 13 years ago as to what may have given rise to them. Although I don’t remember it, I must have said something to someone as I was getting my campaign started that led to a story. Apparently, another story was based upon that story, and then another was based upon that, concluding I was pro-choice.”

But, he adds: “I was interviewed and rated pro-life by the National Right to Life folks in 1994, and I had a 100 percent voting record on abortion issues while in the Senate.”

Darla St. Martin, associate executive director of National Right to Life, supports Thompson on those claims. She traveled to Tennessee in 1994 to meet with him. “I interviewed him and on all of the questions I asked him, he opposed abortion,” she told the American Spectator‘s Philip Klein.

Thompson says he thinks Roe v. Wade is bad law and should be overturned, but he says he does not support a Human Life Amendment.

One of the few times Thompson was unwilling to share his thoughts came when I asked him if he thought Rudy Giuliani was too liberal to win the Republican nomination and if Hillary Clinton could make a good president. The only question he would answer about his potential rivals concerned John McCain.

Thompson was one of four senators to support McCain in 2000 and served as the national co-chairman of his campaign. So I asked him why he’s not supporting McCain again.

“You know the old joke about–what about me? As self-centered as that sounds, and it is, that ought to be the way it is.” He adds: “Besides, you can’t predict what’s going to happen anyway, with any of them. Anybody could implode. Anybody could take off.”

Before his appearance on Fox News Sunday, Thompson called McCain to let him know that he would announce that he was seriously considering a presidential bid. The conversation was friendly. “If we do this,” he says, “we’ll remain friends and we’ll be friends after this.”

There is considerable talk among the other Republican campaigns that the Thompson boomlet is driven by little more than celebrity. Maybe. But history suggests that Thompson may actually be underpolling right now. As was the case when he ran for office in Tennessee, he has a very recognizable face but his national name identity is actually quite low.

Gallup conducted a survey in late March asking respondents an open-ended question: “What comes to your mind when you think about former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson?” Sixty-seven percent of Republicans responded that they had no opinion of Thompson or were not familiar with him. And yet he shows up in the top three choices of potential Republican nominees in most of the polling that includes his name. As voters come to associate that name with a familiar and well-liked face, and if they get to see the personable Thompson on TV, Thompson strategists assume those polling numbers can only go up.

When Thompson met with Bill Frist at the Mayflower Hotel, they had important business to discuss. More than two years ago, Thompson had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It is “indolent” lymphoma, a slow-growing form of the disease that is not usually symptomatic. If you’re going to have one of the 33 varieties of lymphoma, Thompson says, this is the one you want. “It’s easy to diagnose, easy to treat and easy to live with,” Frist, a physician, confirms. But it sounds scary, the kind of thing that might spook potential primary voters if it were disclosed by an announced candidate.

“We thought we had to get it out early,” says Frist, “in the sense that he’s going to be announcing.”

If Frist’s acknowledgment that Thompson was going to run may have been a slip, Thompson’s own words also suggest he’s running. He says he understands “how hard it is, how difficult it is, how embarrassing it is, how intrusive it is.” And he knows that as a candidate he could be subject to harsh attacks.

“That’s the least of it anymore,” he says. “It’s not pleasant, but it’s not that important anymore because you’re straight with your family, you have a level of understanding and knowledge about your family, and they with you, and with the man upstairs, and that’s that. You know, ain’t really much past that. And it kind of frees you up in a way.”

Yes, it does.

Stephen F. Hayes is a senior writer at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.

Reagan’s tear on Time’s cover

Reagan’s tear on Time’s cover

Clarice Feldman
The brilliant writer, Noemie Emery, riffing off Time’s teary Reagan cover and Karen Tumulty’s lead story explaining why he’d be crying over the state of his party, took time to review what the magazine was writing about him two decades ago. From the Weekly Standard:

