Friday, October 26, 2007

Fred on Executive Power

Andrew Sullivan is pleasantly surprised that Fred Thompson has a restrained view of Executive Power that seems to break with Cheney. Sully also makes note of Thompson's real (not faux) humility.

I want to say this much about Fred: despite my making fun of him here and here, I've had occasion to follow the former Senator's career a little more closely than other politicians. I once attended a guest lecture he gave where he made a last minute change of topics (from discussing the Clinton Justice Dept. to discussing campaign finance reform). Even though I completely disagreed with him on the issue, I came away very impressed with his candor and, yes, humility about the topic. He was one of the rare politicians who was willing to acknowledge a little bit of doubt that his position was correct, and to acknowledge the legitimacy of the other side- no railing against corporate lobbyists and special interests or anything of that sort. Just a rational discussion of what he thought was good and bad about McCain-Feingold, and why he may have been wrong.

When I saw that the die-hard conservatives were trying to draft him to run, I was more than a little surprised, given what I knew about his humility in general. In some ways, he is this year's Republican answer to Obama- just without the charisma. Generally speaking, Fred is a good man with a fairly well-rounded commitment to principle. I don't know that he would be a good President, but he'd be far better than Hillary or Giuliani, if only because of his more humble view of Executive Power.

Also- no matter what, it's about time we ended the string of electing people whose primary political experience has been in the Executive branch (whether it be federal, state, or local). If you ever wanted to know why federal power has grown so much in the last 40 years or so, you need look no further than the fact that Gerald Ford (who wasn't even elected) is the only President during that time period whose primary political experience was in the legislature (or, for that matter, the judiciary).

This isn't to say that a former Congressman won't expand Executive Power (see, e.g., LBJ), just that a former Congressman or judge is much more likely to have an actual concern for the Constitutional separation of powers and respect for the will of at least one other branch.