David, the New York Times story describes 22 instances in which he spoke to the president, not 22 hours of work. It seems odd that when presented with many of the details of his interactions with the group including a description of a lunch at specific spot it would not have triggered any recollection. But goodness knows memories fade. This only serves to reinforce your main point which I think is precisely right: this was an innocuous incident made far worse by the denials and fumbling response. As soon as the LA Times produced the board minutes it should have been crystal clear to all but the conspiracy junkies that Thompson's initial flat denial was wrong. If this mild issue could become a two week story it suggests a lack of appreciation for the challenges he faces.
What is certain is the gloves are coming off. Despite his "testing the waters" status, there is no rhetorical moat preventing rivals from lobbying their spears this a.m. On rival aide called it "unreal" that Thompson would have denied contact with someone "and now it turns out he talked with them 22 times?" The aide added: "Aside from the sure to be tortured explanation yet to the come from Thompson's campaign this raises even more questions about his ability and willingness to be straight with Republican voters." Another camp chimed in by providing quotes to emphasize that Thompson repeatedly denied any lobbying for the pro-choice group and to rebut Thompson surrogates' claims that he only denied lobbying Sununu (which has yet to be proven). This camp tosses in this grenade for good measure: " Now we know two things about Fred Thompson --he is thinking about running for President and we cannot trust his word." Ouch.
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