Fred Thompson



The information presented below reflects the 2008 election season and is not representative of changes in titles, roles, or policy views expressed since then.

Fred ThompsonThompson served important roles for the U.S. Senate dating back to the Watergate scandal, and recently represented Tennessee for eight years in the Senate. He remains best known, however, for his many years as a film and television actor. Thompson entered the race in September 2007 as one of the top-rated Republican candidates, according to opinion surveys. Still, by January 2008, Thompson dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination after poor showings in several primaries.

During his time as a Tennessee senator from 1994 to 2003, Thompson generally voted with his party on the economy and on domestic and foreign policy issues, with a few exceptions. He parted with the GOP majority in supporting McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation. In his last year in the Senate, Thompson voted to authorize the Iraq war, which he continues to support. He generally backs the Bush administration’s war on terror agenda, and his foreign policy team includes Joel Shin, a former Bush policy staff member, and Mark Esper, national security adviser to former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

Thompson got his start in politics as an attorney serving on the Senate Select Committee charged with investigating the 1972 Watergate scandal. In the 1980s, Thompson served as a counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Campaign Issues

U.S. Policy toward Africa

Thompson has not said much on U.S. policy toward Africa. While he has criticized the United Nations for a lack of action in Darfur, he has not said what he would do as president to stop the violence in the region.

His comments have also been sparse on public health issues in Africa. He voted in favor of the Africa Free Trade bill in 2000. That bill authorized increased trade and investment in sub-Saharan Africa.

U.S. Policy toward India

Thompson’s stance on this issue is unknown.

Cuba Policy

Thompson, a staunch critic of longtime Cuban leader Fidel Castro, blames him also for “the terrible mess” in Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela. He also says Cuba’s acclaimed free universal medical care system is a “myth,” and adds: “I guarantee even the poorest Americans are getting far better medical services than many Cubans.”

Thompson supports the U.S. embargo on Cuba and voted in favor of the Cuba Sanctions Bills of 1995 and 1996.

Thompson came under fire in July 2007 for suggesting that Cuban immigrants are a potential terrorist threat. “I don't imagine they're coming here to bring greetings from Castro. We're living in the era of the suitcase bomb,” Thompson said.


As senator from Tennessee at the time, Thompson voted in favor of the 2002 congressional authorization of the use of force in Iraq. He warned that Saddam Hussein was in possession of weapons of mass destruction and that it was only a matter of time before he developed nuclear weapons (Word Doc).

Thompson has acknowledged mismanagement of the war, but continues to support the troop surge and firmly opposes the imposition of a timetable for troop withdrawal (USA Today). Details of Thompson’s future plan for Iraq remain vague.

Thompson also has said the Democrats’ sweeping victory in the November 2006 elections did not stem in part from public disapproval of the war in Iraq, as exit polls indicated (Huffington Post). Instead, he says, Republican spending and “unrestrained partisanship” were responsible for voter discontent with the GOP.


Thompson has taken a pro-free trade stance. As the Club for Growth notes, Thompson voted in favor of many free trade agreements during his time in Senate. He supported the Africa Free Trade Bill in 1999 and 2000. He also voted in favor of normalizing trade relations with Vietnam, and several times voted for trade promotion authority for the president. Thompson sat on a Senate subcommittee on international trade.

Thompson’s economic policy adviser is Lawrence Lindsey, former chief economic adviser to President Bush.


Like most of the other candidates, Thompson has expressed alarm at the possibility of a nuclear Iran and its effect on Israel’s security. “If the world doesn’t act to stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions, it must be prepared for the consequences of Israel defending itself,” he wrote in a May 2007 op-ed for

Also in May 2007, he said the United States should assist any efforts by Iranians to overthrow their government (AP).

In March 2007, Thompson criticized then-Prime Minister Tony Blair for a lack of military preparedness when Iran took fifteen British sailors prisoner. “Iran’s kidnappings are part of a plan to see that nothing interferes with its quest for nuclear weapons. If successful, other dictatorships will follow suit. This is not the time for the free world to neglect its own defense,” Thompson warned.

