First and foremost, Will has both Reagan and Thompson wrong in the same manner that people dismissed Reagan in his political career. Thompson has a long career as more than just an actor. Thompson's acting career was accidental; his political career was much more deliberate. He made his name as a reforming activist lawyer, first with Watergate, and second in exposing corruption in the Tennessee governor's office. And like Reagan but in a much shorter time frame, he has spent the last several months delivering speeches and papers on issues.I would argue that Thompson has little to answer for in his campaign finance stance. Morrisey himself contradicts his request for McCain-Feingold clarification and Thompson's early career.
Thompson first came to national attention by working with Senator Howard Baker on the Watergate committee. It was Thompson who brought out the Oval Office taping system that captured all of Richard Nixon's incriminating conversations. Thompson also asked the critical question: "What did the President know, and when did he know it?"
Thompson is a lot more than 99 percent charm. His speeches and writings have very clearly defined his driving philosophy as a federalist, and his track record as a reformer needs no apologetics to anyone except Will. He has to answer for his record on campaign-finance reform as well as the rest of his votes and actions, of course, but that's what all candidates have to do when they run for President.
Thompson was something of a "reformer," an activist looking to make politics and government a little more open and honest. True, much of campaign finance is not about actual corruption but teh appearance of corruption and Thompson was the kind of politician who was more interested in making sure government was honest and above board. Much about campaign finanace law seeks to do just that.
Thompson did oppose the most blatant of incumbent protection measures, namely the Millionaire's Amendment, which he questioned as an equal protection problem. He may very well have opposed the electioneering communcation prohibitions, which may very well be struck down by the Supreme Court soon. Thompson may also have figured that much of McCain-Feingold, beyond the soft money ban, limits changes and disclsoure requirements would have been struck down by the Court in McConnell v. FEC. Who knows and I do want some explanations, but make no mistake, Thompson is not far afield from his normal positions on campaign finance. And really, in the face of some many larger issues, does it really matter?