Friday, July 20, 2007

Come Clean, Fred

It’s no secret that Mitt Romney has come under fire for flip flopping on a number of issues. His critics say he comes across as a political opportunist that steered to the left for his Republican senatorial and gubernatorial races in heavily Democratic Massachusetts, only to steer right in order to run for the GOP presidential nomination. A perusal of Romney’s various positions and statements over recent years makes one want to say, “Will the real Mitt Romney please stand up?” Romney has also been accused of obfuscating on some issues.

It’s also no secret that Fred Thompson is positioning himself for the same GOP presidential nomination. Thompson certainly has a number of things going for him, but he also has some drawbacks, as I noted in this post. As of late, Thompson has been courting the flip flopper and obfuscator labels with respect to his stand on abortion.

The abortion issue is keenly important to many GOP voters, particularly those that consider themselves social conservatives.

Rudy Giuliani has been up front about his pro-choice stance. But he has argued that where the rubber really meets the road is judicial nominees. He has promised to appoint judges that are strict constructionists rather than courthouse legislators in black robes. A number of social conservatives have said that they can buy that argument. John McCain hasn’t fared as well with social conservatives with respect to his pro-choice stance. He has too much history being adversarial with them on this and other issues.

As the National Review editors point out in this article, Thompson’s stance on abortion “is cloudier than it should be.” They quickly excuse any change in position, noting that millions of Americans (including politicians) have changed their mind one way or the other on abortion over the years. But they argue that Thompson needs to give a clear picture of his thoughts on the issue.

When the LA Times recently revealed that Thompson had done lobbying work for a pro-abortion group 15 years ago, his first move was to deny it. When evidence became overwhelming, Thompson merely suggested that a lawyer can represent a client without espousing the client’s views. Sorry, Fred, but that’s going to be a tough sell for social conservatives. Highly paid lobbyist lawyers have a lot of latitude in whom they accept as clients.

Now people are starting to dig back through Thompson’s history, and it seems quite obvious from the assembled evidence that he was clearly pro-choice a dozen years ago. His senate voting record, however, has him voting “with pro-lifers almost every time.” A couple of weeks ago I heard him say in a radio interview that he was firmly pro-life and that he was opposed to federally funded embryonic stem cell research. However, the interviewer did not ask what Thompson meant by the term “pro-life.” Does he define it the same way as President Bush, or is he more relaxed?

Obfuscating on this issue simply won’t do for many social conservatives. Thompson is going to have to clearly lay it out long before the February primaries if he wants to attract members of this important constituency to his camp. It’s OK for him to say he was once pro-choice but has evolved to become pro-life. But he has to say so. And just as Romney has explained his evolution on the issue, Thompson will have to explain how his ideas on the issue have evolved. People need to hear that story if they are going to believe that he will represent their desires on this matter.

Thompson does these folksy short radio vignettes where he likes to make everything sound very simple. Well, Fred, it’s time to cut with the lawyer-lobbyist-politician speak and talk to people in a simple, straightforward way about this. The issue won’t go away until you do.


Anonymous said...

Do you ever wonder if Fred is putting his name out there to increase his popularity as a pundit rather than to actually get elected? I do.

As I look at his website it doesn't look like he's very serious. That may be another reason why he does not feel the need to make his positions clear. I guess eventually we'll know one way or the other.

Scott Hinrichs said...

That's an interesting possibility. However, some folks in the know say that he has done a lot to build a campaign organization -- the business arm that runs the campaign. It's possible that he has done this all for show. He could dance around actually announcing his candidacy for a few more months and then say, "Nah, it's not going to work for me this time."

But while he plays hide-and-seek with an actual announcement, he is also building up a following of people that see him as the conservative savior. They are turned off by the other candidates, and look to him to provide something different. In the meantime, he keeps his positions kind of opaque, speaking in general terms and avoiding hard questions.

He can only play this game to his advantage for so long. Before very many weeks, he's going to have to either jump in or cut bait.

Charles D said...

It must be quite annoying to be a member of a political party with such a weak field of candidates for the Presidency.

You have a choice between opportunists like Thompson and Romney, crooks like Guiliani, has-beens like McCain, and a handful of extremists. The party is clearly dominated by individuals who have no interest in serving the people, no love for our Constitution, and no respect for the intelligence of the American people.

Craig said...

Someone who I assume is a Democrat is accusing the Republicans of having a weak presidential field?! John Edwards alone discredits the entire party!

Charles D said...

There are a number of Democratic candidates who are a discredit to the party - basically all but Edwards and Kucinich. The rest of them are really Rockefeller Republicans - the intelligent wing of the conservative movement that was kicked out of the Republican Party years ago.

Frank Staheli said...


So I think you're saying that neither major party is worth an s-h-i-double-toothpick. If that's what you're saying, then I agree with you.

When the populace is generally more interested in Survivor, American Idol, and Deal or No Deal than they are about politics, I'm not sure what much more we collectively deserve.

Although, unless he's lying through his teeth, I like a lot of what Barack Obama stands for.

Charles D said...

Frank, you understood me perfectly.

I am cautiously optimistic that Obama is smart enough and has enough personal integrity to actually make a decent President, since it appears it's either him or Hillary and if they go for Hillary, they go without me.