Climate Change

Thompson is a climate change skeptic. Although he does not appear to believe evidence that climate change is caused by human activity, he concedes, "it makes sense to take reasonable steps to reduce CO2 emissions without harming our economy." Though he has not indicated any specific environmental policy views, he says he supports "research and development into technologies that improve the environment, especially the reduction of CO2 emissions."

In a March 2007 National Review commentary, Thompson pointed to evidence that Mars and Jupiter are also experiencing warming. “This has led some people, not necessarily scientists, to wonder if Mars and Jupiter, non-signatories to the Kyoto Treaty, are actually inhabited by alien SUV-driving industrialists who run their air-conditioning at 60 degrees and refuse to recycle,” he noted sarcastically.

Thompson has not released an environmental platform.


Thompson emphasizes tougher border enforcement to impede illegal immigration and opposes a path to citizenship for the estimated twelve million currently in the country illegally. He was critical of the comprehensive immigration reform legislation that stalled in Congress in 2007. “We should scrap this ‘comprehensive’ immigration bill and the whole debate until the government can show the American people that we have secured the borders—or at least made great headway,” he said in May 2007.

He opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants, and supports increased border security. In 1996, Thompson voted in favor of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which provided for additional border security personnel. It also made penalties for immigration document fraud and smuggling more stringent.

United Nations

Thompson is a critic of the United Nations. He has said he is “never particularly surprised when the United Nations seems to oppose human freedom rather than promote it. At least a third of its member nations aren't democratic themselves.”

Thompson has also criticized UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for being “unwilling to blame those who actually gave the orders to commit genocide in Darfur.”

Thompson also spoke out against the recent selection of Zimbabwe as chair of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development. However, he says positive, UN-directed humanitarian efforts “like the World Food Program, run by Americans, do much good.”

His specific recommendations for UN reform are unknown.

Defense Policy

Thompson, like many of his fellow candidates, has called for a “revitalized national defense,” including a massive expansion of the military and increase in defense spending. In November 2007, Thompson proposed upping defense spending to at least 4.5 percent of gross domestic product, “not including what it takes to fund operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.” He also says the United States should build a “million-member” military ground force, including an additional 775,000 Army soldiers in sixty-four combat teams, combined with an increase in active duty Marine Corps forces by 50,000 to 225,000. Thompson says the United States must “field and fund the next generation of military systems to ensure U.S. forces retain dominance in the full battle space.”

U.S. Policy toward Russia

Thompson is skeptical of the Russian government, which he has said is “apparently run by ex-KGB agents” (National Review Online).

"Oppose the Russian leadership, and you could trip and fall off a tall building or stumble into the path of a bullet," writes Thompson, whose studies focused on Russia, among other national security topics, at the American Enterprise Institute.

Thompson has not yet specified a plan for U.S. policy toward Russia.

U.S. Policy toward Pakistan

Thompson stresses the need to regain stability in Pakistan, but said in late December 2007 that President Bush should urge Musharraf not to reinstate martial law.

In November 2007, Thompson called for a “hardball” approach to Musharraf in response to the state of emergency instituted at the time, but did not advocate cutting off aid entirely (BBC).

Energy Policy

Thompson’s energy policy plans are rather vague, but he has indicated support for a “balanced approach to energy security that increases domestic supplies, reduces demand for oil and gas, and promotes alternative fuels and other diverse energy sources.” In a November 2007 Bloomberg TV interview, Thompson said he opposes higher vehicle fuel economy standards. He also said believes nuclear power should be “put back on the table.” Thompson has not indicated his position on a cap-and-trade emissions policy or on the use of liquid coal. (USA Today)

Nuclear Nonproliferation

Thompson says the United States must modernize and “revitalize” its nuclear weapons capabilities. Still, he says nuclear capabilities should be kept at the “lowest level” to remain compatible with U.S. “national security needs and our international commitments.”

In a white paper on the U.S. Armed Forces, Thompson wrote that the United States must “maintain complementary land-, sea-, and air-based weapons delivery platforms to ensure the survivability of our nuclear deterrent.” In 1999, Thompson voted against the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

As senator from Tennessee, Thompson criticized China, Russia, and North Korea for serving as “key suppliers” of nuclear information and materials to countries in the Middle East and Africa. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Thompson said the United States must make it clear that it “will not tolerate continued proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and related technologies.”