I’ve always been a Fred Thompson fan: from the first time that I saw him in the movies, in Die Hard 2 back in 1990, you couldn’t help BUT like the guy. And his portrayal of District Attorney Arthur Branch on the series Law & Order made it watchable for the first time since Michael Moriarty was the Chief Assistant DA.
But between those two appearances, I noticed Thompson when he was elected to finish the remaining two years of Al Gore’s unexpired U.S. Senate term, and somewhere along the line I found out about his involvement with the Watergate investigations for the very first time. Fred was appointed minority counsel to assist the Republican senators on the Senate Watergate Committee, which certainly gave him a different perspective on the whole ordeal, and gives any lessons drawn from that time significantly more weight.
What lessons, you may ask? Here’s a taste:
Today, the office of the president, along with the entire executive branch of government, grows with each administration, bringing less accountability and more opportunity for improper activity. Today, unelected bureaucrats tell states what they can and cannot do about the enforcement of their own well-established laws. Federal regulations run every aspect of American life, even as the Supreme Court regularly slaps them down. These actions on the part of the executive branch are not criminal, but neither were many of the arrogant and foolish things the Watergate crowd did. At issue here is not just a few bad individuals. At issue is the way power can be used and abused. Watergate was not the first time the darker side of human nature manifested itself, nor was it the last time.
We make a mistake when we build a moral fence around Watergate. It was, indeed, unprecedented in many ways, and the ugly array of crimes, misplaced loyalties, immaturity, and hubris speaks for itself. But Watergate is more about the frailties of man and his tendency to abuse power than it is about the unique evil of a small group of people at one time in history.
Thompson is a long-time Federalist, and his ideas on what constitutes an ‘abuse of power’ is a bit different from the current crew’s in the White House right now. For instance:
“The Founders knew what they were doing when they separated and balanced governmental powers. Federalism with limited, delineated federal power was an important part of that equation.”
Thompson’s opinions are informed by more diverse experience than most folks, and certainly more diverse than most politicians. This piece is a break from the political play-by-play that we usually see, and you really should read the full article.