Monday, August 27, 2007

Fred Thompson in the Midwestern Republican Leadership Conference

INDIANAPOLIS — Fred Thompson thinks the country faces a tough road ahead and he's not glossing over the problems we face. In fact, he's anxious to outline the daunting litany and appears to be basing his forthcoming campaign on the assumption that his party shares the same outlook.

In a 25-minute after-dinner speech to attendees of the Midwestern Republican Leadership Conference here, Thompson offered a stark assessment of what he described as America's perilous condition.

"I simply believe that on the present course that we're going to be a weaker, less prosperous, more divided nation than what we have been," Thompson told the crowd in a deep baritone that rarely strayed from an even tone. "I do not say that lightly, but I think it's the truth. And I think the American people are ready for the truth."

There are three major challenges, Thompson said, and none are being given appropriate attention or sufficient commitment. National security ("our country's in danger; it's going to be that way for a long time to come"), the economy ("we are doing steady damage to our economy, that if we don't do things better it's going to result in economic disaster for future generations") and the polarization, cynicism and incompetence gripping the capital ("in order to have leadership you got to have somebody who's going to follow; our people follow, but they don't have any confidence in what's being said or who's saying it").

And Thompson's tonic for these thorny matters?

Well, befitting his still not yet being a formal candidate he didn't have specific solutions. Instead he returned to what he calls "first principles."

"I don't think the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States are outmoded documents," Thompson declared, finally giving the crowd something to clap about after the gloomy bill of particulars was laid out. Federalism or devolving power to the states would help, he said. Also, the rule of law, the market economy, respect for private property, free trade and competition came in for praise — hardly dangerous ground among conservative activists.

Perhaps recognizing that all his rhetoric was depressing a crowd that given him a loud and extended welcome, Thompson said it was very much possible for things to turn around. "We know how to do that, we've done it so many times before," he reminded.

But in an acknowledgment that his speech wasn't the typical rah-rah fare party activists are used to hearing from their after-dinner speakers, Thompson said "some might say, 'well, Fred, you haven't done much talking about the Republican Party tonight.'"

"My friends, that's exactly what I've been talking about," he argued. "Because I think that's what the Republican Party believes, I think that's what we've stood for, that's the kinds of things we must stand for and if we do that we will be successful and we will deserve to lead this nation, we will lead this nation."

It was a sober-verging-on-somber talk, but Thompson's advisers think that a depressed GOP recognizes the difficulties it's in and wants somebody who won't sugarcoat things. Still, when he concluded his address the crowd did not appear as much as energized as alerted.

Laurie Wilson, a Hoosier I chatted with after the speech, thought the easy-going "Law & Order" star would have a smoother delivery, but said he still resonated.

"I appreciated his honesty," Wilson said, conceding that his analysis was "a downer."

"But where the country is right now is a downer," she added. "And the way the political outlook for 2008, unless things change, is a downer."

Another friendly local, Mary Walters, said she thought Thompson had a "message that appeals to the American people," but she also had a polite message of her own for the still-not-announced candidate.

"If he, and should he, would he please let us know what he is going to do?"

The headline of this is a bit misleading but I will let what Thompson actually said speak for itself.

Check it out here

Interesting to see his tone.

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