And how did an era of greed, led by an out-of-touch airhead, change two decades later into a golden age, led by a prince among men? The reasons are these: First, the only times conservatives are praised in the press is when they can be used to run down other conservatives; and second, it is a general rule of the press and of the establishment that the best conservatives are those dead or retired; and the more dead or retired, the better they are. As Jonah Goldberg noted this winter when Gerald Ford died, lauded by a media that had little good to say of him while he was president, each Republican president is a fool, a bigot, and a dangerous warmonger while he is in office, responsible for sexism, racism, ageism, and general misery. Once dead, however, he acquires a Strange New Respect. In time, the jibes thrown at him are airbrushed away, and he is seen as a statesman, a true conservative, with all the best values, all the more so when compared with whatever Republican is now in office, who is seen in comparison as someone who really is dangerous, a warmonger, bigot, and fool. In their turn, Barry Goldwater, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George Bush the Elder have become harmless and loveable figures, cherished for their good humor, their prudence, and tolerance–and for their distance from today’s modern conservatives, who have run their cause into the ground.
This pattern will not alter: In a few years, when President Rudy or Commander in Chief Thompson begins knocking heads, watch out for the press to express its Strange New Respect for Bush 43, whose government was nothing if not diverse as regards race and gender, and who at least made a pretense of being compassionate. In 2027, if Time is still around, will it run a cover, showing him shedding a tear?
Wherever Reagan is today, he is doubtless not crying. We like to think he is watching the horse race, with other ex-presidents. And laughing his head off at Time

The Fred Thompson Difference

The Fred Thompson Difference

Sunday, March 18, 2007 5:21 PM

 

Last Sunday, I posted the following excerpt from the Thompson interview on Fox Sunday where Thompson explained his reason for waiting to announce a presidential run with the following:

“…the trick is to do what’s necessary to be president and become president and still deserve to be president.”

He was referring to the state of modern campaigning where nothing is so crude or dishonest or otherwise underhanded as to be considered out of bounds. Today, Real Clear Politics via Powerline News links to the following article in the Tennessean further revealing why Thompson is different from the other candidates in a very important way.

If you saw last Sunday’s interview, Thompson stated he has never knocked down doors to chase opportunities and sees running for president no differently. Doors have always seemed to open for him and good things happen when he walks throught them. If the door opens for him to run, he will probably walk through it but on his terms. It would be refreshing to put that to the test.

Imagine that, a candidate with principles. Sounds very “Reaganesque” to me. You know, the “appealing to our better angels” thing?

Fred Thompson — the next Ronald Reagan ?

Fred Thompson — the next Ronald Reagan ?

Chad Groening

A political analyst and former Democrat insider says actor and former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson is a solid conservative who would be a formidable candidate for president in 2008, should he choose to run.Thompson, who served in the U.S. Senate from 1994-2003, plays District Attorney Arthur Branch on the hit NBC series Law & Order. The former lawmaker and movie actor (In the Line of Fire, The Hunt for Red October) has actually played the role of the president of the United States during his long and accomplished career as an actor.

Now another former Tennessee senator, Howard Baker, has encouraged Thompson to make a real-life run for the office because many Republicans believe none of the top-tier GOP hopefuls are true conservatives.

Political analyst Keith Thompson says his namesake reminds him of Ronald Reagan. “He has a solid conservative voting record on issues of life, on issues of international security and national defense, the terrorism issue, the war,” says the analyst, concluding with the observation : “I don’t know of an issue that he has fallen short of in the broadly defined sort of ’Reaganesque’ conservative mantle.”

The political analyst sees both similarities and contrasts between Fred Thompson and Ronald Reagan — a.k.a. “The Great Communicator” — under whose watch the Cold War came to an end and the Berlin Wall came down.

“Like Ronald Reagan, he has chosen acting,” says Keith Thompson ; “[but] unlike Reagan, who started in acting and then turned to politics, Thompson has sort of moved back and forth between the two.” He also believes the former senator’s current role of a district attorney on Law & Order will enhance his chances.

“It’s commendable that he’s chosen to play a role and, therefore, be a role model for values relating to criminal justice, moral issues, determination of right and wrong,” the analyst observes. “Certainly that doesn’t hurt your candidacy if that role is supported by the fact that in real life you are that kind of person.”

The political pundit believes Thompson would be a formidable opponent to Senator Hillary Clinton, perhaps the leading Democratic presidential contender. But the former senator says for now, he is taking a “wait-and-see approach” on any decision about entering the fray.

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