Dean Barnett says Senator Thompson is “hiding the ball”:
This week, Fred’s non-campaign made a seamless transition from smooth to bumpy, and his team has looked decidedly not-ready-for-primetime. The story about who he represented as a lawyer and lobbyist resonates. The dodge that lawyers/lobbyists don’t need to share the views of their clients and shouldn’t be held responsible for them is a pile of hooey. Each lawyer, like every other member of society, is the conservator of his own talent. If a lawyer chooses to use his talents to try to spring Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, perhaps other lawyers will salute him and see nothing wrong with the effort. But I know and you know that said lawyer wouldn’t have much of a political career in front of him.
If I were a general contractor and profited from building a Planned Parenthood facility, I don’t imagine that fact would endear me to America’s conservative community. If I sought office as a conservative Republican, I would expect my primary opponent to make an issue of it. Lawyers want to play by a different set of rules, and in the eyes of their fellow members of the Bar, they do. But the rest of the country won’t buy it, nor should they.
If you read Thompson’s much-discussed essay on Powerline, you’ll see that Fred is hiding the ball. Why doesn’t he just come out with his client roster, or at least directly answer whether he lobbied for an abortion rights group? Regarding this alleged lobbying, Allah theorizes that “he’s trying to pull a straddle, where he denies that he lobbied for the group but then doth protest too much about how lawyers and lobbyists represent all sorts of people they don’t agree with.”
Fred’s essay is also noteworthy for its style. He offers a tribute to American icons John Adams and Abraham Lincoln, who also coincidentally were lawyers who took unpopular positions. I guess the only difference between them and Fred is that John Adams proudly admitted representing the British soldiers accused of the Boston Massacre, where Thompson’s essay is oddly non-committal on the parallel question.
The Politico says he’s “backing off”:
Fred Thompson is backing off his flat denial that he once lobbied for an abortion-rights group. He now says he doesn’t remember it, but does not dispute evidence to the contrary.
The climb-down could be a significant embarrassment for a prospective candidate with a plain-spoken appeal and who has courted the GOP’s anti-abortion base, although Thompson and his advisers had signaled for several days that it was coming.
Realizing that opponents in both parties are mining his legal career for damaging ammunition, Thompson also is engaging in a bit of preemption. He writes in a column posted Wednesday by the conservative Power Line blog: “[I]f a client has a legal and ethical right to take a position, then you may appropriately represent him as long as he does not lie or otherwise conduct himself improperly while you are representing him. In almost 30 years of practicing law I must have had hundreds of clients and thousands of conversations about legal matters. Like any good lawyer, I would always try to give my best, objective and professional opinion on any legal question presented to me.”
The abortion-rights issue arose when the Los Angeles Times reported last week that Thompson had “accepted a lobbying assignment” from the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, which wanted the administration of President George H.W. Bush to relax a restriction on federal payments to clinics that offered abortion counseling.
Thompson spokesman Mark Corallo told the Times in an e-mail: “Fred Thompson did not lobby for this group, period.” The Times said minutes from a board meeting of the group suggested otherwise.
And Ramesh Ponnuru says he’s “backtracking.”
Look, guys. I know Senator Thompson has cast many a pro-life Senate vote. But anyone who continues to pretend that he is some kind of pro-life Superman is, well, pretending. He is imperfect and he has morphed–just as his responses to the L.A. Times story have morphed.
I’m not saying he isn’t worth supporting because he’s changed–such a belief is silly and destructive, no matter which candidate you deploy it against. But I am saying that those who refuse to admit that he has changed are deluding themselves, at the risk of no one’s credibility but their own.
Finally, as I said yesterday, I would really appreciate–and I think the nation could use–a clear statement on this issue from the Senator. Governor Romney’s already made his many times, which isn’t surprising, given that he is the only serious candidate consistently talking about cultural/family issues.