03 July 2007

Fred to School

The former Tennessee senator could set himself apart from the other Republicans running for president on education.

By Carrie Lukas

Conservatives enamored with Senator Fred Thompson are desperate for evidence that he really is Ronald Reagan’s heir. After six years of disappointments, conservatives want to hear more than just a recitation of support for low taxes, less regulations, and federalism. We’ve heard that line before. Thompson needs to show that he knows the difference between limited government conservatism and Bush’s brand of big-government Republicanism, which seeks to use the government beast for conservative aims instead of tame it.

The upcoming debate on Capitol Hill over the future of the No Child Left Behind law presents Sen. Thompson — and other GOP candidates — with such an opportunity. President Bush continues to tout No Child Left Behind as one of his signature domestic initiatives. But conservatives are increasingly skeptical. As the Washington Post recently reported, a number of former Bush administration officials and loyalist have broken with the White House and are opposing extending No Child Left Behind.


Sen. Thompson, who also voted for the legislation in 2001, hasn’t been pressed on his current position regarding No Child Left Behind, but he has been the strongest champion of federalism among the field. In an April commentary on National Review Online, Thompson wrote: “Republicans have struggled in recent years, because they have strayed from basic principles. Federalism is one of those principles. It is something we all give lip service to and then proceed to ignore when it serves our purposes.”

Thompson can distinguish himself from the rest of the pack by describing how he would put this principle to work in federal education policy and reforming No Child Left Behind. It might not capture the attention of the mainstream media like a statement on Iraq, the Middle East, or a controversial social issue. But by demonstrating a true commitment to limited government, Sen. Thompson can give his would-be conservative supporters much needed reassurance.—

Carrie Lukas is the vice president for policy at the Independent Women’s Forum and the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex, and Feminism.

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