In Part Two we saw how Fred Thompson was the last man that could have pulled the old Reagan Coalition back together without re-building, without major surgery, without re-engineering the Party, without a brokered National Convention. I reported that he is the candidate the Clintons least wanted to face (by their own estimation, not mine). We noted that he even got the endorsement of the National Right to Life Committee. But I also made the outlandish claim that they destroyed his 2008 Presidential candidacy.
Fred Thompson was a national resource the National Right to Life Committee squandered.
The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) was formed in 1973 in response to Roe vs. Wade. It was the exact same year that launched the national career of Thompson, the Senate Watergate Committee’s highly visible chief minority counsel in 1973 and 1974.
Fred Thompson’s personal life, at that point, had been as untouched by abortion as by gamma rays. From a very modest small-town background, Fred got his high school sweetheart pregnant and married her, took two jobs to support his family and put himself through college and law school. (He was brilliant). Like many of us who were non-Catholic adults before Roe v Wade, abortion was virtually invisible to him as an issue. But there were a lot of big issues. He got his BA in 1964, graduated law school and joined the bar in 1967, and by 1969, was named an Assistant United States Attorney, then Watergate Committee Counsel in 1973.
After Watergate? The film “Marie” (1985) tells the true story of Thompson’s famous 1977 legal case that brought down a corrupt Tennessee governor. (The award-winning director interviewed Thompson and decided to have him play himself, launching the acting career that made Fred a “great communicator,” led to roles in 18 feature films and playing the character Arthur Branch on “Law and Order.”) From 1980 until his election to the U.S. Senate he served as commissioner on, or special counsel to, numerous government agencies including the U.S. Senate and the governor of Tennessee. From his role in “The Hunt for Red October,” his upset election and landslide re-election to the Senate from Tennessee to his Senate retirement in 2002, he has been considered as a potential winning Presidential Candidate by Republican Party leaders. Of such is the timber of the leadership of great nations. He knew our government, noted, with dismay, its departure from the Constitution and was professionally prepared, by media training, to win the public mind, by philosophical belief, to change it. Just like Ronald Reagan.
During those same decades, however, the National Right to Life Committee became the nation’s largest anti-abortion organization and has maintained their predominance by 35 years of lobbying, politics and fundraising. They have, by their representation of their own role, assumed the responsibility for the Pro-Life movement’s relationship to members of Congress, particularly “friendly” members, like Fred Thompson. Fred Thompson’s position on human life is a direct result of the kind of tutoring the NRLC is doing. He carries their 100% rating.
But a funny thing happened on the way to ending abortion.
Four things, actually. The NRLC exponentially weakened their agenda, expanded their circle of friends, raised an enormous amount of money and eclipsed other pro-life groups. It’s not hard to connect the dots.
I. If a Republican politician can a, satisfy pro-life Republicans and, b, not engage pro-abortion opposition, he greatly enhances his electability. Being able to get the endorsement of the NRLC without overly inconveniencing the abortion industry makes it possible to do both those things at once. That requires a “pro-life” agenda of regulation not abolition.
II. The more Republicans that can get the NRLC support and the easier they can get it, the greater the value of the NRLC to the RNC (Republican National Committee) and their cooperation can be weighed in dollars and cents.
III. Not only is the RNC a major donor to the RNLC, but the kind of access to elected officials that comes with that friendship is of inestimable value in building organizational credibility for the NRLC in return.
IV. A politician does not have to please other, more principled, human life groups if he gets the biggest, richest and most famous. So taking weaker positions on human life helps the NRLC cut off the access of stronger Pro-Life groups to Republican politicians, eclipsing their influence. That, too, helps fundraising for both NRLC and the “mixed-choice” candidates they help:
Weaker opposition to abortion, stronger National Right to Life Committee.
This has gone so far that, today, they regularly oppose pro-life efforts by other organizations around the country from which the NRLC does not profit. In addition to, regularly, supporting “moderate” pro- “choice” candidates, they oppose “personhood” amendments around the country that aim at actually ending abortion.. The fact is, if legal abortion was ever ended, the NRLC, all its paid staff positions and over NINE MILLION DOLLARS A YEAR in NRLC annual budgeting, would cease to exist.
Everybody’s happy the way things are. Why rock the boat? Abortion could continue a thousand years with that happy partnership intact, the NRLC and NARAL* pushing back and forth against each other in the Congressional ring like two professional wrestlers, hurling verbage. Having drinks together afterwards.
And raising money.
But a financially stronger, philosophically weaker NRLC also means weaker pro-life candidates. A career of friendship with the NRLC convinced Sen. Fred Thompson that he was acceptably pro-life. And he wasn’t. The damage this did to his Presidential Campaign cannot be overstated.
