DICK MORRIS’ ’08 PLAY BY PLAY
VOLUME 1, #19
SEPTEMBER 10, 2007
FRED THOMPSON: GOING NOPLACE FAST
Now that Thompson has finally declared his candidacy, albeit on the Jay
Leno show, many are pinning their hopes on him as a later-day Ronald Reagan.
But he’s not going to be viable. Here’s why:
The Political Insider
Thompson is not at all the outsider maverick that he claims to be. In fact, he’s the ultimate Washington insider. He was a successful lobbyist before he went to the Senate and he returned to lobbying after leaving it. Until very recently, he worked for Equitas, a British insurance company trying to squirm out of paying for asbestos/cancer claims. He also represented a Tennessee Savings and Loan, Toyota, and Perrier.
Jean Bertrand Aristide, the quasi-Marxist deposed Haitian president who was
last generation’s equivalent of Hugo Chavez was one of his clients. And the right will not like that he lobbied for the Teamsters Union
Although Thompson is adamantly opposed to government subsidies, he sought a handout
for Westinghouse for its nuclear power plant in Oak Ridge.
And although he claims to be pro-life, he was an advocate for a pro-choice
The New York Times reported today that in 1992, Thompson’s old law firm actually advised the lawyer for the Libyan terrorists who were charged with planting the bomb on Pan Am flight 103, which blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland. The firm was paid over $800,000 – that’s a lot of lawyering. The Libyans billed the firm for several hours for conferring with the lead attorney on the case. According to the firm’s lawyers, Thompson advised them on “jurisdictional” issues. Translation: how to keep the terrorists from being extradited to stand trial. At the time, Libya was refusing to extradite the suspects and the entire international community was outraged. It was then that the U.S. added Libya to the list of countries where there is state-sponsored terrorism. Ultimately, the suspects were extradited and tried in Scotland. One of them was convicted, while the other was acquitted. In 2003, Libya admitted responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing and agreed to pay $2.7 billion to the families of the survivors. No thanks to Fred and his law firm.
Thompson’s view on lobbying for questionable clients is that it is no different than a lawyer defending a client. He says that he makes “no apologies” for his lobbying clients. But apparently Thompson doesn’t realize that voter don’t like lobbyists (or lawyers, for that matter). The latest Gallup Poll reports that 75% of the American voters believe that it is “unacceptable” to finance a presidential campaign with contributions from Washington lobbyists. How will they feel about voting for one?
Questionable Conservative Credentials:
One of Thompson’s lobbying clients, in particular, will rankle with conservatives:
The National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association. While Thompson says that he has “no recollection” of lobbying for
the group in 1991, the minutes of a September 14, 1991 meeting of the association report that he was hired to “aid [the association] in
discussions with the administration.”
Judy De Sarno, the executive director of the group at the time says that she has specific memories of discussing Thompson’s lobbying work with him in phone conversations and during meals at Washington Restaurants.
Former Democratic Congressman Michael D. Barnes (D-Md) confirms that Thompson worked for the abortion rights group. He was employed by the same lobbying and law firm that Thompson worked for and he said he talked to Thompson “while he was doing it [lobbying for the group], and I talked to [De Sarno] about the fact that she was very pleased with the work he was doing for her organization.” He added: “I have strong, total recollection of that. This is not something I dreamed up or she dreamed up. This is a fact.” How odd that Thompson would have “no recollection.”
When Thompson first ran for the Senate in 1994, he checked a box on a questionnaire about abortion indicating that he believed that abortion “should be legal in all circumstances for the first three months.”
And when he ran again in 1996, he told the Christian Coalition that he “opposed” a constitutional amendment protecting “the sanctity of human life.” He wrote on the questionnaire “I do not believe that abortion should be criminalized. This battle will be won in the hearts and souls of the American people.”
With a Republican field of a pro-choice candidate (Giuliani), a recent convert to pro-life (Mitt Romney), and a former abortion lobbyist (Fred Thompson), the right wing doesn’t have much to choose from.
But Thompson will also get in trouble for his immigration positions. In 1995, he voted against limiting services other than emergency medical care and public education to illegal aliens. He was one of only six Senators to vote against the proposal. Voters will not like that he wanted to use tax money to provide a host of medical and other services to those who flouted our laws and came here illegally.
And, in 1996, he voted against creating an employer verification system so that businesses could identify illegal immigrants who applied for jobs in their companies.
As noted above, Thompson and his law firm worked to help keep Libyan terrorists from standing trial for killing all of the passengers on Pan Am flight 103. In the aftermath of 9/11 and on its 6th anniversary, Thompson will have difficulty with his past work.
