- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 2, 2007

RICHMOND — Former Sen. Fred Thompson yesterday said there is a giant disconnect between voters and politicians in Washington and that the immigration bill is the chief reason.

Speaking to Virginia Republicans, Mr. Thompson, who is considering a run for president, drew a standing ovation when he said voters don’t believe Washington politicians when they claim they are trying to secure the border as part of the bill.

“You’ve got to secure the border first, before you do anything,” he said. “The members say it’s right here in this bill: the border. The response is, ‘We don’t care what’s on a piece of paper — secure the border.’ This piece of paper doesn’t secure the border.”

Mr. Thompson said the new bill is “the same deal” offered in the 1986 amnesty — legalization of illegal aliens in exchange for border security — but said Americans won’t be fooled again. He also said the program is unworkable because it relies on an already overworked immigration service to process millions of new applications.

Immigration is a sharp dividing line among Republicans and their presidential candidates. Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, is a key backer of the immigration bill and is highlighting it as part of his campaign, while former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is opposing the bill and running ads arguing for border security.

The former U.S. senator from Tennessee was greeted with a minute-long standing ovation by the 400 Republicans at a dinner that raised $110,000 for the state Republican Party.

Last week, Mr. Thompson took the first step to run for president, forming a “testing the waters” committee to allow him to hire staff and raise funds.

He has spent the last month laying the groundwork and delivering speeches, including one to the Lincoln Club of Orange County, Calif., and another closed-door speech to top conservative leaders last month.

Polls show barely half of Republicans across the nation are happy with their current prospects for president, and the enthusiasm for a Thompson campaign was clear from the Republicans here.

He touched on his service with Virginia’s senior Republican, Sen. John W. Warner, noting the two had fought together in the Senate to try to keep key military technology away from China.

He had a warning for the federal courts, urging them to show restraint and respect the Constitution.

“If they continue to act like politicians, the American people are going to start treating them like politicians, and that’s not good news for them,” he said.

Mr. Thompson began with a heavy dose of self-deprecating humor, noting that he left Washington after eight years as a senator because he longed for “the realism of Hollywood.”

He also jokingly apologized to the capital of the Confederacy for his recent stint as President Ulysses S. Grant in HBO’s movie “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”

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