August 16, 2007

THERE IS ONLY THE THIRD WAY:

Thompson's ready to step on toes (David Broder, 8/16/07, Seattle Times)

When Fred Thompson makes his long-delayed entrance into the Republican presidential race, he will not tiptoe quietly. Instead, he will try to shake up the establishment candidates of both parties by depicting a nation in peril from fiscal and security threats — and prescribing tough cures he says others shrink from offering. [...]

Thompson, like many of the others running, has caught a strong whiff of the public disillusionment with both parties in Washington — and the partisanship that has infected Congress, helping to speed his own departure from the Senate.

But he says he thinks that the public is looking for a different kind of leadership. "I think a president could go to the American people and say, 'Here's what we need to be doing. and I'm willing to go halfway.' Now you have to make them (the opposition) go halfway."

The approach Thompson says he's contemplating is one that will step on many sensitive political toes. When he says "we're getting a free ride" fighting a necessary war in Iraq with an undersized military establishment, "wearing out our people and equipment," it sounds like a criticism of the president and the Pentagon.

When he says he would have opposed adding the prescription-drug benefit to Medicare, "a $17 trillion add-on to a program that's going bankrupt," he is fighting the bipartisan judgment of the last Congress.

When he says the FBI is perhaps incapable of morphing itself into the smart domestic-security agency the country needs, he is attacking another sacred cow.

Thompson repeatedly cites two texts as fueling his concern about the country's future. One is "Government at the Brink," a two-volume report he issued as chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee at the start of the Bush administration in 2001 and handed to the new president's budget director as a checklist of urgent management problems in Washington.

The difficulties outlined in federal procurement, personnel, finances and information technology remain today, Thompson said, and increasingly "threaten national security."

His second sourcebook contains the scary reports from Comptroller General David Walker, the head of the Government Accountability Office, on the long-term fiscal crisis spawned by the aging of the American population and the runaway costs of health care. Walker labels the current patterns of federal spending "unsustainable," and warns that unless action is taken soon to improve both sides of the government's fiscal ledger — spending and revenues — the next generation will suffer.

"Nobody in Congress or on either side in the presidential race wants to deal with it," Thompson said. "So we just rock along and try to maintain the status quo. Republicans say keep the tax cuts; Democrats say keep the entitlements. And we become a less-unified country in the process, with a tax code that has become an unholy mess, and all we do is tinker around the edges."


Trying to convince people there's a serious security threat seven years after 9-11 is pretty futile, but a campaign based on reforming/personalizing Social Security and health care would be useful.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 16, 2007 8:22 AM
Comments for this post are closed.