Jul 7, 2007

Fred Thompson is no Conservative

I don't like using the word 'liar' when it comes to politicians because so often, they make statements that are 'weaselly' rather than make out and out false statements. Fred Thompson may be the exception to to such a rule given his recent attempts to pass himself off as a fiscal conservative.

In particular, Thompson, who still is gathering the courage to officially express his desire to run for President, has been making rhetorical statements which sound amazingly similar Ron Paul. Unfortunately for Fred, he doesn't have a record to match his new found conservatism.

When Fred wrote an article for the National Review entitled For the Defense - Federalism and Me, Max Raskin posted on Lew Rockwell's blog that his sentiments were sounding awfully familiar in light of Ron Paul's record. The excerpt that Max posted was this:

"Adhering to the principles of federalism is not easy. As one who was on the short end of a couple of 99-1 votes, I can personally attest to it. Federalism sometimes restrains you from doing things you want to do."
I literally laughed out loud at this one. To think that Thompson has ever voted out of lockstep with the party is funny enough, but that he would actually vote principle against them in deference to the 10th amendment was almost too much to bear.

It also presented me with my own personal challenge. It seemed funny, but what if Thompson was telling the truth and he really believed in limited government and separation of powers?

Being that I am pretty proficient in Perl, I decided to write a script which would peruse Thompson's voting record and give me some hard facts. The first job was of course to prove or disprove what I believed to be a misstatement by Thompson (being the one NAY in a lopsided 99-1 Senate vote) but secondly it would give me the ability to analyze the record to see if there was anything remotely supporting his new found belief in federalism.

So I proceeded to code up a basic screen scraper. I pointed it at six URLs which contained links to the vote tallies for Senate votes which took place during Thompson's tenure. These URLs are the following:

These URLSs contain links to summaries for every vote recorded from 1997 to 2001 - the years that Thompson held office.

The script has to find the links to the vote summaries, traverse the links, massage the text such that it could be put into a data structure (hash) that could then be output into an excel document. ( I used Spreadsheet::WriteExcel to create the .xls document). As I parsed, I separated the votes into 4 categories based on the type of bills. This was dictated by the way that the Senate website publishes the summaries. The way that they publish the summaries varies by bill type (Nominations, Amendments, Original Bill's, Impeachments).

In my spare time, I was able to code something up that would do the trick. I did say I was pretty proficient. But I'm no perl monk. For some of the parsing I just used some regular expressions to clean up text and remove unwanted or un-needed text, but I also used HTML::Parser to strip the html so that I was left with just text.

Once I had the data into a data structure, I then parsed it into native Excel format in 4 separate sheets in a work book. I can make both the spreadsheet and the perl program available if anyone cares. It's a very inefficient process and the right thing to do would be to export the data to a relational database so it could be searched. The parsing takes about an hour though I do have the raw data stored now.

But on to the results!

Here's the break down by type:

Of the 2107 items voted upon in the Senate, Thompson only refrained from voting about 20 times.

Wrong side of a 99-1 vote? Well, There was a single instance of a 99-1 vote where Thompson voted No and the rest of the Senate voted yes. Unfortunately for Thompson, it was a meaningless amendment that had absolutely nothing to do with federalism. In fact the amendment was simply a resolution which had no legal effect even if signed by the President.

The date was March 23, 2000. The Amendment, 2888 which would have been attached to S. 251 was entitled: "To express the sense of Congress regarding the Rally for Rural America and the rural crisis." The vote was 99-1 with Thompson voting no.

The only other time that Thompson came close to 99-1 was a 98-1 vote on May 9, 2001. He voted against an amendment to provide liability insurance for teachers. The amendment was attached to S 1 (HR. 1). Whereupon Thompson voted for the bill with the amendment intact on June 14. So much for principle.

Thompson may not be lying about being on the wrong end of a "couple" of 99-1 votes. He may have just forgotten that it was only one. But he can't possibly be telling the truth about his reason for doing this being over the issue of federalism given the utter pork and rights violating nonsense he has voted to pass.

  • He voted against a repeal of "know your customer" laws which allow the banking industry to report "suspicious" transactions of ordinary Americans.
  • He voted for increases in Department of Education funding.
  • Voted against setting conditions on sending funds to the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization
In short, Thompson's idea of "federalism" is to send as much of your money to entitlement and foreign entities as he can manage. His "NAYS" were meaningless to the concept of federalism and he's no conservative. Fred Thompson is an empty suit. All style and no substance.


Anonymous said...

Nice piece on showing a bit about Fred Thompson's voting record. I also wondered what the 99:1 votes were about. You might want to do a little editing, becuase I know that no one served in the year 20001 :)

Rick Fisk said...

That's pretty funny. Maybe a Freudian slip... I also went ahead and provided some links.

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Anonymous said...

Actually, since you now have the Perl script to do it. Set it to gather the same info on everyone that is running for President, with both 99-1 and 98-1 or 2.

Pass the Spread sheet onto the Ron Paul campaign so they have this info.

Someone is gonna do the same thing in the Republican and Democratic Party to set them apart from the others.

Anonymous said...

ps And for the House ??? to 1 and ??? to 2.

Should have put that in the last post

Anonymous said...

I poured through the US Congress Votes Database accessible on the WashingtonPost.com site, and found that Fred Thompson was the only "No" vote on the Volunteer Protection Act of 1997 (SB 543, May 1, 1997, which passed 99-1. I believe the act also was referred to as the "good Samaritan act." Thompson also was the lone "No" vote in a 96-1 "sense of the Senate" resolution, for "improving the learning environment by ensuring safe schools." This was SB 1134, passed on March 2, 2000. By the way, I'm a big Ron Paul fan, but I wanted to post this in the interest of getting the facts reported correctly.

Rick Fisk said...

Interesting. I was thinking that the WP results might not match up but sure enough the bill you're talking about is here

That lends a bit more credence to his claims. Not that he's a conservative but I am going to now have to definitely check my results since sorting the spread sheets didn't turn up this one.

Anonymous said...

Ol' Fred is at it again today on his blog:

Back in my days in the Senate, I found myself on the short end of a couple of 99 to 1 votes. They involved issues that had been under the purview of states for over 200 years. I asked why we should federalize what rightly were state and local issues.


It's like he wants to get caught.