Thompson has ruled out signing a pledge not to raise taxes if elected
president. A no-tax pledge, a fundamental for any conservative
candidate, is a litmus test for most voters in the New Hampshire’s
Republican Primary and they will not take kindly to Thompson’s position.
our book, Outrage, we disclosed the widespread practice of members
of Congress hiring their wives and families to work on their Political
Action Committee (PAC) payrolls. But Thompson went even further:
He paid his son, Daniel — for four years — as a no-show employee
of his PAC after he had left Congress.
PAC had about a quarter of a million dollars available when he decided
not to run for another term in the Senate. Since 2002, the PAC
has been almost totally dormant. It raised almost no more money
and gave out $70,000 to other political candidates. The balance,
$170,000 went to Daniel. The PAC had no office, no phone, no fax,
and almost no activity. But Thompson used it to pay his son, a
total abuse of campaign funding.
wrong with paying your son through campaign money? Plenty.
First, he gave his son money that could have been used to elect other
Republican candidates. Second, the people who donated the money
to him assumed it would be used to finance his political activity, not
nepotism. Finally, using PAC money to pay one’s own family blurs
the distinction between a personal bribe and a campaign contribution.
If the money special interests give you is directed at political work,
it’s a contribution. But if it passes through the membrane that
separates the personal from the political, it begins to assume the characteristics
of a bribe, particularly when it is for doing absolutely nothing!
summer, the war has raged, not pitting Thompson against his Republican
rivals, or even his Democratic opposition, but featuring a battle of
Mrs. Fred Thompson against virtually her husband’s entire campaign
list of axed, fired, or forced-to-resign employees would distinguish
a campaign of far greater tenure, but coming in a candidacy yet even
to be announced, it is truly unique.
first ax fell when Jeri Thompson – who fancies herself a political
consultant – challenged Tom Collamore, an experienced southern political
operative for control of the campaign. Jeri’s indignation at
what she perceived as the staff’s wasting her husband’s money rose
to an apogee when she arrived at the campaign headquarters and allegedly
who is a former VP of Altria, the sanitized name for Philip Morris,
was forced out and former Bush Energy Secretary of US Senator from Michigan
Spencer Abraham was brought in to take his place. Abraham lasted
all of ten days and a new team was installed in place.
latest casualty of these endless internal wars is former Fox News staffer
Jim Mills, the third communications director in this still fledgling
campaign. Also gone last week was his close aide, Mark Collaro. Every
day brings new firings and departures.
Thompson’s house gets itself in order, it won’t be a campaign, but
a floating civil war.
and his staff worked assiduously throughout June and July to raise funds
for his exploratory committee. They boasted that they would exceed
expectations as they beat the donor community for money. But the
results were underwhelming. They raised only $3.4 million and
spent $600,000 of it in the process. More to the point, half of
it came from Tennessee, where Thompson had served as Senator, indicating future troubles in mounting a broad based fund raising operation.
as his decision to duck the Fox News debate on September 5th
and appear on the Leno show instead indicates, he is not used to appearing
unscripted on television. Arthur Branch, the character he plays
on Law and Order, is glib, fluent, eloquent, and down homey. But
is Fred sans script? Will he appear flat compared to Branch?
How will he look without contrived camera angles, expert lighting, and
the kind of professional makeup you get on television but not on the
these concerns are doubtless very much in Thompson’s mind and may
account for his hesitant, on-again, off-again approach to declaring
his candidacy and jumping in the ring.
STRANGE FUNDRAISER: REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS PAST
The strange case of ‘Hillraiser’ Norman Hsu gets even stranger as
more details are disclosed. How did this fugitive become one of the
top fundraisers for Hillary Clinton? And where did his money come from?
all sounds so familiar, doesn’t it? Remember when Johnny Chuang passed
$50,000 in cash in Hillary’s White House office?
No one knows very much about Hsu. It now appears that his business addresses
were nothing more than a postal drop or a phantom company. He went through
a second bankruptcy in recent years. So where did he get the $600,000
that he donated to Democratic candidates?
QUESTION: How can someone get close to Hillary Clinton?
ANSWER: Send a check. Pretty soon, you’ll be on a list
and receive invitations to elite events.
Now that Hsu is in custody, maybe some of the serious questions about
him will be answered. We’re all ears.
When the Wall Street Journal first disclosed the curious circumstances
surrounding some of the contributions that he bundled, Hillary Clinton’s
enforcer and press secretary, Howard Wolfson righteously defended Hsu:
Mr. Hsu’s many years of active participation in the political process,
there has been no question about his integrity or his commitment to
playing by the rules, and we have absolutely no reason to call his contributions
into question or to return them.”
statement is, as they say in Washington, inoperative.
SURGING IN IOWA AND NEW HAMPSHIRE
Former Arkansas Governor
Mike Huckabee, who came in second in the Iowa Straw Poll, has moved
from 1% to 9% in Iowa and from 1% to 14% in New Hampshire.
Keep an eye on him!
McGann and Dick Morris 2007. Reprints with permission only***