August 21st, 2007
05:13 PM ET
12 years ago

Thompson: Time for a 'frank discussion' about fighting terrorism

Thompson addressed the VFW Tuesday.

(CNN) - Fred Thompson, the all but announced Republican presidential candidate, suggested Tuesday that the nation was in denial when it comes to the threat of terrorism.

“I don’t think that yet as a nation we have come to terms with the nature and the extent of the threat facing this country,” Thompson said while addressing the annual convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Kansas City, Missouri.

Calling terrorism “a global threat” to the United States, Thompson pointed out that he thought the United States was at a crossroads and told the veterans “it’s time that we had a frank discussion in this country at the highest levels with both parties as to what it’s going to take and the unity we’re going to need” to battle terror.

Thompson also faulted those calling for a troop withdrawal from Iraq, saying it would hurt the overall fight against terrorism.

“Some people in this country apparently think that if we can pull out of Iraq, our problems are going to be over. You and I know better than that. We know that Iraq is an important front in this war,” Fred Thompson said to an audience of combat veterans on Tuesday.

(Related video: watch part of Thompson's remarks at the VFW convention)

Citing recent reports out of Iraq’s Al Anbar province, Thompson said progress was being made on the ground.

Thompson’s remarks about the war on terror echoed themes frequented by President Bush in defending the war in Iraq at a time when the Republican presidential field is trying to win over the Republican Party’s conservative base.

Senators Hillary Clinton, D-New York, and John McCain, R-Arizona, spoke to the convention Monday.

Thompson is expected to formally announce that he is running for president sometime around Labor Day.

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, also addressed the VFW convention on Tuesday.

"We honor your service and we enter into a sacred trust with you from the moment you put on that uniform," Obama said to the nation's veterans. "That trust is simple. America will be there for you just as you have been there for America," he added.

"As a candidate for the presidency, I know that I am running to become commander-in-chief, to safeguard this nation's security, and to keep that sacred trust. There is no responsibility that I take more seriously," he said after weeks of being attacked for his foreign policy views by Clinton and other contenders for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

(Related video: watch the end of Obama's remarks at the VFW convention)

–CNN Associate Producer Martina Stewart

soundoff (69 Responses)
  1. Evan Esteves: Boca Raton, Florida

    The real front on terror is in the mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan, that neo conservatives and Hillary backers are criticizing another presidential candidate for wanting to fight on that front. Osama needs to be found and executed...Last I heard he wasn't anywhere near Iraq.

    August 21, 2007 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  2. Paul, New Orleans, LA

    Important front on terror???!!! We created the mess in Iraq, how can he ignore this fact. We have increased extremisim because of the invasion of Iraq. Of course, it could still be there, but our troops should not be there in a civil war. Now, the neocons have hijacked the govt and while I should not compromise due to the war being illegal. The war will continue till this President gets out. Now, we should move all the troops (except in Baghdad) to the borders to prevent illegal entry ( to bad we can't do that here in our own country) and let the citizens of Iraq handle their own affairs.

    August 21, 2007 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  3. Rob

    I'll Bet here is something you never knew about ol' Freddy Boy back in his Nixon Aid Days....

    The day before Senate Watergate Committee minority counsel Fred Thompson made the inquiry that launched him into the national spotlight - asking an aide to President Nixon whether there was a White House taping system - he telephoned Nixon's lawyer.
    Thompson tipped off the White House that the committee knew about the taping system and would be making the information public. In his all-but-forgotten Watergate memoir, "At That Point in Time," Thompson said he acted with "no authority" in divulging the committee's knowledge of the tapes, which provided the evidence that led to Nixon's resignation. It was one of many Thompson leaks to the Nixon team. ...

    "Thompson was a mole for the White House ... Fred was working hammer and tong to defeat the investigation of finding out what happened to authorize Watergate and find out what the role of the president was."

    August 21, 2007 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  4. pat, huntington, ny

    Out of all the republicans, this guy scares me the most – not just the way he looks, but all his political stances. If he gets elected, we're all doomed.

