Jennifer, I largely disagree with you on Thompson’s performance. I thought he came across quite well, and offered a stark contrast to the big, bithering, blob that he’s been portrayed as. On challenging international issues: Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan he displayed a sober understanding of the complexity of the situations. When challenged by Russert on some controversial statements he made (Iraq having had WMD, the insurgency being a “bunch of kids,”) Thompson defended himself quite well. He didn’t mean Saddam had WMD immediately before the invasion, but that Saddam had had them at one time and posessed the technological knowledge and ability to restart the program. He said not that the insurgency is just “a bunch of kids” but that Al Qaeda would portray a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq to recruits as a bunch of kids beating the mighty U.S. On Iran, I don’t think he sounded Hillary-ish at all. He seemed perfectly willing and ready to use military force as a last resort if we have good intellegence. But he said that there are a lot of things we could be doing that we’re not currently doing–such as supporting opposition groups within Iran given the economic turmoil.
As for his answers on abortion, it should be interesting to see how they play out. His failure to support a human life amendment could hurt him among social conservatives, and again brings up this tricky situation since he also said life begins at conception. This will raise the question: if he believes life begins at conception and thus abortion is the taking of a human life, why shouldn’t the federal government be involved? And yes, his comment that “you can’t have a law that cuts off an age group or something like that which potentially would take young girls in extreme situations and say, basically, we’re going to put them in jail to do that,” was Rudy-like. However, to compare his present position to Rudy by singling out that statement simply isn’t being fair or accurate. Thompson said explicitly that Roe v. Wade should be overturned; Giuliani has refused to make that declaration, only saying that he’d appoint strict constructionists who could go either way with it. Not to mention Thompson’s perfect pro-life voting record, against Giuliani’s long record of supporting choice.
So, in summary, I thought Thompson’s performance showed that his intellectual capacity and command of the issues is much deeper that he’s been given credit for, but his answers on abortion will probably raise more questions, and perhaps lose him support among social conservatives who are torn between him, Romney and Huckabee.
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