Political positions of Fred Thompson
- This article is about the former U.S. Senator, and not about the 2012 Oregon candidate for U.S. Representative in Congress, 5th District.
The political positions of Fred Thompson can be seen mainly through his actions as a Tennessee senator, and through his statements. Thompson had an 86.1 percent lifetime (1995–2002) Senate vote rating compiled by the American Conservative Union. Following are some of Thompson's remarks and positions on various issues.
- 1 Federalism
- 2 Economic policy
- 3 Social policy
- 4 Foreign policy
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Thompson said that federalism was his "lodestar" in the Senate, providing "a basis for a proper analysis of most issues: 'Is this something government should be doing? If so, at what level of government?'" Thompson viewed federalism as both a matter of good sense, as well as a feature of the federal Constitution:
Our government, under our Constitution, was established upon the principles of Federalism -- that the federal government would have limited enumerated powers and the rest would be left to the states. It not only prevented tyranny, it just made good sense. States become laboratories for democracy and experiment with different kinds of laws. One state might try one welfare reform approach, for example. Another state might try another approach. One would work and the other would not. The federal welfare reform law resulted from just this process. Federalism also allows for the diversity that exists among the country's people. Citizens of our various states have different views as to how traditional state responsibilities should be handled. This way, states compete with each other to attract people and businesses -- and that is a good thing.
Thompson's web site included a video on this subject, in which he said that, "Federalism divides power between the states and government in Washington. It is a tool to promote freedom."
In a 2007 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Thompson asserted that tax cuts mean growth: "Because of lower rates, money is being invested in our economy instead of being sheltered from the taxman. Greater investment has created overall economic strength. Job growth is robust, overcoming trouble in the housing sector; and the personal incomes of Americans at every income level are higher than they've ever been."
Appearing live on Sean Hannity's syndicated radio program on July 10, 2007, Thompson was quizzed by the host about his attitude towards the FairTax proposal, espoused by many of the conservatives in the audience. Thompson stopped short of endorsing FairTax outright, but spoke approvingly of the idea of replacing the current income tax with a consumption tax, and promised to look into it if elected. However, "he is under fire for reportedly saying he would sign legislation replacing all federal taxes with a sales tax, only to have his spokeswoman deny such a pledge." He also criticized the Internal Revenue Code as inefficient, maddeningly complex, and expensive to comply with.
Thompson supported free trade and globalization. "It works to our benefit. We innovate more and invest in that innovation better than anywhere else in the world. Same thing goes for services, which are increasingly driving our economy. Free trade and market economies have done more for freedom and prosperity than a central planner could ever dream and we're the world's best example of that."
Campaign finance reform
Thompson was initially a supporter of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance legislation, a position that many conservatives criticized him for, but has later changed his opinion, saying that parts of the legislation went too far and should be repealed.
When the bill came up for debate in the Senate on March 20, 2002, Thompson joined ten other Republicans, forty-eight Democrats, and one Independent in voting in favor of passage of the legislation. During a legal challenge of the law at the Supreme Court, Thompson filed an amicus curiae brief supporting the constitutionality of the law.
However, Thompson's opinion of the legislation changed and he conceded it had not worked as planned, saying "I'm not prepared to go there yet, but I wonder if we shouldn't just take off the limits and have full disclosure with harsh penalties for not reporting everything on the Internet immediately." Thompson thought that it was right to do away with soft money, that it was right to raise the limits on hard money, but that the limitation on political speech within 30 or 60 days of an election was wrong and the spending limits by outside groups are not working and they both should be repealed.
Thompson's original support of McCain-Feingold brought criticism from groups such as Gun Owners of America (GOA), who said that the legislation "severely limits the abilities of groups like GOA to inform the public about the gun rights voting records of politicians already in office."
Thompson supported a partial privatization plan for Social Security during the 1990s. While he did not reveal details of his Social Security plan, he said that it depended on whether current recipients would be willing to sacrifice a bit on their benefits for future generations.
