Thursday, July 05, 2007

Mr. Inside/Mr. Outside

As actor-politician Fred Thompson prepares to launch his campaign for the Republican’t presidential nomination in 2008, The Boston Globe reveals that--far from being a hero of the Watergate scandal, a hard-nosed prosecutor partly responsible for bringing down Richard M. Nixon, “the president he admired”--Thompson was in fact a “mole” for the Nixon White House. Explains Globe reporter Michael Kranish:
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.”
Read the full story here.

Of course, this isn’t likely to hurt Thompson’s rep with the Republicans who are looking to him as a grandfatherly alternative to pro-choice candidate Rudy Giuliani, Mormon candidate Mitt Romney, and pro-Iraq war candidate John McCain. However, it may have an impact on those independent voters who, while they might be willing to take a gamble on a Republican’t contender for the Oval Office again, might be wary of Thompson because in trying to save the least popular U.S. president in history from his comeuppance, he demonstrated a recklessly partisan streak much at odds with the evenhandedness and common sense he’s now trying to portray to the electorate.

As The Carpetbagger Report’s Steve Benen notes today, with an eye-rolling that’s obvious even from the remove of the printed page: “Thompson now believes his performance during [the Watergate] ordeal helps prove his qualifications to be president. If you like George W. Bush, you’ll love Fred Thompson.”

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