Fred Thompson tickled by Iowans’ independent streak

Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson called into the Radio Iowa newsroom this morning.  Here is the Radio Iowa story

Today’s big campaign news, of course, was Mitt Romney’s "Faith in America" speech.  Thompson, speaking with me about half an hour before the speech, hadn’t much to say on the subject.

"Everybody seems to be chattering about this speech," I began. "Do you have any opinion about this subject matter and about one of your rivals making this speech?"

"Well, Kay, everybody’s got an opinion about the subject matter as far as religion is concerned," Thompson replied. "I think we all have our deeply held beliefs.  In the political context I don’t know what to say about what Romney’s doing or getting ready to do. I’m not sure what he’s doing here in terms of his speech, what he’s going to say, in other words.  I’ll be interested in seeing what he says about it and if it’s appropriate to have a comment after that then perhaps I’ll have one but it’s really hard to address it in the political context without knowing what he’s going to say."

Henderson: "It appears there are some warning signs about the economy. What would you do to manage the economy and sort of steer it away from recession?"

Thompson: "We’ve got to have sound fiscal policies, Kay, and that has to do with taxing and spending. We’ve got to keep taxes lower.  We’ve got to grow the economy.  It’s happened every time we’ve had lower tax rates in this country, back to the ’20s and the Kennedy Administration, the Reagan Administration and now currently.  We’ve had a real good run here for about six years so it’d be a terrible time to raise taxes which is what the Democrats want to do as these tax cuts expire at the end of 2010.  The other side of the equasion is the spending side.  We’re familiar now with the fact that too many Republicans have joined an overwhelming majority of Democrats in spending money that shouldn’t be spent, pork barrelling, bridges-to-nowhere, that sort of thing and we know we’ve got to stop that.  That’s not what Republicans are all about and that’s not what our country’s supposed to be all about.  We have entitlement spending that is going to bankrupt the next generation.  We’ve got to address the spending side of the ledger.  If we do those things, the economy will take care of itself.  In a free market, you’re going to have your ups and downs but over a period of time we’ve been the most successful nation in the history of the world by adhering to our basic principles which has to do with having some restraint on government and government regulation and government taxes and having some restraint on ourselves in terms of government spending."

Henderson:  "Your campaign over the last two or three weeks has been sending out comparison pieces whereby you have raised questions about Governor Huckabee’s record in Arkansas.  What do you see as the flawed parts of his record?"

Thompson:  "Well, I’ve been distinguishing myself because my record is very distinguishable in terms of the other guys in the race.  It’s not just him.  I’m the only consistent conservative who’s been there all the time with common sense conservative principles every since I first set foot into politics and up until this time.  I’ve put out several position papers along those lines on my tax plans, on my military plan, on my social security plan and they’ve gotten very good commentary from the National Review to Wall Street Journal, Investors Business Daily and others, of being sound conservative programs and kind of setting the benchmark for Republican candidates so I think that distinguishes me from everyone.  I’ve pointed out that Governor Huckabee, for example, has a very high tax record and a very loose record in terms of illegal immigration.  He resisted efforts to curb illegal immigration in his own state.  He’s been very, very consistent on that and there are other points of distinction that we make but those are two major ones."

Henderson:  "Wondering if a person, such as you, such as everyone who is running for president, has to depend on contractors — Mitt Romney fired his landscaping firm this week — do those kinds of things run through your mind as you hire contractors, that you must be ever-mindful of the people who you ask to do work for you?"

Thompson:  "Well, you have to be mindful of everything when you run for president because you’re under a microscope and you just have to apply some common sense and common judgment and do the best you can.  Nobody can ensure, absolutely, that no one around him is ever going to get in trouble or has never been in trouble in times past or has engaged in something that you don’t know about.  It just depends on the situation.  You look at the situation and I think the problem that politicians sometimes look like they’re saying one thing and doing another.  When they’re talking about you know what a great manager you are and what a great manager you will be and how you’ve been a manager all your life and this sort of thing and when you have your problems kind of in your own backyard, literally, then it brings all those issues back up and so I think it just depends on the situation and how the politician handles it, whether or not he’s forthright and does the best he can under the circumstances.  Nobody is expected to have a level of perception or being able to know everything that’s always going on around him, you need to respond to him in an appropriate way when it does appear."

Henderson:  "Do you think he responded appropriately?"

Thomspon:  "Well, the best I can tell he did.  I mean, I know this is the second time that this has happened with this particular contractor so he finally did what he apparently needed to do under the circumstances.  The quesiton is whether or not he should have done something a long time ago as far as this particular contractor is concerned when the first illegals showed up but I don’t know enough about the facts to pass judgment on that, to tell the truth."

Henderson:  "It seems as if the Republican race is in New Hampshire.  Does that mean perhaps the Des Moines Register debate next week might be the last time you might set foot in Iowa?"

Thompson:  "Um, no."

Henderson:  Laughter.

Thompson:  Laughter.  "It does not mean that, no I’m going to be in Iowa tomorrow and I’m going to be back in Iowa on the 17th and I’ll be in Iowa pretty much ’til January the third, with just a couple of days exception I think."

Henderson:  "So, then are you deploying your resources here rather than New Hampshire?"

Thompson:  "Well, I just got back from South Carolina.  I spent two days in South Carolina.  You know, it’s all a matter of, at the end of the day, you try to give every area the time and attention that needs to be given and should be given to it and at the end of the day I think we will have been able to say that,  As far as Iowa is concerned, you know we’re going to spend a real good chunk of time just going from one end of it to the other and getting out and talking to the people.  It’s my favorite part of the campaigning.  You know, dealing with all the national media and all the experts and all the pundits,"

Henderson:  "And me."

Thompson:  "No, I’ll tell you it’s different.  You don’t pretend to know exactly what’s going on all the time and always predicting winners and so forth and I’m always reminded of the Howard Dean race and all of the experts flew in there and Al Gore flew in and Tom Harkin —  he endorsed and it was a done deal, what, later than this in the process.  Well, of course it wasn’t a done deal.  The people decided that they themselves had a voice in the thing and they decided something totally different and that just tickles me to death to know that.  It’s that kind of a state and those kind of folks and that’s my kind of folk sand I’m going to be spending a lot of time with ’em over the next few weeks and at the end of the day they’re going to have an opportunity to see if Fred Thompson the kind of guy they feel like could be solid and strong and experienced and lead us through what may be turbulent times over these next several years and when it’s up to them and the good Lord and it’s in their hands, I’m going to be perfectly satisfied with whatever decision they make."

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.