The 2008 presidential election is the most unusual and most important in many years. It’s been more than five decades since such a race didn’t feature an incumbent President or Vice President. Since World War II, America has not had a presidential election at a time when the stakes were higher. Conservatives have to win this election, and to do so, we have to identify a candidate around whom we all can rally.
We begin by recalling the profound words of Ronald Reagan at the Conservative Political Action Conference Feb. 15, 1975: “A political party cannot be all things to all people. It must represent certain fundamental beliefs which must not be compromised to political expediency or simply to swell its numbers.” We believed that then, and we believe it now. The issue for us — and for the conservative community — boils down to which of the candidates is most representative of the fundamental conservative principles we believe in. The answer is Fred Thompson.
To reach that conclusion, we looked closely at the former Tennessee senator and his opponents to judge whether they measure up to conservative standards, and their positions on the top ten issues for conservatives determined in our reader survey. Some come close to meeting those conservative standards, and others clearly do not.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona is a war hero whose personal courage sustained many of the men imprisoned with him in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton.” We honor him, but he does not honor many conservative principles. His co-authorship of the Bush-McCain-Kennedy “comprehensive immigration reform” legislation last summer ran directly against our principles of American sovereignty and national security. His position has not been ameliorated by his more recent explanations of border-security measures he might support. His opposition to the Bush tax cuts, his support for economy-strangling measures to control “global warming” and his anti-torture legislation (which didn’t make torture illegal, it already was: McCain’s law only made a clear law vague to the point of unenforceability) all cut against the conservative grain. And so did his McCain-Feingold campaign finance law with its stifling of political free speech.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is a charming and agreeable gentleman. But his support for the economically disastrous “cap-and-trade” fix for global warming is as bad as Sen. McCain’s position on the issue. The so-called “fair tax” he supports is unworkable. His tax-and-spend policies do not comport with conservative principles, but they do align all too well with Huckabee’s populist rhetoric on the injustice of corporate CEO salaries. His stance on granting special benefits to the children of illegal aliens is also very troubling. On the war, Gov. Huckabee’s understanding of the issues does not impress us. For example, he wants to close the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and move the detainees there into U.S. prisons, which — as Sen. Thompson schooled him on in a recent debate — would result in the grant of constitutional rights to terrorist detainees even though they are enemy combatants. Gov. Huckabee’s grasp of foreign policy does not make us comfortable.
Rep. Ron Paul’s limited-government rhetoric is appealing to many conservatives, but his unyielding isolationism that might have been appropriate for another era is not realistic. He would withdraw from Iraq regardless of the consequences and then pull American forces out of every other country as well. He does not believe, as we do, that America must win the war against the terrorist-sponsoring nations. We find intolerable his repeated statements that we were attacked on 9/11 because we had a presence in the Middle East. That implies that we were, in whole or in part, to blame for the attacks.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani did an admirable job bringing his city through the crisis of 9/11. Even before that terrible day, he did a commendable job cleaning up Gotham. But the mayor’s pro-abortion, pro-gun control, pro-gay rights social views are more liberal than conservative. And his foreign policy views are of considerable concern. His article in Foreign Affairs late last year seemed less conservative than neo-Wilsonian. Giuliani also said in the June 5, 2007, debate, “We need to look at nation-building as part of what we need to teach our military.” No, Mr. Mayor. We don’t.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is a closer call. We believe his relatively new pro-life position is a sincere one, but examining his record and listening to his campaign rhetoric indicate to us that he is more a problem-solver than a gut conservative. His “RomneyCare” legislation made Massachusetts the first state in the nation to impose an “individual mandate,” which requires everyone in the state to have health coverage or face significant penalties. And we have concerns about the big-government approach he took as governor, raising state “fees,” according to the Cato Institute, by $500 million and proposing two corporate tax increases totaling close to $400 million a year.
Which brings us back to Sen. Fred Thompson.