Thompson described himself as pro-life, and said the legality of abortion in the United States should be determined at the state level, in accordance with his federalist viewpoint. During an interview in 2007, Thompson said:
I've always thought that Roe v. Wade was a wrong decision, that they usurped what had been the law in this country for 200 years, that it was a matter that should go back to the states. When you get back to the states, I think the states should have some leeway. I might vote against one approach, but I think the state ought to have it. And I would not be and never have been for a law that says, on the state level, if I were back in Tennessee voting on this...to criminalize a young woman....
As a policy matter, Thompson was against criminalizing young women, but says that authorities "can do whatever they want to with abortion doctors, as far as I'm concerned."
Also in 2007, he said that Roe v. Wade "was bad law and bad medical science. And the way to address that is through good judges. I don't think the court ought to wake up one day and make new social policy for the country. It's contrary to what it's been the past 200 years."
In 2000, the magazine National Review described Thompson as pro-choice based in part on Thompson's statements from 1994 and 1997. After Thompson's office called to say that he was pro-life, National Review analyzed Thompson's voting record and declared that, "Thompson is an ally of pro-lifers in all the actual fights that come up, but he's not one of them on the core issue. Unless, that is, he has changed his mind, as suggested by his current self-description as a pro-lifer."
In a 1997 letter to a constituent, Thompson wrote that he supported various restrictions on abortion but believed "that government should not interfere with individual convictions and actions in this area."
In a 1996 questionnaire from Tennesseans for Choice, Thompson responded that "states should have the right to restrict abortion as they see fit" but that he would not favor federal legislation criminalizing abortions. He further wrote, "The federal government should not interfere with individual convictions and actions in this area" but that "states should be allowed to impose various restrictions (i.e. parental notification, 24-hour waiting periods, etc.) if they so choose."
On a 1996 survey by the Christian Coalition, Thompson opposed an amendment to the U.S. Constitution "protecting the sanctity of human life." He added that "I do not believe abortion should be criminalized. This battle will be won in the hearts and souls of the American people."
Asked in 1996 by the Memphis group FLARE (Family, Life, America, Responsible Education Under God Inc.) if human life begins at conception, Thompson circled "N/A."
During an interview in July 1994 with Republican Liberty, the official newsletter of the Republican Liberty Caucus, Thompson said about abortion: "Government should stay out of it. No public financing. The ultimate decision must be made by the women. Government should treat its citizens as adults capable of making moral decisions on their own."
Also in 1994, Thompson told a Tennessee newspaper (the Conservative Spectator): "I'm not willing to support laws that prohibit early term abortions ... It comes down to whether life begins at conception. I don't know in my own mind if that is the case so I don't feel the law ought to impose that standard on other people."
- Abortions should be legal in all circumstances as long as the procedure is completed within the first trimester of the pregnancy.
- A woman under the age of 18 should be required to notify a parent or guardian before having an abortion.
- States should be allowed to impose mandatory waiting periods before abortions are performed.
- Congress should eliminate federal funding for clinics and medical facilities that provide abortion services.
- Congress should eliminate abortion services from any federally funded health care plan.
- Congress should leave legislation on this issue to the states.
Darla St. Martin of the National Right to Life Committee says that she interviewed Thompson in 1994 and "on all of the questions I asked him, he opposed abortion." She added that Thompson's voting record reinforced her view that Thompson is pro-life.
A 1993 article in the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported that Thompson supports a right to abortion but that he opposes federal funding for abortion and favors allowing states to impose limited restrictions on abortion, such as parental notification requirements for minors.
In 1991 and 1992, Thompson was paid for about 20 hours of work on behalf of a family planning group trying to ease a departmental regulation on abortion counseling in federally funded clinics. President George H.W. Bush eased the departmental regulation when he sent a memo to Health and Human Services Secretary Louis Sullivan stating that the regulation should allow women to receive referrals to facilities that perform abortion, but not to facilities whose principal business is providing abortions. With this easing of the regulation, Congress failed by 12 votes to override a veto by Bush of legislation that would have completely overturned the regulation.
Thompson voted against expanding hate crimes to include sexual orientation. He voted for the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and voted against a federal bill that would have prohibited employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
He stated that he did not support amending the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. However, "if necessary, he would support a constitutional amendment prohibiting states from imposing their laws on marriage on other states."
