Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Fred Thompson and the GOP Debate

I had lecture from 4:00 to 7:00pm last night, so I missed the GOP debate from Dearborn, Michigan. The Wall Street Journal has the story:

Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney sparred over their tax-and-spending records as Republican presidential candidates met for their latest debate -- joined for the first time by former Sen. Fred Thompson.

Meeting in a troubled manufacturing state to focus largely on economic issues, the nine candidates agreed on much -- including that their party has been guilty of overspending in recent years. The debate was sponsored by The Wall Street Journal, CNBC and MSNBC.

But several reflected skepticism about free trade that is gaining hold in both political parties. The others, while professedly free-traders, acknowledged widespread job losses as a consequence of globalism and a public sense that trading partners, particularly China, are taking advantage of the U.S.

Mr. Thompson seemed halting at first but overall provided more-concise answers than he has on the campaign trail. He called for reining in Social Security benefits over time, and, while supporting free trade, several times chastised China for devaluing its currency to increase its exports.

Thompson aides sought to lower expectations beforehand, but the former actor had already done so. Though many demoralized conservatives had hoped he would fill a perceived void in the Republican field, Mr. Thompson's low-energy style and gaffes since his entry into the race last month disappointed some would-be supporters.

At one point, Mr. Romney took a dig at Mr. Thompson, who leads him in national polls. "Is this our sixth debate?" Mr. Romney dryly asked the others. Referring to the television show that featured Mr. Thompson, Mr. Romney continued, "This is a lot like 'Law & Order,' senator. It has a huge cast, the series seems to go on forever, and Fred Thompson shows up at the end."

I caught Romney deliver that quip on CNN this morning, while having my cereal. Thompson was shaking his head up and down, snickering a bit, saying "that was pretty good, pretty good."

Thompson was also extremely bullish on the economy:

Ms. Bartiromo:

OK...Senator Thompson, this is your first debate in the election. We welcome you. Mr.

Thompson: Thank you.

Ms. Bartiromo: And we kick off with you.

Mr. Thompson: Thank you.

Ms. Bartiromo: The economy is America's greatest strength. In a recent poll by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News, two-thirds of the American people said that we are either in a recession or headed toward one. Do you agree with that? And, as president, what will you do to ensure economy vibrancy in this country?

Mr. Thompson: I think there is no reason to believe that we're headed for a recession. We're enjoying 22 quarters of successive economic growth that started 2001 and then further in 2003 with the tax cuts that we put in place.

Mr. Thompson: We're enjoying low inflation. We're enjoying low unemployment. The stock market seems to be doing pretty well. I see no reason to believe we're headed for an economic downturn. As far as the economic prosperity of the future is concerned, I think it's a different story. I think if you look at the short term, it's rosy. I think if you look at a 10-year projection, it's rosy.

Ann Althouse live-blogged the debate, and after Thomspon delivered his we have "no reason to believe that we're headed for a recession" remark (gaffe?), she writes: "Oh, Fred, do not do that again."

The full debate transcript is here.