The Spectacle Blog

Thompson on Federalism

By on 7.28.07 | 10:31PM

On his website Fred Thompson put up an essay on federalism. I think many will find it intriguing and helpful in summarizing the classic case for federalism but nevertheless somewhat frustrating in its lack of specificity. He decries the federalization of education and apparently would like to roll back the excesses of No Child Left Behind but only says "There are bills pending in Congress that would move us in this direction, and I hope Congress gives them the attention they deserve." Which ones? What are HIS ideas? (If he proposes abolishing No Child Left Behind he'll get no quarrel from me.) He does call for reinstatement of the Executive Order of Ronald Reagan calling on agencies to respect the Tenth Amendment, commenting :"The next president should put it right back in effect, and see to it that the rightful authority of state and local governments is respected." What this means in practice he does not say. Allow states to enact euthanasia laws? Allow a hodgepodge of state emission control regulations as California and other states are now doing? Oppose a federal ban on gay marriage? Allow states to ban carrying concealed weapons? Aside from his opposition to tort reform we just don't know how he would translate this into policy. This I think is precisely the leap Thompson needs to make-- from comforting conservative commentator to engaged and accessible candidate. A blog is fine for setting out a candidate's historical observations and ideological premises but it does not (especially on a website with comments which can only be made or read by "Friends of Fred") allow for challenge, follow up or debate. That is why candidates do challenging Sunday morning interview shows, press conferences, town hall meetings and debates. There really is no reason to avoid the day of reckoning. Even some of his most fervent supporters agree.
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