As former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson gets ready to enter the race for president, observers marvel at how an unannounced candidate, five years out of politics, has managed to climb from nowhere to the top of several national polls.
But the reason for Mr. Thompson's meteoric rise is as plain as day: Man and moment are meeting, as has so regularly occurred in the history of this great nation. When challenges mount, these United States seem to produce the right person for the right job. Fred Thompson is that person, for the challenges that America and the free world face in the years to come.
As more and more mainstream conservative voters recognize that truth, Mr. Thompson's support grows and grows.
First, on substance, Mr. Thompson is the best and most uniquely suited among the Republican candidates for president in 2008 to re-assemble the winning Reagan coalition of social, economic, and foreign-policy conservatives. Why? Because Mr. Thompson marries the right principles, the right core beliefs, with an almost unparalleled ability to communicate those principles in direct and understandable terms. Moreover, Mr. Thompson's record shows the is a legitimate, good-government conservative, with a 35-year record to prove it.
After distinguished service as an assistant U.S. Attorney, Mr. Thompson first went to the U.S. Senate as a top staffer. Without ever selling out to the liberal media or the congressional Democratic lynch mob during the Watergate investigation, Mr. Thompson as lead counsel stood up in a dignified way for honest government. After that, he went on to help uncover massive corruption by the Tennessee's Democratic governor, which landed that governor in jail.
In 1994, against huge odds, Mr. Thompson ran for and won one of Tennessee's Senate seats by a huge margin, against a popular Democratic congressman. His vote-getting ability — he earned 60 percent of the vote in that race, and an even higher percentage two years later — is exactly what may be necessary in a year that the Republican Party is rightly worried about being able to keep leftists like Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama out of the White House.
At least equally important is that Mr. Thompson's Senate record proves his mainstream conservative bona fides. On abortion, Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America repeatedly gave him scores of zero while the National Right To Life gave him a 100 percent. On tax issues, conservative groups such as Americans for Tax Reform, the National Taxpayers Union and the National Tax Limitation Committee consistently rated Mr. Thompson in the high 80s and 90s. He consistently earned high marks from the Chamber of Commerce, small-business groups, the American Conservative Union, the American Land Rights Association, and Citizens Against Government Waste.
On military issues, he earned perfect 100 ratings from the Non-Commissioned Officers Association and the Military Officers Association of America.
Unlike the other front-runners, Fred Thompson need not pander, flip-flop or re-invent himself. Conservative voters know Fred Thompson is undeniably one of them, just by listening to him. When they hear candidates waffle, they hear Mr. Thompson talk straight. When others are vague, Mr. Thompson is direct. What voters hear from him, straight and direct, is solid conservatism — unvarnished, unapologetic and, most importantly, full of common sense.
For eight years, Sen. Thompson was a crusader for our Founding Fathers' vision of a limited government. Call him old-fashioned, but he consistently took positions in the Senate on the grounds of federalism, that some issues can be better decided by the states without federal interference.
Mr. Thompson is a friend of the National Rifle Association and he has always stood firm on protecting the Second Amendment right to bear arms. He opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants and supports protecting our borders and enforcing current laws first.
In both word and in action he has been a stalwart fighter for solidly conservative judges. He personally shepherded Chief Justice John Roberts through the minefield that is the Senate confirmation process.
Yet while Mr. Thompson is strongly conservative in word and deed, he is moderate and reassuring in bearing. When New York's Sen. Hillary Clinton unleashes the Clinton attack machine against him — and she will — those tactics will fail. Mr. Thompson will rise above the stale negative politics of the 1990s. Americans immediately know Mr. Thompson is a man they can trust, and people of good will sense in him a firm and abiding character.
I have worked in the conservative vineyards for more than two decades. I have seen sham conservatives and ambitious hucksters come and go. I know how to tell the real thing. Fred Thompson is the real thing: a leader, a conservative, a man of honor and — of utmost importance in facing the combination of Mrs. Clinton and a leftist media — a communicator and, absolutely, a winner.
Fred Thompson is the man who can unite the Republican Party and the conservative movement, and lead both, together, to victory in 2008.
David N. Bossie is the president of Citizens United and the former chief investigator for the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Government Reform and Oversight.