Thompson's No Big Government Fan
Fort Dodge, Iowa -- Former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson often doesn't describe solutions, but he knows the problem: big government. At a "Meet Fred Thompson" event at Webster County GOP headquarters in the center of the Hawkeye State, Thompson was asked by one man what he would do to make sure the man's diabetic, self-employed father could keep his health care costs low. He also fielded questions about the conditions in the military hospitals and later about his position on expanding the State Children's Health Insurance Program.
Thompson cast the problems at Walter Reed, the military hospital in Washington that faced heavy criticism early this year for poor conditions, as an example of the "relentless growth of government bureaucracy."
"A lot of it is the left hand not doing what the right hand is doing, it's too big," Thompson said.
He called the Pentagon a big source of "waste, fraud, and mismanagement" in the federal government, while also suggesting it needed a larger budget to defend the country. On health care, the candidate did not mention diabetes in his answer to the man's question, instead riffing about the long lines in England for medicine, noting that America was a source of medical innovation and calling for tax breaks to make it easier for individuals to buy their own health insurance, a stance taken by other GOP candidates and President Bush. Thompson said the Democrats' plan to expand SCHIP was a step toward government takeover of health care.
None of these stances are distinct from his other Republican opponents, but in tone and emphasis, Thompson is the most anti-government of the leading GOP candidates. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Senator John McCain tend to focus more on security issues and Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney talks often about economics and health care. Thompson on the stump frequently talks about the federal government should move power to the states and became perhaps the first presidential candidate in history to use the phrase "diversified competitive states environment" in describing his vision for states taking the lead on major problems.
A day earlier, in Iowa, he slammed the Medicare prescription drug benefit that had been pushed through by Charles Grassley, the state's popular Republican Senator. He has also criticized the No Child Left Behind Act, even though he voted for it when he was in the Senate. He remained generally unspecific on his policy proposals, noting "everybody's got 15-point plans." He did suggest, however, that he supported moves to shift the health care system toward one where individuals buy health care rather than relying on employers. He also said he would not support allowing Social Security taxes on all income, rather than the first $97,000 on income as under current law.
--Perry Bacon Jr.
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