We make this endorsement on the basis of much research, having interviewed Sen. Thompson and some of his opponents, as well as examining what they have all said and done. We conclude that Thompson is a solid conservative whose judgment is grounded in our principles.
In his Senate years, Mr. Thompson compiled an American Conservative Union lifetime rating of 86.1, which is higher than both Sen. John McCain (82.3) and Rep. Ron Paul (82.3). The Club for Growth has praised Thompson as someone who has a strong commitment to limited government, free enterprise and federalist principles.
On the issues that matter most to conservatives, Sen. Thompson’s positions benefit from their clarity. He is solidly pro-life. He said that he was in favor overturning Roe v. Wade because it was “bad law and bad medical science.” As the National Right to Life Committee said in its endorsement of him Nov. 13, 2007, “The majority of this country is opposed to the vast majority of abortions, and Fred Thompson has shown in his consistent pro-life voting record in the U.S. Senate that he is part of the pro-life majority.”
Thompson’s record is solid on voting to preserve gun owners’ rights, cut taxes, reduce government spending and drill for oil in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He has voted consistently against gay marriage. Thompson is by no means perfect. He strongly supported the McCain-Feingold bill, did not support the impeachment of Bill Clinton on perjury and more than once voted with the trial lawyers against limitations on liability in defective product and medical malpractice cases.
We like the way Thompson unhesitatingly attacks the liberal ideologues and their activists such as MoveOn.org and the ACLU, and the way he reaches out to those we knew as the Reagan Democrats.
The question now is whether Sen. Thompson will do what he has not yet done: Take the advantages he is given by his intelligence, his principles, his political skills and this endorsement and make the best use of them.
As the primaries and debates speed by, we would like to see Sen. Thompson continue to invigorate his campaign to carry him successfully through Tsunami Tuesday and to nomination at the Republican convention.
Sen. Thompson, you suffer, like most conservatives, from the built-in problem of not being a professional politician. It’s precisely as Rush Limbaugh said of you: “The problem with Thompson is, and a little bit with me, is I’m a depth guy. I like depth. Television doesn’t reward depth. Television rewards zingers, one-liners, cutesyisms. Fred Thompson produced a brilliant 17-minute video that was on YouTube that explains everything about every issue that he cares about. It’s clear he’s thought deeply about a whole lot.”
In the next week, you have the opportunity to connect with the conservatives in South Carolina who will be eager to hear your message. We were encouraged when you told Iowans, “I think I know how to talk to the American people about the [Democrats] and the danger their victory would pose to the principles we hold dear.” Now is the time you have to do it.
Mayor Giuliani has offered a dozen proposals to American voters. We know, perhaps better than most, what yours are. For example, your stand on reforming the entitlement programs that threaten to bankrupt our nation is courageous and workable. You need to spell those ideas out for everyone in the plainspoken terms that connect with your core conservative constituents. We’ve publicized a list of the 10 most important issues to conservatives, ranging from illegal immigration to tax reform. You need to speak out forcefully on each of them.
We agree with Rush Limbaugh’s characterization of your December 30 video speech to Iowa voters. More speeches like that one and an ad campaign demonstrating the Reaganesque inspiring optimism we know you have could create a momentum in South Carolina that would carry far beyond its borders.
Tell us how you — rather than your opponents — would be better able to beat either New York Sen. Hillary Clinton or Illinois Sen. Barack Obama in the fall. You told the Iowans you were, but you need to tell us all now. Why you, and not Mitt or Mike or Rudy or John? Preview your fall campaign by attacking the centers of liberalism as you did in Iowa, and connect each one of them to the liberals you’ll be running against.
As you said, the Democrats are all liberals. It may not matter which candidate you run against, because they’re all a bunch of MoveOn.org-CodePink-ACLU clones.
We believe that politicians, like the rest of us, can make their own luck. In that regard, we wish you a productive and successful primary season.
—The Editors of Human Events