The Corner

The one and only.

Fred Thompson’s Harry Reid Impression


As Kathryn noted, today Sen. Fred Thompson declared, “It really doesn’t matter how President Obama divides the Afghan baby, how he splits the difference between McChrystal and Biden. Because the war has been lost.” That’s right: Senator Thompson has declared America’s defeat in Afghanistan. Read it here.

I have a high regard for Senator Thompson, and greatly appreciated his robust and courageous support for the Iraq surge in 2007. But on this, he is dead — and dangerously — wrong.

Let’s go back to an interview Senator Thompson gave on Hannity and Colmes on May 1, 2007:

HANNITY: The biggest battle we have is this war on terror, this battle in Iraq. We have a really deep divide in the country. Senator Reid the war is lost. We still have to finish the job there. Where do you stand in general on the war on terror and, more specifically, in Iraq, and on the divide surrounding Iraq?

THOMPSON: Well, let’s talk about Senator Reid for a moment. Right before I came over here, I was sitting outside, getting a bite to eat, before we did our interview. A young woman [former Army captain] came up and asked if she could sit down and talk to me a minute. . . . I asked her what she thought about this. She said, “How in the world can anyone, any one of our leaders, declare war, declare that the war has been lost when we’ve got troops in the field? My friends are over there in the field. I know what they think about this.”

And, of course, it’s just like all other Americans think. The very idea that they would do this and undercut our efforts over there is unprecedented. And it’s not only unprecedented; it’s awful politics.

We should not be fearful of these people politically. We just need to concentrate on what’s right. What is right? We need to take advantage of any opportunity we’ve got down there. I’ve got a lot of faith in Petraeus. I knew him when he was at Fort Campbell when I was in the Senate. He tells me we’ve got a shot? We’ve got to take that shot.

I’m sure Senator Thompson made many similar comments in 2007, and he was right. Sen. Harry Reid’s statement was unprecedented, and it was awful politics. And if Petraeus says we have a shot, then we’ve got to take that shot.

In light of the above, what is Senator Thompson doing undercutting the mission in Afghanistan? Is the mission less justified? Is it less achievable? Or is McChrystal less capable? No. Senator Thompson’s issue with the Afghanistan mission is President Obama. And while I share many of his frustrations — indecisiveness, lack of will, unwillingness to articulate the need to win — none of them give him, or anyone, grounds to declare the war lost.

It’s awful politics, but no longer unprecedented. Senator Thompson is doing his best Harry Reid impression.

President Obama may not be many people’s preferred commander in chief, but he is our commander in chief. He still may commit sufficient resources to Afghanistan, and it’s almost certain that his generals will support additional troop levels. Our warriors will take the fight to the enemy, and hopefully turn the tide in Afghanistan.

The war is not lost, but it could be lost; especially if our political leaders, and political commentators, start making statements like this. There may be a point at which the war in Afghanistan is no longer worth pursuing, but it’s certainly not before the president announces his decision on troop levels and our top-tier generals are given a chance to execute a counterinsurgency strategy.

I’m disappointed in Senator Thompson; he knows better. His statements were political, and they do nothing but undermine our troops in the field. We cannot afford to do to President Obama on Afghanistan what the Left did to President Bush on Iraq.


Sign up for free NR e-mails today:

Subscribe to National Review