What Will Fred Thompson Do and How Much Does it Matter?

Will Fred Thompson enter the presidential primary race or not? This has been a major question for political pundits for several months now. I think the answer is very likely to be yes, at least from all we can tell right now. I believe by Labor Day he will be an “official” candidate for the Republican nomination. A lot has been written about Fred Thompson, some favorable and some critical. This is par for the course. One thing Fred Thompson undoubtedly has, and few candidates have it, is the power to speak impressively to people in front of a camera. He is a professional, very convincing and impressive in this medium. This alone will help his candidacy I am sure.

I have no “horse” to ride politically. In fact I will not endorse a candidate since I lead a non-profit mission and believe it is wise to stay away from such endorsements for both personal and legal reasons. My views on social issues are those of a (moderate) conservative bent. I am pro-life, opposed to stem cell research on human embryos and opposed to homosexual marriage but I question the marriage amendment route. But I also believe the government, especially on a local and state level, has a responsibility to help care for its weakest and poorest citizens when private charity can not adequately do the job needed. My overall political philosophy is called “classical liberalism” (not the same as the modern political left). I believe we need to defend freedom in a number of critical areas, especially in the marketplace. I also believe we need to defend free speech and open religious expression more aggressively. And I believe we can solve many  problems by reducing the size of most governments, especially the federal government, on a very large scale.

Thompson intrigues me for several reasons. The former star of television’s “Law & Order” is a 65-year old attorney who has two children under the age of four. His wife brings her own baggage and this, combined with her good looks, feeds the gossip mills. But what is Thompson really saying about his run for the White House if he makes it? In an interview this week he was quoted as saying, “There is no reason for me to run just to be president.” I believe him. One of the frequent criticisms of Fred Thompson, the one term senator from Tennessee, was that he didn’t throw himself into politics completely. Maybe this would prove to be an asset in an odd kind of way. He seems less than ambitious about himself and when he says he will run because of what he believes the country needs it just might be true and it might resonate with people. We shall see.

In the recent interview Thompson said he would put his ideas openly before the public and see what happens. He claims to have some far-reaching ideas. From the sound of it he does. He also claims that he will step on many political toes. He says that we have fought in Iraq very poorly because we did not commit enough to the military effort and we wanted “a free ride” all along. He adds that he opposes the prescription drug benefit program that was added to a Medicare program that “is [now] going bankrupt.” Since I will be a beneficiary of these programs in only seven years I could easily say, “Leave my entitlements alone.” I actually think the numbers agree with Thompson. This program is headed for disaster and no one will likely try to touch it unless they run on this point very openly. Bill Clinton tried and failed, admitting the program was broken, and George W. Bush failed by not giving strong leadership to the issue in the first place. Thompson also thinks the FBI is incapable of doing the job correctly and repeatedly says the country faces a break down in national security, a position neither party is ready to embrace. Finally, he cites evidence from the GAO that says a long-term fiscal crisis spawned by aging Americans combined with runaway health care costs creates an unstable economic situation that must be addressed by bold and honest leadership.

So, Fred Thompson wants us to talk about national security and our coming fiscal crisis. Can he do it? I, for one, hope so. He may not be the right man for the office but if he can put these two items before the public with a “whatever may come” freedom of spirit he just might prove to be a formidable candidate. The GOP does have a real problem. Who can unite the party? Guilani has a lot of positives but he fails with the social conservatives of the GOP. Also, the party is faced with an election following an unpopular presidency. (A lot depends on what happens before the summer of 2008.) The Democrats have a very big problem with their front-runner, Senator Clinton. She has such a huge negative response, but she may offset this with the largest support from women in American history. Obama seems to have hit his peak already and Edwards, well he seems so out of touch that he only appeals to the very far left. The whole process is enough to make a political junkie stay alert, at least for a few more months.

One thing I am sure about. The next president will not be the messiah. Christians need to keep this in perspective. As presidencies go these leaders only make a very small difference in terms of their overall cultural impact upon the society and our lives. Even historians are now questioning the writing of an American history which is centered around the administrations of our various presidents, an old-school way to analyze American history. Our spiritual and moral crisis is still the issue that Christians ought to get much more serious about, without losing interest in the political process along the way. We can influence culture powerfully without having our own favorite candidate in the White House. Just consider the past fifty years or so. I will grant that certain presidents have done both good and bad and this has impacted our society. But I refuse to believe that they have been the biggest and most important factor in the overall direction of our culture. 

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