OK, I am getting a little annoyed with the claim that Thompson has somehow flip flopped on the Fair Tax issue. I am also tired of seeing the Fair Tax folks claiming that their video shows Fred Thompson stating he supports their new tax plan. In reality neither is the case.

The fact is Thompson has neither come out directly in favor of the Fair Tax plan, nor flip flopped on his stance on taxes. (See important note at the end of this article.)

That Disingenuous Video

Look, the Fair Tax people are generally on our side of the argument, it is true. Not every conservative supports their particular plan, of course, but we are all looking for a better plan for our tax system. We all agree that what we have is broken and desperately needs fixing. Thompson stands squarely on this side, as well. But, with this whole Thompson claim, the Fair Tax people are hindering, not helping the issue of a substantive tax debate.

And now, because of this ridiculous claim from the Fair Tax folks that Thompson has somehow come out in support of their plan, ABC news is getting into the act in an effort to find something which they can use to attack candidate Thompson, further muddying the waters. On the 31st, ABC wrote that, “Former Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., appears to have flip flopped on his pledge to sign federal legislation replacing all federal taxes with a 23 percent sales tax, according to an unedited FairTax.org video reviewed by ABC News.”

This is the nonsense that the Fair Tax people are trying to promulgate to the public to advance their own cause and one that the MSM are only too happy to try and use to smear Thompson. The video in question shows Mr. Thompson leaving a gaggle of reporters and as he is starting to walk away, a Fair Tax activist throws out a yelled question to him.

“Senator, if the House and Senate pass the ‘Fair Tax’ bill do you feel right now that you would sign it?”

To which Thompson sort of tosses off the quick, unconsidered reply; “Yeah, absolutely.”

THIS is the so-called proof that the Fair Tax people are using to say he endorsed their plan? If so, it’s a hollow victory, indeed.

Let’s take a few moments to review this supposed “proof” that Thompson supports the Fair Tax plan. If one considers this video seriously, one cannot escape the feeling that this is no supportive gesture on the part of Fred Thompson at all. Heck, you can’t even be sure he fully heard and understood the question!

#1- In their question they asked if he’d sign a bill passed by both the House and Senate — NOTICE that they did not ask him if he directly supported the plan itself! Thompson said, “yeah.” But does this “yeah” mean he specifically supports their tax plan or does it mean he would generally be disposed to sign a bill that passes both houses? I’d suggest the later.

First of all, comparatively few bills that passed both houses of Congress has been vetoed by a president. Since most bills get signed, it is natural that a candidate would be disposed to say he would be supportive of a bill that passes both houses. After all, whether he likes it or not a president needs to work with Congress and a candidate would not want to be heard saying he would willy-nilly act against Congress. One must ask, what candidate would run a campaign where he is seen attacking Congress then expecting Congress to work with him once he steps into the White House? As much as we might like to see a candidate attack Congress repeatedly, few will do so because of the simple fact that they would be cutting their own throat before they even took office. Think about it, people. A president needs Congress or he cannot do anything as president and any candidate would carefully consider saying on the stump that he’d work against Congress. Certainly, few thoughtful candidates would just toss off a line about how he’d ignore a bill passed by both houses without carefully considering the issue.

#2- It must be remembered that Thompson was not there to discuss their Fair Tax plan, as well. He was not prepared to discuss it or give it the thought needed for an answer that could be taken as a serious response on the issue. To you men out there: ever said “Yes, dear” to a question your wife asked even if you were not really listening to her at all? This is the same thing Thompson did. He was about walking away from the press and this question was thrown out at him as his attention was being diverted. He half hears a question about some bill that passes both houses… so why wouldn’t he just say he’d support it?

#3- Are the Fair Tax people really satisfied with an affirmative reply to their plan delivered in such an offhanded manner? I mean, don’t they want a serious and substantive answer to this question? Are they so ready to grasp for the straws of support that this half thought out, blithely tossed off reply is enough for them to go crowing that Thompson supports their cause? Were I a big Fair Tax guy, I’d want a more seriously considered answer before I was satisfied that a candidate supports my plan. I would not be satisfied with an answer thrown out over a candidate’s shoulder as he is walking away from me!

The Letter

There is also the issue of the campaign letter that Team Thompson sent the Fair Tax folks that they are using to claim that Thompson directly supports their plan. This letter also does not form a very convincing proof that Thompson specifically supports the language or plan of the Fair Tax folks. For them or for anyone else to claim it does is a big stretch of the imagination and does not take into account the nature of the letter or its specific language.

Here is the text of the letter:

Dear Leo:

I’ve appreciated seeing the Fair Tax folks when I’m out on the road, as well as their enthusiasm when they’ve come to my events. Although I wish they’d get my good side when they roll their cameras!

My staff and I have been working with Americans for Fair Taxation for some time now. We share the same belief that the next President should enact a fundamental overhaul of the tax code that makes it fairer, simpler, and more pro-growth. There are a number of ways to do that, and over the years I’ve looked at many of them.

Congress must begin a serious consideration of real fundamental tax reform, rather than nibbling around the edges. I think the principles and ideas found in the Fair Tax are a good place to start, particularly given the grassroots support it enjoys across the country.

Good luck in Iowa this weekend!

This letter expresses Thompson’s support and gratitude for the people of the Fair Tax movement, but not necessarily their plan. It expresses support for tax reform, but, again, not for the Fair Tax plan. Lastly, it says that the Fair Tax plan is a “good place to start” and this obviously means he likes some of what is in the plan but does not necessarily support it as the last word of the conversation. If he fully supported it he would feel the plan is the place to STOP not the place to START the discussion about tax reform!

Thompson has never — not once — come out and said he directly supports the Fair Tax plan. Perhaps he has been cagy in his responses thus far, but it is a candidate’s response. Thompson’s smart campaigning does not see him hemming himself into a directly stated support of the Fair Tax plan at this time. He has not said he does not support it, mind you, but he has not stated he does and for the Fair Tax folks to make this claim is completely disingenuous of them. What’s worse is, they know it, too!

So what is Fred Thompson’s stand on taxes?

Thompson has a very clear position on taxes. He voted to cut taxes as Senator and he has said that high taxes will hurt the economy. He has also said that a progressive tax code is harmful. Thompson has directly stated that he is against the current tax code and he has stated that a dialog on tax reform is sorely needed. This is why he is interested to hear out the Fair Tax people, listen to their plan and consider it. This is why he didn’t just tell them to jump off a cliff. He wants a serious, public debate on this issue and that debate includes the Fair Tax plan.

And, as stated, the Fair Tax supporters really are on Thompson’s side. He does not want to alienate them even as he is not ready to fully support their plan, after all. This is only smart politics.

For a nice page detailing many of Thompson’s documented tax statements and votes, go to this OnTheIssues.com page. (You’ll notice no stated support for the Fair Tax plan, by the way)

Summation

It is obvious that neither Fred Thompson the candidate, not the private citizen, nor the Senator, has ever directly come out in favor of the Fair Tax plan. It is also obvious that he is a tax cutter and interested in a wider, serious debate about our complex and broken tax code. Thompson has made many serious statements on taxes and does not have a simplistic nor ill thought out position on taxes.

It is possible that Thompson does support the Fair Tax plan, of course. But no one can point to any evidence to prove such support. If he does support it, he has kept that support to himself.

Regardless he is neither a lightweight on the issue, nor a flip flopper.

(A note to the readers: This piece responds to the available evidence concerning this story. I have no “inside” information about how Fred Thompson views this subject. This article is an analysis of the available facts of the case. I just want to get it straight that I am not speaking FOR Fred Thompson here, but speaking as a commentator on the issue.)

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