Saturday, April 28, 2007

Fred Thompson: Federalist

Matt Lewis isn't "buying into the Fred Thompson hype," which he sees as elevating style over substance. But here's one policy Thompson fans can rally around: his commitment to federalism—even if it put him on the short end of some 99-1 votes. Thompson explains:

Republicans have struggled in recent years, because they have strayed from basic principles. Federalism is one of those principles. It is something we all give lip service to and then proceed to ignore when it serves our purposes. During my eight years in the Senate, I tried to adhere to this principle. For me it was a lodestar. Not only was it what our Founding Fathers created—a federal government with limited, enumerated powers with respect for other levels of government, it also provided a basis for a proper analysis of most issues: “Is this something government should be doing? If so, at what level of government?”

As I understood it, states were supposed to be laboratories that would compete with each other, conducting civic experiments according to the wishes of their citizens. The model for federal welfare reform was the result of that process. States also allow for of diverse viewpoints that exist across the country.


Thompson also deserves credit for engaging his critics (like Ramesh Ponnuru) head-on—and in a way that privileges truth rather than triumph. Would that more politicos took to the op-ed page rather than the microphone.