The Washington Post Notices Fred Thompson

And gives him front page attention! But only to advance opposition research:

Thompson Adviser Has Criminal Past

By Matthew Mosk
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 4, 2007; Page A01

Republican presidential candidate Fred D. Thompson has been crisscrossing the country since early this summer on a private jet lent to him by a businessman and close adviser who has a criminal record for drug dealing.

Thompson selected the businessman, Philip Martin, to raise seed money for his White House bid. Martin is one of four campaign co-chairmen and the head of a group called the “first day founders.” Campaign aides jokingly began to refer to Martin, who has been friends with Thompson since the early 1990s, as the head of “Thompson’s Airforce.”


Martin entered a plea of guilty to the sale of 11 pounds of marijuana in 1979; the court withheld judgment pending completion of his probation. He was charged in 1983 with violating his probation and with multiple counts of felony bookmaking, cocaine trafficking and conspiracy. He pleaded no contest to the cocaine-trafficking and conspiracy charges, which stemmed from a plan to sell $30,000 worth of the drug, and was continued on probation.

Thompson’s campaign said the candidate was not aware of the multiple criminal cases, for which Martin served no jail time.

You probably didn’t know that one of the media’s responisibilities is to help sling mud at candidates. Unless, of course, you’ve been paying attention to the latest research into media bias.

Some will say that this isn’t (yet more) evidence of media bias because of all the attention given to the Norman Hsu scandal involving Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Indeed, the Washington Post makes the exact same comparison:

Martin, 49, is one of several top political fundraisers with a criminal past to gain access this year to a presidential contender. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton decided in September to return more than $800,000 raised by Norman Hsu, one of her top bundlers, after newspapers disclosed that he had been convicted of fraud and had an outstanding warrant for his arrest.

However, as others have remarked, the Hsu-Clinton scandal is not an apt comparison:

Silly WaPo scribblers. Martin has a criminal past. Hsu’s is a criminal present. Can’t get good copy-editing help these days. The other problem with this scandal is you can’t have as much fun with “Martin” as you can with “Hsu.”

Regarding the bias against Fred Thompson specifically, it says something that the presidential candidate has received very little attention from the Washington Post thusfar, although he did get this substantive piece just a few weeks ago:

For most of his first presidential debate on Tuesday, Fred Thompson looked like a tennis umpire. Standing between Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani, peering down from somewhere above the fray, he would swivel his gaze to the left, then to the right, then to the left again, as Sampras and Agassi traded serves, volleys and cross-court backhands. You almost expected him to call the lines. “That one was out, Rudy. It’s deuce.”

Hey, at least Thompson was present and accounted for, finally. And he did get off a terrific line at the end, saying that the umpteen Republican debates had been “getting a little boring without me.” But if his goal was to advance the narrative that he’s the next Ronald Reagan — another Great Communicator with the instincts, presence and glamour of a movie star — he didn’t make much progress. I’d suggest a bit more time in rehearsal.


Yes, I’m focusing on style rather than substance. Thompson’s supporters might think that’s unfair, since he was arguably less vague on economic issues — the intended focus of the debate — than his major competitors.

Gee, ya think?

Incidentally, before today’s earthshaking news from 1979, the Op-Ed above was the last article of any type in the Washington Post specifically about Thompson.

As for the substance of the Martin drug-conviction story, am I alone in thinking this is much ado about nothing? Even Libby Spencer, who is no danger of casting a vote for a Republican any time soon, thinks this is a non-scoop:

The irony that Thompson, a former prosecutor, is flying around on a convicted felon’s airplane is just too delicious, but I don’t have a problem with it.


The obvious lesson in this is that we really need to reform our drug laws. Many more ‘respectable’ people privately consume marijuana than you think and it hasn’t interfered with their ability to be productive citizens. If we released every non-violent cannabis offender from jail tomorrow, we would solve the overcrowding crisis and have plenty room to inprison the violent criminals that truly do endanger society.

As far as Thompson goes, I don’t think this will hurt him in the long run but it would be a really opportune time to pin him down on his stance on drug policy reform. Unfortunately, I expect our useless media will focus on Martin’s past rather than address the much more pressing larger issue.

Yep. “Useless” is just about right.

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