Senator Fred Thompson appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" this morning. The transcript is here. One thing I found notable about the interview was Thompson's explicit commitment to federalist principles. Here is how he described his views:
I think people ought to be free at state and local levels to make decisions that even Fred Thompson disagrees with. That’s what freedom is all about. And I think the diversity we have among the states, the system of federalism we have where power is divided between the state and the federal government is, is, is—serves us very, very well.Many politicians say such things. President Bush, for one, spoke quite a bit about the need for state flexibility when he was a Governor and a candidate, but seems to have forgotten about such things over the past six years. It appears Thompson actually means it, however, as he stuck to his federalist guns even when confronted with issues where many "conservatives" abandon federalism and embrace federal power. He even endorsed state autonomy where such a position meant rejecting policy positions favored by significant portions of the GOP base.
On abortion, for example, Thompson said that he believes that life begins at conception, and that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and should be overturned. Yet he further stated that he opposes a constitutional amendment prohibiting abortion and the language endorsing a federal prohibition in the 2004 GOP Platform.
Similarly, on gay marriage, Thompson said that he believes "marriage is between a man and a woman," but stops short of endorsing a constitutional amendment to prohibit gay marriage. Rather, Thompson said he supports an amendment to prevent the imposition of gay marriage by the judiciary, but that state legislatures should be free to recognize gay marriage if such a policy is supported by the people of a given state. As I understand it, Thompson's position is essentially that outlined by Michael Greve, and which would provide a constitutional backstop to the Defense of Marriage Act, but would not prevent states from making their own choices about gay marriage.
I have no idea whether Thompson's positions will help or hurt his electoral chances. But I also suspect I am not the only one who finds this apparent commitment to principle refreshing.