I watched his campaign closely and I’m not easy to please. Fred doesn’t pander. The media ridiculed him for not pandering as if it were a weakness as much as they applauded Huckabee for pandering. But Thompson never, never attempted to make his positions seem like something they are not. He honestly thought he was pro-life. When his identity was challenged on the life issue he was indignant. “I’m Pro-Life!” he said. He had been conditioned by the NRLC to believe that’Pro-Life” meant “not liking” abortion and cooperating with their agenda of abortion regulation. Under NRLC tutelage His raw, uneducated views on life went unexamined for the whole of his Senate Career.
Fred Thompson could have survived the Mainstream Media’s (and Michael Medved’s) big-lie slander campaign that he was “lazy,” lackluster, ” “not serious, ” “not prepared (because he wouldn’t pander), ” and wore Gucci loafers. He could have overcome their treachery and censorship when they told the public he wasn’t doing anything while simultaneously refusing to report on what he was doing. He could have overcome with the grassroots networking of social conservatives. What he couldn’t survive was his own latent NRLC pragmatism. There was a day of reckoning.
November 4, 2007** (the second most important day in the 2008 election)
NBC’s TIM RUSSERT: ‘Let me finish, because this is important. You’re for allowing states to have pro-abortion rights, and you yourself, and I have 10 different statements from you, say that you would not ban abortion, it’s a woman’s right, and you would not ban it in the first trimester.’
FRED THOMPSON: ‘ … I do not think it is a wise thing to criminalize young girls and perhaps their parents as aiders and abettors or perhaps their family physician. And that’s what you’re talking about. It’s not a sense of the Senate. You’re talking about potential criminal law.’
Here you see Fred Thompson, at his most crucial moment, on national TV, articulating a pro-choice position, essentially the same position at the center of the Roe vs. Wade decision (1st trimester choice) and sincerely labeling it “pro-life.” No serious pro-life activist could support it. His chance to dominate the primary season ended on that day, and the FLASH that is Mike Huckabee appeared in the Republican Pan.
Fred is a man of principle and character whose right-to-life intellectual muscles are in a complete state of atrophy… like they’ve never had a workout. Like a talented seven-foot-tall high school basketball player who was never taught to dribble. You can blame the player if you want, but you’ve got to fire the coach. The NRLC is directly responsible. They “groomed” him. They endorsed his Presidential candidacy. They taught him he could get a “100% Pro-Life voting record” without even taking the issue seriously, when he was, in fact, based on his actual position, pro-choice. Inexcusable.
When Fred Thompson entered the Nomination race on September 5, 2007, he was seven points ahead of the Romney, McCain and Huckabee pack among likely Repubican Primary voters and he carried the “Pro-Life” label. He had already weathered many of the the Mainstream/Medved smears. Had he come out at that time throwing a few real pro-life punches, just a few, he would have looked like the Cavalry, coming to the conservative movement’s rescue. Had Fred used his talents to articulate the cause of the unborn, on September 17, attending, instead of ignoring, the Values Voter Debate, the vast majority of uncommitted Republican activists would have heard the trumpet. The social Conservatives were the missing key to unlock the grassfires. He could have gathered unto himself the troops scattered on Conservative hills from Point Barrow to Key West. He is a better candidate on EVERY other issue than all four charlatans. He could have re-ignited the Reagan Revolution. The NRLC endorsement on November 13 would have been just another voice in a growing national chorus. Instead it seemed like an ironic footnote to a campaign that would thenceforth play catch-up.
Getting the nomination would, of course, still have been an intense battle between conservatives and the establishment RNC operatives; the pro-amnesty, gay-friendly, “choice”-friendly, earmark-friendly pragmatists that gave us the 2006 election results. But the conservative movement would have united. It would have had a leader. Elmer Gantry would never have emerged, and the press would never have been able to rehabilitate John McCain. The GOP left would have gathered behind Rudy Giuliani (Julie Rudiani) and the nomination decision in Minneapolis/St. Paul would have been, clearly, between winning with Fred or losing with Rudy. Either way, it would have settled the war for the heart and soul of the GOP Grassroots. Conservatives could have even lost the nomination battle to the elite (as they did in 1976) and still come back (after the Republican defeat) to win it (and the war) in 2012 (as they did in 1980).
Instead, as of Tuesday, Jan. 22, as far as the Media was concerned, the race came down to four counterfeits. Tuesday Jan. 22 was the most important day in the 2008 elections.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008 was the 35th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision (in the case of a woman using the alias, “Jane Roe”) that shredded the Constitution.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008, over a hundred thousand marched through the streets of Washington, D.C. in memory of the 44 million innocent Americans condemned to death by the decision. Many carried posters of a Doctor holding a baby in his arms wrapped in a flag.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008, from Naples, Florida, Fred Thompson, announced he was, like Tom Tancredo and Duncan Hunter before him, withdrawing from the 2008 Presidential race.
And making the path clear.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008, a thousand miles north up the Interstate, in the nation’s capital, Norma McCorvey, the woman originally known as “Jane Roe,” (who now leads in the fight to overturn her own, murderous verdict) endorsed Mr. Thompson’s replacement.
† lines excerpted from “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, 1970
* NARAL= National Abortion Rights Action League