Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thompson at C minus 49

Since I am trying to choose between the five candidates it is only appropriate that I should spend some time considering them. I am starting with Fred (and by the way, I am sure I will be revisiting all the candidates more than once) because if the caucuses were tonight, he is the one for whom I would vote.

What do I like about him? The first thing is that he is putting out specific ideas or policies that he would pursue (or that he says he would pursue) if elected. As others have noted, he is putting out clear ideas on social security, immigration, and the size of the military.

Of the three things he has touched on in detail so far, two of them (social security and immigration) are topics that I think are extremely important. His ideas on social security seem, at the very least, like a good starting point. Clearly, in going from his proposal to a change in the current system would involve a lot of horse trading, and the final result would no doubt be different from what he has proposed, but I think I could live with his proposal, and more importantly, I think my children could too. Under the current system, I will likely get something from social security, but my children would not (it will be bankrupt long before they get to retire). Fred's proposals address this. Yes, they include the big left wing bogeyman of Personal Retirement Accounts but any feasible solution will likely have to do that. He includes some good charts that clearly show the fiscal benefits of his program compared with the current one, although some will no doubt argue with his assumption of a 23% cut in benefits in 2041 if no changes are made. In short, there is enough detail in his plan to make it debatable (by which I mean, you can actually discuss the plan on its merits!) and that serves us all.

His ideas on immigration are also very clear and thorough. I particularly like that he is suggesting a fairly simple approach initially (basically, enforce existing laws). The ideas he suggest seem fair. In fact, they are a great deal fairer than Mexico is in its immigration law! He also makes it clear that he is firmly against any amnesty program (well, it didn't exactly work as promised last time, did it?) and firmly behind requiring employers to verify the legality of their employees. He takes that one a step further and proposes denying employers of illegal aliens tax deductions for wages paid to those illegal aliens. Finally, he has some good ideas for improving and streamlining (which it desperately needs) the current legal immigration process. I am sure there will be some debate about the English as the official language proposal that he has, but it seems to me that proposal is a suitable topic for discussion. There are pros and cons to it, and we should, as a society, discuss them. It would be unfortunate indeed if such a discussion were hampered by overemotional and unfounded charges of xenophobia and bigotry.

I am less familiar with Fred's stance on the military, but again, I welcome the fact that he has made a clear stance. There is lots in his program that will generate some heated discussion. He calls for a strong missile defense program, and for what I understand to be some significant changes (increases) in force levels. He also stresses the need to stay strong in space (The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, anyone?) and the need for strong intelligence and cybersecurity abilities. In doing all this, he does not shy away from the issue of cost, attaching a target spending goal of 4.5% of GDP to meet his goals. That is a significant boost from current levels, but he feels it is needed, and spells out in detail why it is needed. Again, the final form of this program would not be exactly what he is suggesting, but as the old saying goes, if you don't know where you are going, you will end up somewhere else.

Fred also has position papers up on his site on Israel and on Traditional American Values. The values white paper is less detailed than others, but the Israel paper covers a lot of ground and is fairly specific. The value of these two papers, as with the others above, is that they create a space within which a well-reasoned discussion can take place.

In addition to the white papers, Fred has a number of shorter statements on a variety of issues (e.g. tax reform, healthcare, education). While these statements do not include the details of the white papers, they clearly are a first step in framing a discussion on these issues. I like that!

In fact, the willingness of Fred Thompson to be so specific and forthright in his views and ideas, and thereby to frame a whole number of discussions is a clear sign of leadership on Fred's part. He has made a point of being "different" in his approach to the campaign, and while some would no doubt term this merely a gimmick, I like it. Politics as usual has not been terribly successful, after all! I think the first sign I got of this unique aspect of Fred's approach was when he did his famous video rebuttal to Michael Moore on the issue of health care in Cuba - if you haven't seen it, make sure you do - it is a thirty eight second classic.

Anyway, I am currently very impressed with Fred, and as noted above I think if the caucus were tonight, he would get my vote. A week is of course a long time in politics, and we are seven weeks away, but nonetheless...

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