Sunday, June 10, 2007

President Fred Thompson

I have generally favored Rudy Giuliani for the Republican presidential nomination, because I like proven war time leadership, but Fred Thompson, a man with a varied career as a lawyer, a senator, and an actor, has been rapidly gaining on Giuliani in polls of Republican voters, even though he hasn't officially declared his candidacy. The reason is that Thompson offers more conservative views on issues like abortion—while nearly matching Giuliani in his statements on the threat of Islamic terrorism.

To get an idea of Thompson's appeal, here is a terrific speech he gave today in London. Note how, well, presidential he seems. But note particularly the promise that Thompson is holding out. In a sense, it is the promise of starting over again in the War on Terrorism, being able to make a case for the war in Iraq and for a relatively strong policy against Iran—a central implicit topic of his remarks—but without any close association with the errors and eroded credibility of the Bush administration.

What Thompson offers, in effect, is the promise that a relatively hawkish war policy can survive the political implosion of the Bush administration.

"Remarks to Policy Exchange in London," Fred Thompson, RealClearPolitics, June 19 Differences of party and domestic policy are incidental, compared to the bigger considerations that define Britain and America as allies. On both sides of the Atlantic, what matters most are the commitments we share, and the work we are called to do in common. This work is based upon the principles we hold—primarily, the right of free people to govern themselves. We also believe that the rule of law, market economies, property rights, and trade with other nations are the underpinnings of a free society.

When historians of the modern era speak of the great democracies, of civilization and its defenders, that's us they're talking about—we and our democratic friends across Europe and beyond….

Often the cause of our grief is a misplaced trust in the good intentions of others. In our dealings with other nations, people in free countries are not the type to go looking for trouble. We tend to extend our good will to other nations, assuming that it will be returned in kind. No matter how clear the signals, sometimes in history even the best of men failed to act in time to prevent the worst from happening.

The United States and the United Kingdom have learned this lesson both ways—in great evils ignored, and in great evils averted. We learned it from a World War that happened and, in the decades afterward, from the World War that didn't happen….

Many in Europe simply have a different view from that of the United States as to the threat of radical Islamic fundamentalism. They think that the threat is overblown. That despite September 11th, and July 7th and other attacks in Europe and elsewhere, America is the main target and therefore the problem is basically an American one. The fact that no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq at a particular point in time resolves the matter for them. Also, they see no meaningful connection between terrorist groups and countries like Iran….

However, most Americans feel differently. We understand that the Western world is in an international struggle with jihadists who see this struggle as part of a conflict that has gone on for centuries, and who won't give up until Western countries are brought to their knees. I agree with this view. I believe that the forces of civilization must work together with common purpose to defeat the terrorists who for their own twisted purposes have murdered thousands, and who are trying to acquire technology to murder millions more….

Though there are many moments in British political history from which leaders today can take instruction, there is one in particular that I've always admired in the career of Sir Winston Churchill.

It was when Neville Chamberlain died in November 1940. In memorializing in the House of Commons his longtime adversary, Churchill pronounced the bitter controversies put to rest….

Maybe it's the actor in me that admires this scene so much. It's a moment that no script-writer could improve upon. I am struck by its spirit, the magnanimity and generosity of the man...the willingness to let old arguments go, and move on to great objectives held in common.

We in this alliance have had our own share of hopes mocked and plans upset. And now it is time to shake off the disappointments, to let go of controversies past, and to press on together toward the great objectives.

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