Fred Thompson, the tall, folksy actor, lawyer, and former politician, recently died at the age of 73 due to the reoccurrence of lymphoma. Americans best know Thompson for his roles in such movies as “Hunt for Red October” and “In the Line of Fire” as well as his run as District Attorney Arthur Branch in “Law and Order.” Some remember that he was a United States senator from his beloved Tennessee, having been swept into office in 1994 by the Gingrich Revolution. Fewer still recall that as minority counsel during the Watergate hearings, Thompson’s questioning led to the discovery of President Richard Nixon’s secret taping system, a revelation that eventually led to the premature end of the Nixon presidency.
Not many know that Thompson was briefly a candidate for president of the United States, having announced relatively late in September 2007 and then withdrawing from the race in January 2008. His campaign never caught traction, and his efforts seemed to be lackluster at best. Clearly his heart was not in the effort. That was too bad, since of the candidates who ran that election cycle, he was the best qualified.
Thompson could best be described as a Reaganite conservative. He was pro free trade, pro low taxes, pro-life, pro-gun, and hostile to government regulations. He supported the war in Iraq but later acknowledged that mistakes had been made during the prosecution of that war. He believed that the threat from Iran should be taken seriously.
One may have to stretch things a little bit to imagine Thompson winning the presidency in 2008, even if he had campaigned more vigorously and effectively. The weariness with the war in Iraq and the economic meltdown had prepared the battlefield for a Democrat – any Democrat – to win that election.
But let us just suppose that Thompson had been the nominee rather than his friend John McCain in 2008. Let us further suppose that he had beaten Barack Obama. Maybe southern folksiness could have beaten young, African American cool. Maybe Thompson could have convinced enough people that he rather than the senator from Illinois would be best able to clean up after President George W. Bush. What would a Thompson presidency have been like?
On the domestic front, it would be a safe bet that the economy would be much stronger than it is in the universe we now occupy. President Thompson would have held the line on taxes and spending. Obamacare would not have even been imagined, not to mention considered. The onerous environmental regulations that the Obama administration has pushed would not exist in a Thompson presidency. The 2009 $900 billion stimulus package would not have passed.
In foreign policy, Thompson would have built on the success of the Bush-era surge to stabilize Iraq. President Thompson would have executed a status of forces agreement that would have left a 10,000-person force in Iraq; therefore, no rise of ISIS.
President Thompson would have dealt with Iran, Russia, and China with a firmer hand. He would not have made a mess of Libya and would have made common cause with the Syrian rebels far earlier, perhaps seeing Bashir Assad off to an early retirement. Thus, as a bonus, the migrant crisis that is shaking Europe to its foundations would not have occurred.
The upshot is that the seventh year of a Thompson presidency would be a far happier one than the seventh year of the Obama presidency. But it would also be a sadder one, because Americans, for the first time since 1963, would be mourning the death of an American president while still in office.
In short, Fred Thompson was one of the finest politicians and best men never to have become president.