After much ado, Fred Thompson finally officially announced his run for the Republican nomination. In doing so, he skipped the New Hampshire FoxNews debates where the other candidates were represented. Before the debate, he ran an advertisement about himself and after the debate, went alone on the “Tonight Show” with Jay Leno to announce his long-awaited decision. Though he received a great deal of pressure to make the announcement sooner and to attend the debate in New Hampshire, Thompson holds that he believes he has enough support to still get the nomination and raise money. He believes he can present himself as a shining alternative to the somewhat bland current Republican field.
In order to have a strong presence, he must establish himself and what he believes in. Since he got a later start in the official race than the other candidates, he must do so in a hurry. Taking on the current pack leader, Rudy Guliani, Thompson wants to clearly differentiate himself. In order to do that, he must reiterate not only his conservative value systems, but he must take stances on issues Guliani has been silent about. That’s why when he was in Iowa, he stressed his values on small government involvement and the sanctity of life.  Additionally, as a politician turned actor in the conservative field, many people in the press have drawn parallels to Thompson and Ronald Raegan. Thompson welcomes the comparisons. Raegan, as far-right conservative who appealed to a type of Republican than the more lenient Thompson, will make Thompson even more broadly appealing to all types of Republican voter, or so his handlers believe.
Thompson must be careful, however, because his years as a lawyer are being scrutinized by both parties. Republican counterparts may be looking for old clients that make him look bad to the rest of the party. Depending on how the situation is handled by the Thompson camp, they may have found some disturbing news this week. Thompson was linked to giving advice to a colleague on how to handle two clients who happen to be part of a Libyan terrorist attack in 1992 in Scotland. Thompson argues that he believes in due process and proper representation in a court of law for everyone. In the Republican mindset, where fighting terrorism is the foundation for nearly all other political positions, this could lead to problems.
Already this week, tensions between Thompson and Mitt Romney came to the forefront when Thompson accused Romney of supporting the creation of website entitled “PhoneyFred.com” which accused Thompson of poor leadership, inability to make decisions, and seeming overall incompetence for the Republican nomination. Though Romney denied the link and the website was dismantled shortly thereafter, the tensions between the two camps are already setting themselves up for a intense debates, accusations, and an overall exciting primary.
For non-candidate Republicans, there will be at least 22 Senate seats they will have to contend in the upcoming 2008 election. This is almost twice was the Democrats will have to defend, and gives Republicans even more reason to get out the vote and motivate their base to the polls.
On the other end of the political spectrum, Democrats have launched a exploration of the imprisonment of Don Siegelman, the former Democratic Governor of Alabama. The Democrats are arguing that the Justice Department, along with the linked Karl Rove, prosecuted the former Governor for political gain. Seigelman is currently serving his fourth month out of an eighty-eight month prison sentence for federal corruption. He is accused of accepting bribes in exchange for various government positions. Democrats argue that what he did was not atypical of any Governor and that the Justice Department deliberately attacked him to make the Democrats look bad. The Justice Department refuses to cooperate in handing over official papers on the prosecution, claiming that there is absolutely no substance behind the accusations.
Clinton donor Hsu was finally found and taken to prison after a short attempt at a getaway. This capture is very good for the Democrats in this overall embarrassing situation. Though it will be a hard financial hit, it is important for Democrats to distance themselves as much as possible from Hsu. With him finally in control, the speculative stories can finally begin to die down in the press and the candidates, especially Clinton, can focus on gaining back those lost funds. More importantly, perhaps, Clinton has to work on retaining her image as a non-corrupt fundraiser. This is especially important for Mrs. Clinton because of the Democratic campaign scandals that took place during her husband’s Presidency. Though she claims to have detailed methods to prevent corrupt donations that would jeopardize her reputation, the Hsu scandal will be difficult to overcome.
Interestingly, the Democrats especially have raised money from a large amount of youthful, non-voting donors. Both Obama and Clinton have raised over a half-million dollars from youth who cannot yet vote. This indicates, to some, that they may have an appeal to a younger generation. Perhaps that appeal could be enough to motivate a generation who usually does not vote, to come support them at the polls in 2008. These donations have to be carefully monitored, however, so that it does not look like the candidates are taking advantage of very wealthy families by getting multiple donations with different names on them. These youth, however, could prove important to a Democratic President because many of them would be able to vote by the time the President was running for re-election.
Obama proved he retained some celebrity status at a huge fundraiser sponsored by Oprah this past weekend. In one night, Oprah, who has never explicitly supported a candidate until Obama, raised nearly $3 million for his campaign. In a world where politics and celebrity are so closely tied, Oprah could prove much more than a powerful financial ally for Obama.
The Iraq debate, as always dominated the press this week. Even before the much-anticipated address of Gen. Petraeus on Monday the Democrats became increasingly willing to make compromises with the Republicans on a possible timetable for troop withdrawal. They are willing to change a troop withdrawal timetable from an absolute demand to a worthwhile goal. This shift came upon realizing that the Republicans were not making as significant a shift away from the Bush administration and it’s Iraq policies as they had originally hoped.