    August 21, 2007 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  5. Jon Dempsey, Upland, CA

    When will the leaders in this country learn that terrorists want to attack the America that we have become and not the America that we should be? If we really want to end terrorism against the U.S., we need to look at our foreign policy, our economic globalization, and the way we behave in the international community. Acting like a bully and dominating the world is not going to make friends. The war in Iraq was caused by us, not terrorists. Our continued presence there is making us more unsafe at home. Maybe Fred Thompson and the other Republican candidates should really think about terrorism and why it exists, before touting about how leaving Iraq would be a bad idea. How is being there helping, Fred?

    August 21, 2007 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  6. John, Ca.

    Terror is an emotion, how do you have a war on an emotion?

    I think that the country is well aware of the consequences of Islamic extremists, and see right through your 'politics of fear', senator!

    And Americans know that Iraq is not the 'central front', it is a failed state as a consequence of 'W' failed policy!

    August 21, 2007 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  7. Karen, Orlando, Fl.

    Iraq is only an important front to this war because we made it one. Prior to our invasion, Iraq was a bad dog on a short leash Al Qaeda did not exist there until we invaded it.
    Pack your bags and go home Freddy boy, we're not buying your rhetoric here.

    August 21, 2007 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  8. Steve, Houston, TX.

    "Thompson’s remarks about the war on terror echoed themes frequented by President Bush in defending the war in Iraq at a time when the Republican presidential field is trying to win over the Republican Party’s conservative base."

    Just goes to show that Fred Thompson has nothing new to offer this country, we are not trying to creat a carbon copy of the last 8 years, don't waste your time and resources Fred, you can always head back to Law & Order in these your twilight years.

    August 21, 2007 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  9. Vincent King

    "Frank discussion" must be code for 7 year old talking points.

    August 21, 2007 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  10. Mary, Holland, MI

    Here we go...abortion, gay marriage, and now fear–the Republican establishment platform.

    August 21, 2007 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  11. Keith - Atlanta, GA

    How about a 'frank discussion' if you're running or not? How can a voter commit to a person who is not committed at running?

    August 21, 2007 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  12. Bill, Streamwood, IL

    Let me get this straight, Fred Thompson, a man who specifically chose not to serve his country, and can't seem to remember if he lobbied for or against abortion (even with the help of court transcripts), wants to be president and discuss "... at the highest levels with both parties as to what it’s going to take and the unity we’re going to need to battle terror."

    God knows we need a forthcoming and truthful discussion on this subject and the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., is not qualified or able to give either. But fer cryin-out-loud, why does Thompson think he is qualified to do this? What else is he besides a mediocre senator and a semi-passible actor with delusions of Reagan-hood?

    I don't know if I should take the blue pill or the red pill. Where is Neo when you need him?

    August 21, 2007 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  13. David, Salinas, CA

    Most Americans now realize he Iraqi civil war is not an important front on the war on terrorism. It is a distraction, a quagmire and a recruiting tool for al Qaeda which has cost us half a trillion dollars, thousands of lives and the respect of the world.

    Thompson’s position: “I would do essentially what the president's doing.”

    You can read more Fred Thompson quotes on the war here:

    August 21, 2007 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  14. cliff jones, honolulu hi

    He wasted no time playing the abortion card. I wonder what the republicans will do when they run out of cards and have to deal with real substance issues?

    August 21, 2007 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  15. Juila Crammer-Costanzas, NY, NY

    I'd be ashamed if I were from Mass. as well

    August 21, 2007 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  16. Mike Kaplan , Pennsylvania

    Wow. 14 comments ahead of me, and I agree with all of them. That NEVER happens!

    Maybe there's hope for this country after all.

    August 21, 2007 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  17. Jack, Shelby, NC.

    Ok lets have a frank discussion about terror.
    I feel genuine terror when I think about our country being led by you.

    August 21, 2007 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  18. Mike, NY

    Mmmm yeah, that's just what I've been looking for: more fearmongering.

    August 21, 2007 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  19. Joe Orlando, FL

    Fred Dubya Thompson, just what we need. Yet another Republican that has nothing to run on but scare tactics. Petrify ignorant little Americans by getting them to believe that they are under imminent threat and unless Thompson (in this case) is elected, they will soon perish in a spectacular world-ending catastrophic terrorist attack that will make 9-11 look like child's play... all cooked up by a bunch of AK-47 wielding men in face masks and turbans on their head. Go Thompson....

