Thompson: Nothing wrong in lobbying

On the verge of joining the presidential race, Republican Fred Thompson on Friday unapologetically defended his career as a Washington lobbyist paid to influence the government on behalf of an abortion-rights group, a leftist Haitian leader and other special interests.

“Don’t confuse the lawyer with the client,” Thompson told The Associated Press.

The former Tennessee senator and actor discussed his eclectic career path, the war in Iraq and his ambitious plans to reshape the GOP during a 30-minute interview after introducing himself to Iowa Republicans in classic Midwest fashion: He toured the state fair with popular Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.

Any doubts that Thompson will soon enter the race were erased the moment he cuddled a baby pig and gawked at a cow carved out of butter.

“Keep your powder dry,” Thompson told Iowa Republicans during a brief speech at the fair’s “soapbox.”

The actor on NBC’s “Law & Order” plunged hesitantly into retail politics Iowa-style. Unlike Democrat Barack Obama, who a day earlier sought out state fairgoers, fried food and rides, Thompson raced through the jam-packed fair, stopping only to shake hands and chat with people who approached him.

He was formal and stiff compared to the folksy Grassley.

“Fred Thompson! Fred Thompson!” yelled a group of middle-aged fairgoers.

The TV star kept walking, until Grassley gently steered Thompson toward the group.

“Somebody likes you that much, we better go talk to them,” Grassley told Thompson.

Thompson, who plays a gruff, straight-talking district attorney, ranks second in most national polls and has crept as high as third in recent surveys of Iowa caucus-goers, who cast the first ballots of the 2008 presidential campaign.

He has been raising money, issuing policy statements, courting activists and building a staff — in short, running for president. But he is doing so under federal laws governing candidates who are merely “testing the waters,” a loophole that has helped Thompson avoid the scrutiny of other leading presidential candidates. Aides say he will formally enter the race shortly after Labor Day.

In the AP interview, Thompson said he had no regrets over any of the lobbying jobs he took before entering the Senate in 1994, including his representation of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association and deposed Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

“I have no apologies to make about it,” he said of a 20-year lobbying career that earned him at least a $1 million.

The abortion-rights work complicates Thompson’s efforts to court social conservatives, most of whom strongly oppose abortion.

Thompson, who called himself “unabashedly pro-life” despite a sometimes inconsistent abortion record, said there is nothing wrong or unusual about a lawyer representing a client with views different from his own.

“It has nothing to do with one’s political views,” he said. “Lawyering is a profession and it’s also a business.”

The influence of lobbyists is an issue in the Democratic presidential primary, with John Edwards challenging the field to forsake donations from influence peddlers. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton refused to accept the challenge and defended lobbyists, saying many represent average people.

Thompson echoed Clinton’s defense.

“Not everybody can come to Washington and look out for themselves,” he said.

Thompson’s advisers initially denied that he worked for the abortion-rights group. Thompson himself told the AP that his memory was foggy.

“I clearly did some work. I proceeded after that to go to the United States Senate and oppose them on every matter that came up,” he said.

Another client, Aristide, was widely denounced for endorsing “necklacing,” the gruesome practice of execution where gasoline-soaked tires are thrown over a person’s head and set ablaze. In September 1991, Aristide said: “The burning tire, what a beautiful tool! … It smells good. And wherever you go, you want to smell it.”

Lobbying records show that in 1991 Thompson called then White House Chief of Staff John Sununu on Aristide’s behalf.

Thompson said neither he nor Sununu recall that conversation. He noted that Aristide was popularly elected and “had the support of the United States of America, George Bush. He had the support of the Organization of American States and he was deposed by a dictatorship.”

Thompson said his work on behalf of Aristide was limited to a single phone call. “I never met with the client. I never met anybody on behalf of Haiti or received any compensation for it.”

On Iraq, Thompson said the Bush administration was not prepared for the insurgency that arose after the invasion, and troop levels were initially too low. Still, he urged voters to be patient and allow the current strategy to work, speaking in the generalities that have marked his recent campaign appearances.

“We’ve got to make very, very sure that we don’t run up the white flag when there’s an opportunity there to prevail,” Thompson said during his address to about 200 fairgoers.

He broadly outlined the principles of his campaign and potential presidency. They including making the country “stronger and tougher” to fight the war on terrorism, steering the U.S. clear of a looming economic crisis and restoring the public’s faith in a government that is “totally out of touch” and incompetent.

Thompson took aim at his own party.

“Republicans have to realize that not only do we have to do things differently and better as a country, we need to do things differently and better as a party,” he said, promising to appeal to independent and Democratic voters.

