I've always agreed with Kevin Drum that the rise of Fred Thompson's candidacy is "a measure of GOP desperation." After all, Thompson has essentially no record as a Senator, spent the rest of his time lobbying for "for a savings-and-loan deregulation bill that helped hasten the industry's collapse[,] a failed nuclear energy project that cost taxpayers more than a billion dollars", and "a British reinsurance company that wanted to limit its liability from asbestos lawsuits"; and ran a PAC that spent $70,000 on political campaigns and $170,000 on payments to his son -- one of two sons who discovered callings as lobbyists after their father's election as Senator. (One had previously been a Xerox salesman, the other a landscaper.)
And then, of course, there's his authenticity, symbolized by the red pickup truck he made a point of driving throughout his Senate campaign:
"Finishing his talk, Thompson shakes a few hands, then walks out with the rest of the crowd to the red pickup truck he made famous during his 1994 Senate campaign. My friend stands talking with her colleagues as the senator is driven away by a blond, all-American staffer. A few minutes later, my friend gets into her car to head home. As she pulls up to the stop sign at the parking lot exit, rolling up to the intersection is Senator Thompson, now behind the wheel of a sweet silver luxury sedan. He gives my friend a slight nod as he drives past. Turning onto the main road, my friend passes the school's small, side parking area. Lo and behold: There sits the abandoned red pickup, along with the all-American staffer."
But now it turns out that Thompson was also a Nixon mole on the Watergate Committee. From the Boston Globe:
"The day before Senate Watergate Committee minority counsel Fred Thompson made the inquiry that launched him into the national spotlight -- asking an aide to President Nixon whether there was a White House taping system -- he telephoned Nixon's lawyer.
Thompson tipped off the White House that the committee knew about the taping system and would be making the information public. In his all-but-forgotten Watergate memoir, "At That Point in Time," Thompson said he acted with "no authority" in divulging the committee's knowledge of the tapes, which provided the evidence that led to Nixon's resignation. It was one of many Thompson leaks to the Nixon team, according to a former investigator for Democrats on the committee, Scott Armstrong , who remains upset at Thompson's actions.
"Thompson was a mole for the White House," Armstrong said in an interview. "Fred was working hammer and tong to defeat the investigation of finding out what happened to authorize Watergate and find out what the role of the president was." (...)
When Thompson learned of Butterfield's admission [that there was a white house taping system], he leaked the revelation to Nixon's counsel, J. Fred Buzhardt .
"Even though I had no authority to act for the committee, I decided to call Fred Buzhardt at home" to tell him that the committee had learned about the taping system, Thompson wrote. "I wanted to be sure that the White House was fully aware of what was to be disclosed so that it could take appropriate action."
Armstrong said he and other Democratic staffers had long been convinced that Thompson was leaking information about the investigation to the White House. The committee, for example, had obtained a memo written by Buzhardt that Democratic staffers believed was based on information leaked by Thompson.
Armstrong said he thought the leaks would lead to Thompson's firing. "Any prosecutor would be upset if another member of the prosecution team was orchestrating a defense for Nixon," said Armstrong, who later became a Washington Post reporter and currently is executive director of Information Trust, a nonprofit organization specializing in open government issues."
And why did he call Nixon's counsel to inform him that the Committee knew about the tapes? "Thompson, in his 1975 memoir, wrote that he believed "there would be nothing incriminating" about Nixon on the tapes, a theory he said "proved totally wrong.""
Think about this for a minute. A committee conducting an investigation into serious charges learns that there is crucial evidence concerning the crimes they are investigating. A lawyer on that committee then takes it upon himself to inform the lawyer of the person being investigated of this discovery. That's crazy, and it's just plain wrong. It gives the person being investigated a chance to destroy or alter the evidence -- for instance, by erasing 18 1/2 minutes of one of the tapes.
The very best possible spin that you can put on it is that the lawyer who did this was very, very trusting, very, very dumb, and wholly unprofessional. In this case, we'd probably have to add: very ambitious, and willing to but ambition ahead of principle and professionalism. The worst interpretation, of course, is that he was participating in the obstruction of justice. In neither case, however, should he be President. Especially not now, when we need someone who will at least try to restore people's trust in the rule of law and the basic fairness of our institutions.