    August 21, 2007 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  20. Anon

    Sure thing, Freddy. You can have your frank discussion the moment you start actually running for president

    August 21, 2007 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  21. Tricia M Charlottetown PEI

    If Hillary is a Bush Light, Fred is definitely a Bush/Cheney/Rove Heavyweight.

    If he talks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, He's A Duck or in this case, another Bush et al Clone. In my mind there isn't anything more dangerous or unnerving as another Bush at the Helm! Shivers.

    Fred has even taken on their monotonous Fear Tactic (Terrorism) and he hasn't even decided if he's in the race yet! Frankly Bush, Cheney, and Rove give me more fear than their supposed terrorists. They are here now and at work. The terrorists are still at large, undefined, undescript, unstrategized.

    I'll take my chances with the Terrorists over Bush/Fred and their Boys or any of the other Republic Candidates at present.

    I dont' know why but the name Flintstone just came to mind?

    August 21, 2007 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  22. Michael O'Leary, San Diego, CA

    Note to Jon Dempsey and others:

    You should read translations of the works of al Qutb and al Maududi, who are the two main sources of doctrinal "inspiration" for modern extremist Islamists.

    It is not "the United States we have become" that is their target, it is all the world that does not conform to their beliefs.

    Practically, the US is their first target because the US is the biggest foreign obstacle to their goals (realistic or otherwise) of establishing an Islamist order in the arab world.

    Iraq has been a poorly executed attempt at a grossly flawed plan, but our withdrawal from Iraq (though needed at some point) will not satisfy these extremists, modify their views toward us or anything else, nor will it make them go away. Dealing with Islamist extremists is an issue that will persist regardless of whatever happens in Iraq.

    We had no realistic plan for invasion and created a huge mess. We need a realistic plan for withdrawal that doesn't increase that mess even further. We also need to recognize that we do need to develop a cohesive and comprehensive economic, political, cultural, diplomatic and military strategy to address Islamist extremism wherever it occurs.

    Iraq and terrorism are two separate issues with a degree of overlap. So far, I haven't heard any candidate from either party give much more than soundbites.

    August 21, 2007 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  23. Judith, Los Angeles CA

    The "some people" Thompson refers to who wants us to leave Iraq are the vast majority of Americans and the vast majority of Iraqis. This war was a mistake from its inception and Thompson is idiotic to think this kind of talk will make him President

    August 21, 2007 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  24. L. J. Lewis

    As Mr. Thompson publicly inflates the threat of terrorism, a simple reality check puts into perspective how shortsighted and naive we have all been in allowing our civil liberties to be eroded to “protect the homeland” following 9/11.

    There is no doubt that during the life of the Soviet Union, the world dealt with a genuine global threat. The USSR spread its influence and military presence throughout the world and expanded its boarders into many other countries.
    Comparatively speaking, how great a threat is Al Qaeda? Are we to believe that, at most, a few hundred thousand Islamic radicals world wide comprise a global threat on a par with Communism? Does such a small number of Jihadists legitimately warrant the same military buildup and defense spending today that the U.S. put toward fighting decades of Communism?

    When the Soviet Union controlled half of Europe and Asia and put nuclear missiles in Cuba, the U.S. government did not respond by asking Americans to give up their freedoms in order to protect the country. Arguing that Americans now need to turn over their freedoms in exchange for safety from what is, by any yardstick, a minuscule threat is the highest form of snake-oil salesmanship. Of course, there is no country anywhere that has lived with terrorism longer than Israel. Surrounded by antagonistic Arab countries and under a constant threat of attack, the government of Israel does not use terrorism to control its citizens, nor have Israelis ever been asked to forfeit their freedoms for security. Americans are the victims of their own ignorance. We have allowed ourselves to be sold a bill of goods, believing that we need to be protected from Al Qaeda, when the greatest threat we face is from our own government.

    August 21, 2007 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  25. Joe, Virginia Beach, VA

    Has everyone seem to forgotten how we got here. Some bad people who hate me and you simply because we were born in America forcibly took controlof some airplanes and crashed them into a few buildings killing thousands of Americans. As a member of the US Navy I don't always agree with the President of the US, but I have sworn to obey him along with every other member of the Armed Forces. I don't see any of you stepping up.

    August 21, 2007 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
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