This was his position on civil unions:
I think that that ought to be left up to the states. I personally do not think that that is a good idea, but I believe in many of these cases where there's real dispute in the country, these things are not going to be ever resolved. People are going to have different ideas. That's why we have states. We ought to give great leeway to states and not have the federal government and not have the Supreme Court of the United States making social policy that's contrary to the traditions of this country and changing that overnight. And that's what's happened in a lot of these areas.
On gay rights, Thompson says, "I think that we ought to be a tolerant nation. I think we ought to be tolerant people. But we shouldn't set up special categories for anybody. And I'm for the rights of everybody, including gays, but not any special rights." He believes that, "marriage is between a man and a woman, and I don't believe judges ought to come along and change that."
In 1995, Thompson voted against Senate amendment 1825 to H.R. 1854 (the "Gramm Amendment") which would have banned affirmative action in the awarding of federal contracts. Thompson also voted against amendment 1826 to H.R. 1854 (the "Murray Amendment") which reaffirmed the use of affirmative action programs in federal contracts provided that the beneficiaries are qualified.
Thompson was skeptical that global warming is caused primarily by human activities. He notes that warming had been observed in several other planets in the solar system (including Mars and Jupiter). See Climate of Mars for details about this argument.
The statistics are clear. Communities that recognize and grant Second Amendment rights to responsible adults have a significantly lower incidence of violent crime than those that do not. More to the point, incarcerated criminals tell criminologists that they consider local gun laws when they decide what sort of crime they will commit, and where they will do so.
Speaking of the Virginia Tech massacre, he said: "Whenever I've seen one of those 'Gun-free Zone' signs, especially outside of a school filled with our youngest and most vulnerable citizens, I've always wondered exactly who these signs are directed at. Obviously, they don't mean much to the sort of man who murdered 32 people just a few days ago."
The New York Sun reports, "Mr. Thompson's relationship with gun-rights groups is sterling. A 2000 report from a campaign finance watchdog group, Common Cause, found that the NRA, Gun Owners of America, and the Georgia Gun Owners PAC donated $188,954 to Mr. Thompson between 1993 and 1999; the groups donated more only to Dr. Frist.".
However, Thompson's voting record while in the Senate was not completely consistent with the views of these organizations. According to Gun Owners of America (GOA), as a senator Thompson voted pro-gun 19 times and anti-gun 14 times. Three of the votes counted as anti-gun were for the McCain-Feingold Campaign Reform Act.
Additionally, Thompson voted for the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban, which restricts ownership and use of guns or ammunition by individuals convicted of misdemeanor or felony domestic violence. Thompson voted against the Smith "Anti-Brady" Amendment which would have prohibited the FBI from using Brady background checks to tax or register gun owners.
Thompson stated that immigration is a national security issue and that the United States must secure its borders and enforce immigration laws. He opposed amnesty and sanctuary cities. He said that the United States should welcome legal immigrants if they are "willing to learn English, assimilate into our communities, and become productive citizens."
In 1997, Thompson voted to grant amnesty to close to one million illegal aliens from Nicaragua and Cuba.
In 2000, Thompson voted against an amnesty for illegal aliens from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Haiti.
Thompson criticized Reagan's immigration policy of 1986, saying: "Twelve million illegal immigrants later, we are now living in a nation that is beset by people who are suicidal maniacs and want to kill countless innocent men, women and children around the world. We're sitting here now with essentially open borders." The comment attracted criticism from Senator John McCain, who said "I travel around the country extensively and that's certainly not the impression I have. I have not detected a nation full of suicidal maniacs." A Thompson spokesman clarified saying that he was not implying that immigrants were suicidal maniacs but rather saying that terrorists could easily infiltrate the borders.
Thompson estimated the number of illegal immigrants being in the range of twelve to twenty million, where those advocating so-called "Amnesty" use a "capped" figure of twelve million. Thompson stated that U.S. borders should be secured before considering comprehensive immigration reform:
The government could start by securing our nation's borders. A sovereign nation that can't do that is not a sovereign nation. This is secondarily an immigration issue. It's primarily a national security issue. We were told twenty years ago if we produced a comprehensive solution, we'd solve the illegal immigration problem. Twelve million illegals later, we're being told that same thing again.
