Since State Rep Chuck DeVore has thrown his support behind a possible Fred Thompson presidential candidacy, I’ve been studying Thompson’s record; there’s considerably squishiness on a number of issues that conservatives like Chuck will have to explain away.
The Nashville Tennesean (Al Gore’s old paper) has fired the first shot across Thompson’s bow with this story here.
Thompson survey said: “I do not believe abortion should be criminalized”
Former senator has voting record opposed to federal funding and partial-birth, but 1990s answers addressed life issues more directly
KNOXVILLE Ã¢â‚¬â€ Imminent 2008 presidential candidate Fred Thompson is positioning himself as a new hope for social conservatives who are unhappy with the current field of 10 Republicans.
But his answers on past surveys indicate he has previously taken positions that could be viewed as tolerating abortion.
Documents The Tennessean located last week in Thompson’s Senate archive at the University of Tennessee show:
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ On a 1996 Christian Coalition survey, he checked “opposed” to an amendment to the U.S. Constitution “protecting the sanctity of human life.”
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ He included a handwritten clarification: “I do not believe abortion should be criminalized. This battle will be won in the hearts and souls of the American people.”
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ In 1996, asked by the Memphis group FLARE (Family, Life, America, Responsible Education Under God Inc.) if human life begins at conception, Thompson circled “N/A.”
Those answers could complicate Thompson’s standing with the Republican Party right wing, which has been bolstered by his seemingly reliable pro-life voting record.
Thompson and his small campaign staff say he has never supported abortion rights.
Roe, amendment opposed
“Senator Thompson is pro-life. He has been consistently pro-life throughout his career, having been endorsed by National Right to Life and having a 100 percent pro-life voting record while in the Senate,” Thompson spokesman Mark Corallo said in a written response to questions.
“As the senator has said publicly, he does not support a constitutional amendment banning abortion for the same reasons he believes Roe v. Wade (the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion) should be overturned Ã¢â‚¬â€ though in that case he believes it is both bad law and bad science.”
In his eight years in the Senate, Thompson’s abortion votes were mostly on issues such as federal funding and research and did not directly address the kinds of questions the surveys asked.
He did vote in four separate years to ban so-called “partial birth abortion” procedures.
Roe was ‘wrong decision’
Thompson most recently discussed his abortion views on Fox News after Tuesday’s New Hampshire Republican presidential candidate debate.
“I’ve always thought that Roe v. Wade was a wrong decision,” Thompson said, “that they usurped what had been the law in this country for 200 years, that it was a matter that should go back to the states. When you get back to the states, I think the states should have some leeway.”
Corallo said Thompson’s position on abortion stems from a fundamental belief that the power to decide such matters should lie with individual states. “He has been consistent in that position throughout his career.”
‘Record trumps rhetoric’
Thompson himself appears befuddled over how views expressed in the early 1990s came to be characterized as advocating abortion rights.
“Although I don’t remember it, I must have said something to someone as I was getting
my campaign started that led to a story,” Thompson was quoted as saying in an April article in the conservative political magazine Weekly Standard. “Apparently, another story was based upon that story, and another was based upon that, concluding I was pro-choice.”
In a 1996 Tennessean article Thompson acknowledged his role as “an abortion-rights defender in a party with a pro-life tilt” as he headed to the Republican National Convention.
“We need to concentrate on what brings us together and not what divides us,” Thompson said in an interview at the time, brushing aside his differences with the GOP’s official pro-life stance.
Conservatives like him
Still, conservative groups locally and in Washington that are eyeing Thompson’s likely candidacy seem to be giving him an approving nod.
“We look for a demonstrated record of supporting human life, and Fred Thompson certainly has that record,” said Brian Harris, president of Tennessee Right to Life.
Evelyn Rodgers, a West Meade Realtor who said she considers the right to life “a basic civil right,” said she would be excited to see Thompson enter the race.
“I think there’s quite a bit of unease with Rudy Giuliani, who on all other fronts is an appealing candidate, but the fact that he has even supported late-term abortions recently, I would have a difficult time supporting him,” she said.
Darla St. Martin, co-executive director of National Right to Life Committee, said she came to Tennessee in 1994 to meet with Thompson. “I eyeballed him and listened” and came away satisfied he was anti-abortion, St. Martin said. “The key is how he voted.”
Tony Perkins, president of the influential Family Research Council, said he is confident of Thompson’s anti-abortion credentials.
“Record trumps rhetoric,” Perkins said.