The Monday testimony of General Petraeus proved a difficult time for the Democrats. An anti-war group that has consistently supported the Democrats, MoveOn.org, placed a full-page advertisement in the Sunday New York times in which they nicknamed the four-star general “General Betray Us.” The Democrats, who have been very careful to separate military support from criticism of the harsh Bush administration, were left between a rock and a hard place. Instead of addressing the ad, which top Republicans attacked openly, the Democrats attempted to focus on the issues of Homeland security to commemorate the 9/11 terrorist attacks. To make matters more difficult for the Democrats, large amounts of anit-war protesters interrupted the General’s speech and disrespected him while he was talking, to the point where some protesters were arrested. The protestors and anti-war advocates like MoveOn argue adamantly that they have substantive evidence to prove that the General only feeds lies, but it would be near political suicide for a Democrat to side with the extremist views and disrespect a decorated General.
Petraeus’ testimony allows Republicans some breathing room to answer questions about Iraq without going too far right and appealing to more moderate votes. It also gives Republican candidates a non-Bush administration source to stand by their Iraq strategy. Because he is unpopular, it is dangerous to side with the Bush administration’s goals in Iraq. However, it is beneficial to use the words of a four-star General in order to help strengthen an Iraq strategy. With this report, Republicans can give an actual figure of troop withdrawal (30,000), while Democrats have to rethink and rephrase their call for a timetable and what their particular goals in Iraq should be.
Both sides closely listened to Petraeus testimony. Some senators, both Republicans and Democrats, questioned idea of “buying time” in Iraq. Petraeus couldn’t answer whether or not the strategy was “making America safer” nor what would be clear-cut signs of victory that would allow for troops to come home. He adamantaly argued that a quick pull out of Iraq could harm American interests and lead Iran and others to come in and be even more forceful against Iraq. It was difficult to persuade many Senators, however, because the numbers did not show any real progress. Democratic Presidential hopefuls argued that the report provided unsatisfactory troop withdrawal promises and merely redefined the goals of Iraq policy in order to make it look more successful than it actually has been. It is especially important for these Presidential hopefuls to weigh in on the Iraq update, since it is widely agreed that the next major Iraq decision will have to be made by the next President.
Finally, in response to the liberal MoveOn ad, the conservative internet-based group called FreedomsWatch took out a full page ad in both the New York Times and the USA Today on September 11 that said, “We are fighting a global war against terrorism. Surrender to terrorists is not an option.” The continued to argue that pulling out of Iraq would be allowing the terrorist to win. Though it was much more clandestine and has yet to spark controversy like the name-calling of their counterpart, the ad was a careful political tool to take another jab at the Democrats.
War on Terror
Osama bin Laden, after a three-year hiatus, finally released two more tapes this week to relive the 9/11 attacks and to send warnings to the Western world. The two tapes, which were spread apart by four days and mostly filled with still pictures and audio overlap that was confirmed to be bin Laden by the F.B.I. proved the symbol of terrorism worldwide is still at large. The tapes featured bin Laden, sporting a newly dyed black beard, making no direct attack threats, but warning Westerners of their own “terrorism” and the consequences of their lifestyles, military endeavors and leadership choices.
These videotaped reminders are tangible evidence of the war on terrorism and come, not only during the anniversary of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks six years ago, but only days after three Germans were seized and arrested for terrorist activities. The Germans, who were targeting American hubs in Germany, were also reminders of the worldwide war at large. Politically, both bin Laden and the German arrests provide powerful ammunition for both political parties. The Democrats can argue that the war on terror is an abstraction that is being either distracted or perpetuated by the Iraq conflict and that a new strategy needs to be implemented. The Republicans can use the same information as proof that Americans are not safe and need strong leadership to wipe out terrorist threats throughout the world.
 “Fred Thompson skips GOP debate in N.H.” by David Jackson, USA Today; Sept. 6, 2007
 “Stumping in Iowa, Thompson stresses conservative views” by Susan Page, USA Today; Sept. 7, 2007
 “For Thompson, goal is to don Reagan mantle” by Adam Nagourney and Jo Becker, NY Times; Sept. 7, 2007
 “Thompson Linked to work for Libyans” by Jo Becker, NY Times; Sept. 9, 2007
 “G.O.P. Spat Over Web Site” By Michael Luo, NY Times; Sept. 12, 2007
 “Hagel will retire from the senate in 2009” by David M. Herszenhorn and Jeff Zeleny NY Times; Sept. 9, 2007
 “Democrats Question Prosecution of a Governor” by Adam Nossiter, NY Times; Sept. 11, 2007
 “Clinton sees fear realized in trouble with donor” By Patrick Healy, NY Times; Sept. 12, 2007
 “Polls net millions from piggy banks” By Fredreka Schouten, USA Today; Sept. 12, 2007
 “The Oprah Factor and Obama” by Julie Bosman, NY Times; Sept. 11, 2007
 “The Democrats’ anti-war dilemma” by Josephine Hern and Patrick O’Conner, The Politico; Sept. 10, 2007
 “GOP Adopts a new political plan” by Martin Kady II, The Politico; Sept. 10, 2007
 “Two officials cite long-term need for U.S. in Iraq” by David E. Sanger, NY Times; Sept. 10, 2007
 “Candidates chip in their 2 cents” By Jill Lawrence, USA Today; Sept. 12, 2007
 “A General Faces Question from Five Potential Bosses” by Elisabeth Bumiller, NY Times; Sept. 12, 2007
 “Bin Laden Releases Video as C.I.A Issues Warning” by Mark Mazzetti, NY Times; Sept. 8, 2007
 “Germany seizes 3 it says planned terror attacks” by Mark Landler, NY Times; Sept. 6, 2007