Fred Thompson is passing his first big test of his late-starting presidential bid -- his first campaign debate -- at least so far.
In answer to his first question, he said that while federal spending needs to be brought under control, current tax policies are working and the country is not headed to recession. On his second question, he pledged to be tough with China on dangerous products, but defended free trade as crucial to economic prosperity.
He called for lower taxes, including phasing out the alternative minimum tax, which was designed to make sure the wealthy pay income taxes but is now impacting the upper middle class.
On Iraq, he said he supports the current anti-insurgency policy in Iraq, but faulted the Bush administration for not going in with enough troops and not knowing what to expect.
Thompson said it is crucial to stabilize Iraq and "not have to leave with our tail between our legs" because the country is one front in a much broader war with Islamic fascism, which is intent on bringing down Western civilization.
On Iran, he said its suspected nuclear program must be stopped because the entire Middle East would become more dangerous and Iran would threaten the US oil supply.
He said while there are times that the president needs to act to stop an imminent attack, the president should seek authorization from Congress for military action "in any close case" to build national support.
So far, he has suffered no major gaffes. His responses, however, have been rather vague and lacking specific proposals. Thompson also had a noticeable habit of looking down at the lectern -- studying notes? -- while answering.
The two-hour debate started at 4 p.m. and is airing on CNBC.
His campaign sought to lower expectations for his performance, noting that his rivals have already had five debates, while acknowledging Thompson has spent quite a bit of time practicing.
Thompson has not exactly wowed voters on the campaign trail, leading to a series of stories questioning his knowledge of current events and whether he has the fire in the belly to seek the presidency. Still, he is in second place in most national polls, and many conservatives still hope he will emerge as a strong candidate.
Who is the number one Republican candidate? Rudy Giuliani, the pro-gay marriage, pro-gun control, pro-choice (or as Glen would say, pro-death) Republican. Or at least, those are what his stances WERE. Now he's flip-flopping, publicly changing his mind on these issues to win his party over, using 9/11 to justify his move to the right. People would rather vote for THIS guy than Fred Thompson? Mind you, I don't know who I'm voting for in 2008, and I'm not pledging allegiance to any parties, but am I the only one who likes Thompson more than Giuliani? Then again, he's an actor, and I can understand why people don't want another actor in office.