It's very rare that I am complimentary towards a Republican. It's even rarer that I would be complimentary towards a Republican running for President. It's most vanishingly rare that I would be complimentary towards a rabid right-wing Republican running for President like Fred Thompson. In fact in my only post specifically devoted to Thompson, back when he was higher in the polls as a not-yet-announced candidate than he has been since he announced, I poked some fun at him while pointing out his deficiencies.
But I'm going to say he is doing the right thing today. And it's not about any laughing matter. Specifically, he is standing by Philip Martin, who is the co-chair of his campaign. It was reported over the weekend by the Washington Post that Martin has a criminal past, which between 1979 and 1983 included convictions or guilty pleas for selling marijuana and cocaine.
In today's 'gotcha' environment, many politicians would immediately sever all ties with Martin. But I'm glad that Thompson is taking a stand and not severing them, especially now that the campaign is entering a critical stage. We will see how intense the heat is and whether he continues to stay with Martin, but it does speak well that at least Thompson's initial reaction was to stand behind Martin.
So why am I applauding Thompson for standing by Martin, especially when I've been very critical of Rudy Giuliani's decisions to hire mob associate Bernard Kerik, coke dealer Thomas Ravenel or child molester Alan Placa?
First and foremost, it's a matter of time. I wrote a post once, called the prison that follows prison that dealt with how hard it is for a convicted felon in America to become a productive member of society, or for that matter to be anything other than a convicted felon in the eyes of most people. For that matter, unless he's had his rights restored, Philip Martin would not be allowed to vote in most states. But look, his last conviction was TWENTY-FOUR years ago! TWENTY-FOUR bloody years ago! Do we EVER forgive anybody, or let them move ahead with their lives? The man has kept out of trouble for nearly a quarter of a century, and some people want to haul up what he did in 1979 or 1983. Guess what? Besides it being a long time ago, he was also a lot younger then. Sometimes younger people do foolish things, and then they learn from them. All the evidence is that Philip Martin did learn from his mistakes. I'd expect that the Thompson campaign probably did a background check on him (or maybe he's known Thompson for some time) so what this says is that Fred Thompson actually can recognize that people can change if they have the opportunity (now if only that would give rise to a progressive social policy when it comes to prison reform and rehab programs.)
In stark contrast, as was reported in the March 30 New York Times, Giuliani hired Kerik as police commissioner in 2000, shortly after he was advised that Kerik was very closely associated with known mobsters (and as we now know he was getting 'free' work done by them for him while he was police commissioner.) It is true that Rudy may not have known about Ravenel (who resigned from Rudy's campaign after being busted for dealing coke), but Placa, whose association with Rudy goes back to high school, was hired by Rudy's law firm after he was suspended by the Catholic Church from continuing to practice as a priest following the 2002-2003 investigation by the Suffolk County Grand Jury into child molestation in the Diocese of Rockville Center, in which Placa figured prominently. Unfortunately the statute of limitations has run out on many of the crimes which Placa was tied to in the investigation (you can read more in the link I provided above if your stomach is strong enough) but that is hardly the same thing as Martin having plead guilty on the cocaine charge and paid his debt to society.
With the recency of the crimes, and in particular Rudy's being willing to hire a guy with known mob ties as police commissioner, it seems as if Rudy Giuliani just doesn't care about whether he hired criminals or not, and it raises some serious judgement issues.
And that's where it is also an issue. Giuliani has demonstrated poor judgement by continuing to hire criminals who have committed crimes in the very recent past (or are under suspicion at the time of continuing to commit them, as the March 30 Times article made clear in the case of Kerik) while Thompson is giving a second chance to a guy who has kept his nose clean for 24 years. I call that compassionate, and that's very, very rarely a word I'd ever put in a sentence with Fred Thompson.