Thompson’s record in perspective
The editorial “How conservative is Fred Thompson?” (Saturday) implies that former Sen. Fred Thompson’s voting record calls into question his conservative bona fides vis-a-vis his Republican colleagues during his eight-year Senate tenure. It compares Mr. Thompson to his Tennessee colleague, former Sen. Bill Frist, and analogizes the Volunteer State duo to the North Carolina team of former Sens. Jesse Helms and John East.
Despite minor differences between the Tar Heel tandem, as a legal intern to Mr. East (known as “Helms on wheels” due to his handicap), I can attest that theirs was a distinction without a difference. Similarly, Mr. Thompson was a millimeter to the left of Mr. Frist. I fail to see the point of such quibbling. It’s like debating the merits of Sophia Loren versus Kim Novak.
The editorial cites several well-regarded indices of conservative purity — such as the American Conservative Union rating and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to show that Mr. Thompson was not in the top echelon of Senate conservatives. But which of those conservatives are running for the presidency? Of the two — Sens. John McCain and Sam Brownback — most conservatives don’t view the former as a conservative despite his lifetime ACU rating of 82.3, because he is deficient on most of the key issues of our time — taxes, immigration, judges and free speech. In contrast, Mr.. Brownback is right on most of these issues, but lacks in persona and charisma what Mr. McCain lacks in philosophy.
Does The Times really believe that any one of the “second-tier” candidates whose ACU ratings it cites (in addition to Mr. Brownback, Reps. Duncan Hunter, Tom Tancredo and Ron Paul) have a snowball’s chance? According to the June 19 Rasmussen poll, Messrs. Paul, Tancredo and Hunter (along with Tommy Thompson and Jim Gilmore) combined for less than 3 percent support, and Mr. Brownback 2 percent.
What the editorial fails to recognize is that just as important as ideology are intangibles such as leadership, charisma and the ability to command sufficient respect from interest group leaders in order to make a credible run. One should judge neither a book by its cover nor a candidate solely by his ACU rating. More important than a cumulative ranking on 20 votes is a candidate’s positions on the crucial issues — not, for example, our trade policy vis-a-vis Lithuania.
The editorial also questions Mr. Thompson’s conservative credentials due to his vote for McCain-Feingold, citing a George Will column claiming that he continues to support that bill. This differs from comments I’ve heard from Mr. Thompson, in which he acknowledges that it hasn’t worked and that perhaps the entire campaign-finance regime should be scrapped in lieu of instantaneous disclosure with massive fines for violations.
The conservative movement is at a crossroads, and is in dire need of leadership to help the Republican Party and the country get back on track. To do so, we need one who holds core, traditional conservative principles, and who has the persona/charisma to command respect as a credible candidate. Each trait is indispensable to a successful GOP candidacy as a gun and bullet are to a triumphant hunt. Then-Gov. Ronald Reagan had his abortion “issue” while a presidential candidate; Mr. Thompson has his McCain-Feingold.
In 1980, conservatives accepted that Mr. Reagan had an epiphany and had matured on abortion. In 2008, conservatives must forgive Mr. Thompson his faux pas on limiting political speech, accept his explanation of having seen the light and coalesce around him if we are to pre-empt a return of the two-headed monster otherwise known as the Clinton presidency.
Embryonic stem-cell hype
Arnie Levitt makes a very flawed analogy in comparing embryonic stem cells to soldiers (“The stem-cell debate,” Letters, Friday). Every one of our courageous men and women in uniform volunteered for the hazardous duty they undertake. No one ever asked an embryo to volunteer to be killed to donate stem cells.
Mr. Levitt asks: “ ’Lives?’ These stem cells have no human lives and never will.” Dead cells cannot be used for anything. To be of value, they must be living. They are human (what else could the product of two human parents be but human?), and they are living. Therefore, they are human life. Therefore, when stem cells are harvested from an embryo, a human life is taken. I would remind Mr. Levitt that at one time, he too was an embryo. So was each one of us.