Comments

  1. SEAL

    I would never engage in an argument with a blind believer. That is an exercise in futilety. As my grandfather said, if you argue with a fool then two fools are arguing.

  2. Abdul of the Kyber Pass

    Bill,

    I’m not a Neocon. I doubt you can even give the definition for it.

    Secondly, the Hearst organization is alive and well.

    Third, in regards to yellow journalism…what in the name of all that is holy (I hope that doesn’t offend too much) are you talking about? Do you even know what yellow journalism is?

  3. Bill Jonke

    Abdul seems to me to be an advocate of Neocon yellow journalism, one who subscribes to the mindset of any number of defunct Hearst newspapers from forty years ago.

  4. bryan mcclellan

    What a shame.It appears that our friend Abduls cornflakes have been tasting rather salty lately.

  5. Abdul of the Kyber Pass

    Seal,

    Please try the decaf.

    Abortion stops a beating heart, as does the death penalty, and suicide. The Left loves abortion because they see it as a means of 1. keeping the numbers of the lower classes down because abortion has always been a racist policy, 2. it is the blood sacrifice on the Left’s altar of selfishness.

    The Left abhors the concept of personal responsibility. Abortion proponents wring their hands about abortion but sell it on the grounds that frees the irresponsible of doing the right thing.

    But the biggest draw that abortion has on the Left is nothing more complex than money. Abortion is a big business. And those businesses funnel money to the DNC.

    The Left is not irreligious. But rather than worshiping a “Higher Being,” the Left worships itself. Leftists see themselves as the center of the universe and nothing, not personal responsibility or even human life itself will prevent them from their lives of narcissism.

    Don’t forget that it was a Leftist, FDR, who put Americans in concentration camps in order to turn their property over to western agricultural interests as paybacks for their contributions.

  6. SEAL

    Third: Declaring oneself a member of any political party is to deny oneself their individuality. I’ve never met any “party member” who agreed with everything their party stood for or advocated. But they vote for their party’s candidate regardless? Rationalizing that they agreed with most of it.

    When was the last time anyone ever saw a candidate preform according to the party’s platform or standard ideals? But the party members vote for them, reelect them, anyway. Why? Because they are the lesser of the two evils. That’s what being a party member is in our two party system. Choosing the least ojectionable candidate. And preventing yourself from considering any third or forth candidate.

    Joining a political party only locks a person in to an obligation and restricts them to one choice, them or them. That is the wrong way to select those that will be responsible for this nation. In fact, political parties should be abolished and qualified multiple candidates allowed equal opportunity to run for offices. If they would do that and require every citizen to vote – on a paper ballot where they had to write the names of their choices – we might have something that would work.

  7. SEAL

    Second: lobbyists, as they exist today, should be abolished. The system only sets up clandestine influencing and an atmosphere for bribery regardless of any rules.

    There is nothing wrong with special interests trying to influence legislation. In fact, it is necessary. But it must be done formally, out in the open, with their proposal made public for all to see. There must be no such thing as private meetings with lawmakers. That would eliminate the atmosphere of illegallity. As I understand it, all lawmakers must verify where their income comes from and justify any “junkets” they take. There can be no such thing as plane rides. meals, or golf trips they do not pay for themselves.

    Lobbying is fine, just make it public and the problem is solved.

  8. SEAL

    I doubt that very many know the original meaning of “neocon” as it evolved in the military. The con was the abbriviation for confront(ation). Neoon meant to believe in or advocate confrontation. Having a stong military and strategicly estabishing an intimidating and battle ready front line of defense to discourage aggression by anyone or thing percieved to pose a possible ot probable military threat. This is what the Reagan supporters claim led to and/or caused the fall of the soviets. They may be partially correct whereas the soviets failed financially (as we are doing now) and certainly having to support such a large military contributed to that.

    “Neocon” has taken on a somewhat different meaning to most now-a-days. For most, I think it has become nothing but a label to identify the hawks.

  9. Abdul of the Kyber Pass

    It appears that bryan, SEAL, and VV share more than just political thought. Do y’all share the same laptop, too?

    When called on their constant and pointless diatribes, the Left resorts to name-calling.

    BTW, I’m still waiting for someone to tell me:

    What problem did Clinton ever solved?

    What has Pelosi accomplished?

    What problem has the Left ever solved?

    BTW, if Socrates were alive today he would be in prison for illegal contact with his male students.

  10. VietnamVet

    Seal is right! No point in arguing with someone that takes all their information off the top of their head, rather than citing sources, evidence, or what is known in the headlines. “It is better to be unborn than unlearned, for ignorance is the root of all misfortune.” (Socrates)