Thompson said that federal law must be enforced in sanctuary cities, which currently ban cooperation between local officials and federal immigration officials. However, Thompson supports a path to citizenship "You're going to have to, in some way, work out a deal where they can have some aspirations of citizenship, but not make it so easy that it's unfair to the people waiting in line and abiding by the law."
Separation of church and state
Thompson had concerns about federal judges deciding social policy in this area: "Many federal judges seem intent on eliminating God from the public schools and the public square in ways that would astound our founding fathers. We never know when a five to four Supreme Court decision will uphold them. They ignore the fact that the founders were protecting the church from the state and not the other way around."
War on Terror
Thompson believed that terrorists started a war against Western civilization and that this war will not end until the terrorists are defeated:
The Western world is in an international struggle with jihadists who see this struggle as part of a conflict that has gone on for centuries, and who won't give up until Western countries are brought to their knees. ... I believe that the forces of civilization must work together with common purpose to defeat the terrorists who for their own twisted purposes have murdered thousands, and who are trying to acquire technology to murder millions more.
He preferred diplomacy but believed that diplomacy must be backed up by a willingness to use force when necessary. "Today our enemies do not doubt our military strength. They do question our determination."
Thompson believed that the United States has made many mistakes throughout the course of the war, but supported the decision to invade Iraq: "Wars are full of mistakes. You rectify things. I think we're doing that now [with General Petraeus]." But he also said that "our coalition should be proud of what we have averted [in Iraq]." He argued that, "If Saddam Hussein was still around today with his sons looking at Iran developing a nuclear capability, he undoubtedly would have reconstituted his nuclear capability. Things would be worse than what they are today."
Thompson believed that the United States should be looking beyond the present situation in Iraq: "whether we leave there under our own terms or not, it's still going to be a very dangerous world. If we leave there under bad circumstances, we're going to have a haven down there for terrorists. The whole area, I'm afraid, will become nuclearized."
He was opposed to an immediate withdrawal from Iraq.
Thompson was concerned that Iran's vow to destroy Israel was more than empty rhetoric: "If we know anything from modern history, it is that when fanatical tyrants pledge to 'wipe out' an entire nation, we should listen. We must gather our alliance, and do all in our power to make sure that such men do not gain the capability to carry out their evil ambitions."
But he believed that the United States may be able to change Iran without using military force: "Iran might fall of its own weight if we give it a little help. We're not doing nearly enough to get communications in there. There are riots ... that are seldom reported, but they're taking place all over the country nowadays. Their inflation is up; unemployment is up." By encouraging the people of Iran and using our intelligence resources we may be able to help bring about a regime change.
On May 2, 2007, Thompson wrote an article critical of Cuba's government-run health care, and of filmmaker Michael Moore's visit to Cuba. Moore responded on May 15, 2007 with a challenge for a health care debate. Later that day, Thompson responded with a video, in which he declined to debate Moore, and mentioned the case of Cuban filmmaker Nicolás Guillén, who was jailed by the Cuban government and subjected to electroconvulsive therapy. Moore cited that Thompson allegedly owned several boxes of Cuban cigars.
On June 27, 2007, Thompson spoke of his concern that many illegal immigrants came from terrorist-related states, and he mentioned Cubans who had been apprehended in the United States. "If they're coming from Cuba, where else are they coming from? And I don't imagine they're coming here to bring greetings from Castro. We're living in the era of the suitcase bomb." After this remark sparked some controversy, Thompson clarified: "The Castro regime remains dedicated to infiltrating American institutions to spread his ideology of tyranny. ... It's also why we must oppose the illegal immigration of Castro's agents into the United States while welcoming the vast majority who immigrate legally and with legal intentions."
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- imwithfred.com. Retrieved September 1, 2007.
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- Sean Hannity Show syndicated radio program, July 10, 2007
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- "Future uncertain as Congressional drive to block Title X gag rule fails", Wash Memo Alan Guttmacher Inst. 1991 Nov 22;(18):1-2, 4.
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