Thompson’s Backtrack

Folksy wisdom helped carry Fred Thompson through a Senate career and certainly as a character actor, but can he use it to shake off what could be his first true campaign flap?

The issue concerns the “Law & Order” star’s assertion, through a spokesman last week, that he never lobbied on behalf of an abortion rights group in the early 1990s. Now Thompson says that he

Via The Politico, Thompson writes in a column posted Wednesday by the conservative Power Line blog:  “[I]f a client has a legal and ethical right to take a position, then you may appropriately represent him as long as he does not lie or otherwise conduct himself improperly while you are representing him. In almost 30 years of practicing law I must have had hundreds of clients and thousands of conversations about legal matters. Like any good lawyer, I would always try to give my best, objective and professional opinion on any legal question presented to me.”

Michael Finnegan of the Los Angeles Times reported that Thompson had “accepted a lobbying assignment” on behalf of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Assn. Thompson’s spokesman Mark Corallo flatly denied it, even though minutes from the org’s meeting showed otherwise. Now Corallo says Thompson has “no recollection” of doing work for the group.

Thompson himself at first used the language of a country lawyer to respond. He said, “I’d just say the flies get bigger in the summertime. I guess the flies are buzzing.” And on the Power Line blog, he seemed to compare his lobbying past to his lawyering past: ripe for opposition research, even though the public can discern the difference between professional duty and politics.

“The easiest and most generally used tactic when running against a lawyer is to trade off a general perception that most people dislike lawyers. Goodness knows that a lot of lawyers have earned disfavor but, as it turns out, folks understand our system better than a lot of politicians think they do. In my first run for the Senate, my opponent tried the old demagoguery route – “He has even represented criminals!” – to no avail.”

Thompson all but predicts that opponents and the media will mine his acting career as well, even if he’s played characters not too far from himself most of the time.

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