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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 11/20/2007

Who is More 'Pro-Life': Fred or Mike?

By Michael Dobbs


Huckabee and Thompson have been feuding lately.

MIKE HUCKABEE:

Fred's never had 100 percent record on right to life in his Senate career. The records reflect that.

--Fox News Sunday, November 18, 2007.


***


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:

You've taken to calling Governor Huckabee a 'pro-life liberal'. What does that mean?

FRED THOMPSON:
Yes. Well, it means he's pro-life, but he's liberal in everything else...Like taxes, like illegal immigration enforcement.


--ABC This Week with George Stephanopoulos, November 18, 2007.


Fred Thompson and Mike Huckabee have been having a private feud going recently. The two Republican candidates are both trying to court the conservative evangelical vote, which means flaunting their "pro-life" credentials and doing whatever they can to pin that nasty "L label" on to their rival. In the process, they have managed to misrepresent each other's records.


The Facts

Fred Thompson served in the U.S. Senate from 1994 to 2002. The National Right to Life Committee has tracked his Senate votes back to 1997 on this website. The group found that Thompson voted consistently in support of pro-life issues, such as a ban on partial birth abortions and a refusal to use federal funds to pay for abortions. There were several occasions when the senator voted against the National Right to Life recommendations, but they all involved the McCain-Feingold bill on campaign financing. The anti-abortion group argued that McCain-Feingold would restrict its right to free speech.

Since Thompson voted with National Right to Life on all matters of substance, he can accurately claim an "100 percent pro-life" voting record. More recently, he has said that he would oppose a constitutional amendment protecting the rights of the unborn, and would also oppose jail terms for women who had abortions. But he was never asked to vote on those issues in the Senate. (Meet the Press, Nov. 4, 2007.) The Huckabee campaign failed to provide factual support for the governor's claim that Thompson did not have a 100 per cent pro-life record in the Senate.

Huckabee was clearly taken aback that National Right to Life endorsed Thompson for president, partly on the grounds that he is more "electable" than other "pro-life candidates." It noted that he has "run second only to pro-abortion candidate Rudy Giuliani for the Republican nomination in the overwhelming majority of national polls."

The Thompson accusations against Huckabee for alleged "liberalism" also seem greatly overstated. It is true that Huckabee supported several measures as governor of Arkansas that would have helped the children of illegal immigrants. He was in favor of providing prenatal care for illegal immigrants on the grounds that this would cut the state's medical bills over the long term. He wanted to allow illegal aliens who had attended high schools in Arkansas in-state tuition rates at state universities. And he criticized a police raid against a poultry plant that netted more than a hundred undocumented workers. (Associated Press, August 5, 2005.)

On the other hand, Huckabee has also said that illegal aliens who apply for welfare benefits or try to vote should be arrested. His website includes a call for strengthening American borders and opposition to President Bush's proposal for immigration reform that would have put millions of illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship. In an attempt to prove his toughness on immigration, he aired a political ad recruiting Chuck Norris to defend the border.

"He is more a compassionate conservative than a liberal," said Art English, a professor of political science at the University of Little Rock. "His political beliefs are heavily influenced by his religious views."

Huckabee has gone further than Thompson in supporting passage of a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as "a union between one man and one woman." Thompson told the Christian Broadcasting Network in September that he is in favor of a weaker amendment saying that a state need not recognize gay marriages sanctioned by another state. Huckabee's support for a constitutional amendment on marriage is hardly a "liberal" position.

The Pinocchio Test

It seems fairly obvious what is happening here. Both Thompson and Huckabee are trying to outdo each other in proving their conservative credentials, even if it means distorting the other man's positions. To foist the L-label on Huckabee is as unfair as twisting the facts on Thompson's Senate voting record. Two Pinocchios each seems an appropriate sanction.

(About our rating scale.)

PS It's a trend! The campaigns are replying to the Rise of the Media Fact Checkers with "Fact Check sites" of their own. Hillary Clinton appears to have been the first to launch, with her Fact Hub. Barack Obama responded yesterday with Fact Check. Let me know if you spot any more out there.

By Michael Dobbs  | November 20, 2007; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  2 Pinocchios, Candidate Record, Candidate Watch, Immigration, Social Issues  
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