Wrong song! It's not 1992!

Don't ask me what happened then. Seriously, I barely remember that awful year. Truly one of the worst in my life.

So it's easy for me to forgive Fred Thompson's 1992, er, transgression. Even if he was a "lobbyist for Libya," which Glenn now says was a mistaken assertion. While I don't think there was all that much to the story in the first place, I don't think Glenn was "snookered," because let's face it, doing any sort of legal work (even indirectly) for accused Libyan terrorists has a rather ugly ring to it, and we have higher moral and social standards about these things now. But this TNR story (on which Glenn's original source relied) is a deliberately misleading, rhetorically charged, partisan hit piece, which exaggerates Thompson's role, and judges him as if it happened last year. By contrast, even the New York Times (no friend of Thompson) presents the facts --such as they are -- in a more evenhanded manner.

While there's a seemingly bad retrospective aroma in having given Libyan terrorists indirect legal advice, the fact is, nothing morally or ethically wrong was done. John Culver, another member of the law firm for which Thompson worked, was handling the criminal matter for the accused Libyans, and he briefly consulted Thompson about venue. Thompson had no control over the case, and he did not lobby for Libya. Personally, I hope he overcharged the sons of bitches for the small amount of work he did, and anyway, his record shows that he has never been a friend of Libya, and always voted consistently against terrorism.

As "scandals" go, this is a non-starter, and it will not hurt Thompson. I can think of only one reason the left would be interested in pursuing it. Anyone remember Bill Clinton's notorious executive clemency for the FALN terrorists? Clinton's own Justice Department opposed the move, and FBI said were still a threat, but a later investigation was stymied:

An investigation ensued, and the Senate voted 95-2 to condemn Clinton's action (the House also condemned the pardons, by a 311-41 vote). During the House Committee on Government Reform's investigation of the pardons, the Clinton Justice Department prevented FBI agents from testifying, and that together with Clinton's use of executive privilege effectively put a lid on the inquiry.
Why would Bill Clinton go to such trouble to free dangerous, murderous terrorists? While Hillary of course denies it, the surrounding circumstances have a far worse aroma than anything that's being thrown at Fred.
Only eight weeks before President Bill Clinton offered a clemency deal to a group of convicted terrorists from the Puerto Rican Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN), a reputed leader of that group directly petitioned Hillary Clinton to support such a deal, implying she could gain Puerto Rican political support if she did so.

Mrs. Clinton is running for the U.S. Senate in New York. where there is a large Puerto Rican population. In August, she first tacitly supported clemency for the terrorists. Then, under intense media pressure, she publicly criticized them for taking too much time to make up their minds before eventually accepting her husband's offer to let them out of jail.

We may never know exactly what happened. But it certainly doesn't hurt Hillary's campaign to be able to point the finger at the "terrorist lobbying" GOP -- even if it's a lot of b.s.

As to the 1990s, I think it's fair to say that in many ways, the 90s were like the 1930s -- a "low dishonest decade."

This is not to say that it was desirable for Thompson to have given criminal advice to a lawyer working for Libyan terrorists. But 1992 was not only pre-9/11, it was way pre-9/11. Thompson's 1992 legal work simply cannot be judged by the standards of 2007, any more than it's fair to call Richard Nixon a "homophobe" because of private remarks he made about San Francisco in 1971. Times, and people, change.

So it's not time to play this 1972 song.

Come to think of it, don't ask me what I did in 1972 either!

MORE: Speaking of nostalgia, Fred Thompson's 1975 book, "At that point in time: The inside story of the Senate Watergate Committee" has gone waaay up in price.

MORE: Considering the comment below, I might have failed to make it clear that Thompson did no direct work for the Libyans, but only talked to their criminal attorney. I thought this was clear from my discussion of the facts, but I added the word "indirect" above to make sure no one misunderstands.

posted by Eric on 09.11.07 at 09:25 PM


What I heard Fred Thompson say was that the *lawyers* for the Libyans consulted him on a matter of *venue* ... he did not consult with the Libyans on their behalf.

HMIL   ·  September 12, 2007 1:36 AM

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