The other day I received the inevitable fund-raising letter from "latecomer" candidate Fred Thompson. The message was crisp, clear and conservative. However, so was a 1999 mailing from the campaign of George W. Bush. In a pique of dÃ©jÃ vu all over again, I may send a similar response to Senator Thompson as was sent to then-Governor Bush. That is, when you've proven to me that you're a true conservative, then and only then will I open my wallet.
Of course, President Bush never received a nickel from my household. That doesn't mean that I didn't vote for him; however, he has consistently disappointed many of us with his Democrat-light positions on illegal immigration and federal spending among other issues. I don't know about you, but I don't feel like being fooled again. And any chink-no matter how small-in Thompson's conservative armor is cause for heightened concern that, if nominated and elected, he will "pull a Bush" on us.
If I was to respond to Thompson's mailer with my concerns, he'd be asked to explain:
Â·Â Â Â Â Â Â Â His support for and virtual co-sponsorship of the horrendous campaign-finance "reform" bill which has proven to be anything but reforming in reigning in the outrageous level of campaign spending.
Â·Â Â Â Â Â Â Â His membership in the Council on Foreign Relations, a group that purportedly favors a one-world government, and how that squares with his presumed support of American sovereignty.
Â·Â Â Â Â Â Â Â His work as a lobbyist whose clients were sometimes questionable from a conservative point of view. Related to that is his claim of being a Washington "outsider" despite years as a lobbyist and eight years as a U.S. Senator.
Â·Â Â Â Â Â Â Â How he plans to respond to the Clinton attack machine when they hit him with the lobbyist work, his work on the Watergate committee representing the "dark" side (that is, Nixon), and everything else but the kitchen sink. He can ill afford to adopt the tired old canard that "the American people get it" and therefore not respond to the daily drumbeat of criticism which the liberal media's coverage will only intensify. The voters only "get it" when you tell them.
Â·Â Â Â Â Â Â Â How he plans to demonstrate that he has the "fire in the belly" needed to conduct a grueling campaign that, at his age and with young children at home, will not be at all easy to pull off. There are already whispers about his work ethic which are probably unfounded, but he needs, like an aging Rocky Balboa in training for the fight of his life, to maybe run just a little bit more than the others to show he has staying power.
Â·Â Â Â Â Â Â Â His inability to get Ann Coulter to like him (just kidding, sort of). Whatever you may think of Ann, she is a pretty good judge of who's a true conservative and who isn't.
Right now, Fred and his campaign are saying all the right things to warm a conservative's heart. And I desperately want to believe he means those things right to his core. But we must remember, this is primary season, and we conservatives have an importance to the candidates now that we won't have later. By positioning himself as the one true conservative among the Republican challengers, Thompson has a special obligation to hold fast to conservative values. He has far more to lose by abandoning conservative principles than his "first-tier" opponents. And, after the Bush experience and his own strays from the reservation noted above, Thompson will not have a very long leash when it comes to his credibility as a conservative.
Fred Thompson has the potential to be an outstanding candidate and a great president. But at this point, potential is all it is. As an old colonel often told me, "Talk is cheap. It takes money to buy whiskey." Too many candidates have been no-shows when it counts the most; the all sizzle and no steak variety.
Fred, when we see you stand tall against media criticism-when we see that you won't pander or compromise-when we see you fight Hillary effectively and not allow her to be the victim-when we see these things and others that show that you really believe in what you're saying, then we can start believing in you. Please give us that something to believe in.