Thompson’s Fancy Footwork Wins Him Right-To-Life Crown

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Fred Thompson has chutzpah.

In a campaign press release hailing his endorsement by the National Right To Life Committee, Thompson declared:

In supporting me, those who have worked tirelessly to defend life are supporting a consistent conservative who has stood with them yesterday, who stands with them today, and will stand with them tomorrow.

The press release went on to say,

Fred Thompson is pro-life. He believes in the sanctity of human life and that every life is worthy of respect. He had a 100% pro-life voting record in the Senate and believes Roe v. Wade was a bad decision that ought to be overturned. He consistently opposed federal funding to promote or pay for abortion.

What about his days as a lawyer-lobbyist when Thompson aided abortion rights groups trying to persuade the administration of President George H.W. Bush to ease restrictions on federal payments to health clinics that offered (among other services) abortion counseling? When The Los Angeles Times broke this story in July, Thompson’s campaign first denied he had done anything such thing. But as records surfaced showing he had helped the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, Thompson claimed he was merely doing his duty as a lawyer:

The practice of law is a business as well as a profession. It’s the way you support your family. And if a client has a legal and ethical right to take a position, then you may appropriately represent him as long as he does not lie or otherwise conduct himself improperly while you are representing him. In almost 30 years of practicing law I must have had hundreds of clients and thousands of conversations about legal matters. Like any good lawyer, I would always try to give my best, objective, and professional opinion on any legal question presented to me.

But no lawyer is obligated to work for a client he finds morally reprehensible. Thompson certainly had the right to tell his law firm that he would prefer not to assist a group advocating abortion rights (or, as the anti-abortion crowd puts it, the right to commit mass-murder). He chose to put the code of business above a moral concern. That was his prerogative. What’s wrong is how he has tried (and succeeded) in double-talking his way out of a predicament. He worked for this abortion rights group, then ran for Senate as an anti-abortion candidate. When the story came out about his pro-abortion toils, his campaign issued a false denial. After incontrovertible proof emerged, he hid behind his duty as a lawyer. After all that, Thompson ends up with the right-to-life crown.

It’s a tale of contortions. But look at the GOP field. One of the leading candidates is a supporter of abortion rights trying to convince the anti-abortion crowd he’s not that pro-choice (Rudy Giuliani). Another is a former supporter of abortion rights attempting to persuade potential Republican voters he has been converted (Mitt Romney). And a third once railed against the leaders of the religious right and has tried to mend fences with the social conservatives (John McCain). So Thompson’s pirouettes are not much in comparison. In the land of GOP contortions, Thompson’s dance is about as straightforward as they come.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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