Leaked Watergate information to Nixon White House (new!)
Thompson's campaign has been trying to play up his role during the Watergate investigation in 1973, when he served as minority counsel on the Senate committee. Supporters will use this fact as evidence that Thompson is on the side of good government, even at the expense of his own party. But as the Boston Globe pointed out on 7/4/07, Thompson has long been suspected of having leaked information from the committee back to the corrupt Nixon White House. In fact, Thompson himself admitted one instance of this in his Watergate memoir. As the Globe described:
On July 13, 1973, Armstrong, the Democratic staffer, asked Butterfield a series of questions during a private session that led up to the revelation. He then turned the questioning over to a Republican staffer, Don Sanders, who asked Butterfield the question that led to the mention of the taping system.
To the astonishment of everyone in the room, Butterfield admitted the taping system existed.
When Thompson learned of Butterfield's admission, he leaked the revelation to Nixon's counsel, J. Fred Buzhardt .
"Even though I had no authority to act for the committee, I decided to call Fred Buzhardt at home" to tell him that the committee had learned about the taping system, Thompson wrote. "I wanted to be sure that the White House was fully aware of what was to be disclosed so that it could take appropriate action."
Shills for shady identity-theft company (new!)
Fred Thompson should pay more attention to what acting gigs he takes. In June, the Los Angeles Times reported that the would-be President is doing radio ads for LifeLock: an "identity-theft protection" firm whose founder and CEO was found by the FTC to have scammed consumers in 1996. The details:
Possible presidential candidate Fred D. Thompson is lending his voice to radio commercials for a company that says it fights identity thieves and that was co-founded by a man accused of taking money from consumer bank accounts without permission.
The one-minute commercials are airing across the country on behalf of Tempe, Ariz.-based LifeLock Inc., which said nearly 200,000 customers pay about $10 a month for services that include placing fraud alerts on their credit files.
LifeLock was co-founded in 2005 by Robert J. Maynard Jr., whom the Federal Trade Commission accused in 1996 of deceiving consumers with advertisements that suggested his credit-repair company could remove records of bankruptcies and delinquent payments.
The FTC also alleged that Maynard and another executive at National Credit Foundation Inc. collected checking-account data from its customers for "verification" when the real purpose was to make unauthorized withdrawals from those accounts.
Lobbyist past (new!)
Americans admire successful businessmen, but it might not sit too well with the electorate that Fred Thompson spent more than twenty years as a paid corporate lobbyist. The AP delivered the goods on 6/26/07:
Thompson, who likes to cast himself as a political outsider, earned more than $1 million lobbying the federal government for more than 20 years. He lobbied for a savings-and-loan deregulation bill that helped hasten the industry's collapse and a failed nuclear energy project that cost taxpayers more than a billion dollars.
He also was a lobbyist for deposed Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was widely criticized for endorsing "necklacing," the gruesome practice of execution where gasoline-soaked tires are thrown over a person's neck 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."
Anyone who studies Fred Thompson's eight-year stint in the Senate will come away with a simple verdict: the man got basically nothing done. It seems unclear whether he has the energy, let alone the credentials, required to win the presidency. Reuters surveyed some D.C. insiders on 6/1/07 and came away with a representative sample:
The consensus seemed to be that he didn't like to work real hard, but was good to have on your team," said a Senate Republican aide.
. . .
A veteran lobbyist said: "He was viewed as a lazy son of gun who would say at two in the afternoon, 'I'm done.' Can you name one major piece of legislation he authored? I can't."
Another lobbyist said: "I like Fred. But I'm not sure he has the energy to wage a long presidential campaign."
Fake pickup truck
During his 1994 Senate race, Thompson became famous for the red pickup truck that he would drive to campaign events. In 1996, a Washington Monthly reporter related a story that gave the lie to that particular bit of political theater: Thompson would drive in the pickup just around the corner, after which he'd switch to his own luxury car. The retelling from 1995:
Finishing his talk, Thompson shakes a few hands, then walks out with the rest of the crowd to the red pickup truck he made famous during his 1994 Senate campaign. My friend stands talking with her colleagues as the senator is driven away by a blond, all-American staffer. A few minutes later, my friend gets into her car to head home. As she pulls up to the stop sign at the parking lot exit, rolling up to the intersection is Senator Thompson, now behind the wheel of a sweet silver luxury sedan. He gives my friend a slight nod as he drives past. Turning onto the main road, my friend passes the school's small, side parking area. Lo and behold: There sits the abandoned red pickup, along with the all-American staffer.
Led embarrassing investigation on China
Fred Thompson may play a hard-nosed district attorney on Law & Order, but when he headed up a big Senate investigation in 1997, he utterly failed to prove his case. The subject was Chinese donations to the Clinton-Gore campaign, and while he talked big about what his investigation would show, he came up completely empty. The New Republic had the story on 1/28/02:
Tennessee Republican Fred Thompson, once hailed as a presidential contender, . . . saw his standing plummet after his failed inquiry into foreign donations to the 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign. When his hearings convened, Thompson boldly claimed he would reveal a coordinated plot by the Chinese government to influence American elections. In the end he unearthed plenty of slimy activity, but his hearings, as The New York Times put it, "produced [not] a shred of public evidence to substantiate Senator Thompson's charge of Chinese influence."
Dobson: "I don't think he's a Christian"
In an interview with U.S. News and World Report, James Dobson disparaged the notion of a Thompson candidacy, saying: "Everyone knows [Thompson is] a conservative and has come out strongly for the things that the pro-family movement stands for. But I don't think he's a Christian."
Has supported first-trimester abortions
As pointed out by Adam's Blog on 3/22/07, the 1994 edition of the National Right to Life news has Fred Thompson listed with a small cross next to his name, meaning that he was believed that abortion should be legal during the first trimester. Today, he's taking great pains to call himself "pro-life" with no caveats, but it remains to be see whether that position is as solid as he's trying to make it seem.