Fred Thompson and the Burning ‘Necklace’

by , June 26, 2007

To look at Fred Thompson, the actor-cum-senator who now appears to be moving to the front of the GOP presidential pack, one would think that what you see is what you get – but, no. Peel back the pretty ordinary red-state Republican opinions – the war is a righteous one, free Scooter Libby – and we get to the hollow core at the center of his political being. That is, his prior career as a professional lobbyist – perhaps the one profession that is rated lower in the public’s esteem than being a member of Congress.

I have to admit being shocked – and somewhat baffled – by his lobbying efforts on behalf of Jean Bertrand Aristide, the former president of Haiti, a committed leftist and anti-American demagogue of the sort currently represented by Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.

Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest with radical socialist beliefs, was elected president of Haiti in 1990 after a campaign marred by violence on the part of his supporters and featuring promises by Aristide that he would redistribute the nation’s wealth to his constituency, i.e., the poorest of the poor. Early on, Aristide was characterizing the U.S. as “the great Satan." In September 1991, Aristide incited his followers to “necklace” his political opponents: “necklacing” is the practice of tying a tire around the victim’s neck, filling it with gasoline, and then lighting it.

Death squads acting under the supervision of Aristide’s top security aides roamed the streets of Haiti’s cities and villages, murdering and beating anyone who dared speak out against the red terror. Aristide and his Lavalas Party tried to rig parliamentary elections, and when the Organization of American States called him on it, the Clinton administration, which had been sponsoring, supporting, and subsidizing him, suffered a major embarrassment.

This is the regime Thompson lobbied for.

Politico.com reports Thompson’s campaign manager as saying that he was only lobbying against the embargo placed on Haiti in the 1990s, but if you look at the actual form Thompson had to fill out at the time, it reads that he was lobbying “on behalf of Jean Bertrand Aristide” “in order to obtain the restoration of the democratically-elected government of the republic of Haiti.” Kicked out of power and taking refuge in Washington, Aristide soon found plenty of support from the less fastidious lefties, and his cause was taken up by the Clinton administration, which, at the urging of Thompson and his fellow pro-Aristide lobbyists, installed the Haitian demagogue back in power. The rigging of the 2000 elections, however, was a major blow to the pro-Aristide camp in the U.S., and he soon lost his American fan base, at least among the Washington respectables, and was driven out of power in 2004 in the face of stepped-up criticism from Washington and riots in the streets.

The question is: what was Thompson doing representing the interests of one of the worst leftist tyrants in recent memory? Was it just the money?

It seems to me that Thompson, like all too many actors, exhibits a total lack of judgment. Quite obviously, Aristide was a wild man, a man whose rhetoric condemned him out of his own mouth, and whose actions were inexcusable – yet Thompson signed on to the campaign to prettify this yammering tyrant, empowering him and deepening the misery of the Haitian people. Typically, Thompson has also signed on to the effort to free Scooter Libby, helping to raise millions for the legal defense of this convicted felon and serial liar, whose behind-the-scenes machinations did so much to ensure that the lies that lured us into war went unchallenged until it was too late.

Is Thompson naïve, or a genuine creep? Perhaps he’s both.

The Republican candidates, with the notable exception of Ron Paul, are a truly sorry pack of phonies, front men, and poseurs. Romney spends half his time denying his record, and the other half trying to explain it. McCain has forsaken straight talk for double-talk. Giuliani has so many skeletons in his closet that the sound of their clattering bones promises to drown out whatever he has to say. As for the rest of them, they’re Lilliputians, one and all; standing beside them, Ron Paul towers like a giant.

As for Thompson: anyone who would lobby on behalf of a half-crazed demagogue of Aristide’s stripe lacks any moral sense, and surely that is one quality we would like to see in a president. While no one expects America’s chief executive to be the equivalent of Mother Teresa, being a shill for one of the Western hemisphere’s most extravagantly vicious rulers is a little much even by Washington’s standards.

With a brace of phonies on both sides of the partisan divide struggling to “position” themselves into the White House, this upcoming political season promises to be the winter of our discontent. The Republicans, however, seem especially handicapped when it comes to candidates who exhibit the least bit of authenticity. Indeed, they are so lacking in this department that they are apparently willing to squint hard so that they don’t really have to see their candidates with any degree of clarity – only a carefully airbrushed, rather foggy blur that inspires nothing but the fear of looking any closer.

Fred Thompson, we are told, is “Reaganesque,” but what does this really mean? Reagan came up through the conservative ranks, you’ll remember, as Barry Goldwater’s eloquent champion, a role that won him wide recognition and adulation from conservatives. Thompson has no such credentials. His voting record is fairly conservative, but he’s no Ron Paul when it comes to economic issues. Yeah, sure, Thompson’s an actor, and so was Reagan, but there the resemblance ends.

It is a measure of the sheer desperation of the Republicans that they would turn to Thompson, whose main attraction is that he’s not Romney, he’s not McCain, and he never married one of his cousins. If ever there was a party in decline, it’s the GOP.

Read more by Justin Raimondo