Mitt Romney reacts to the NIE; Fred Thompson schools Charlie Rose on first principles

I could have titled this post “In which I write positively about two serious GOP contenders.” That would probably have shocked a few of our readers, given the posts we’ve had to write about some of the candidates lately.

The latest Zogby poll still has Mitt Romney with a commanding lead in New Hampshire and a razor-thin lead in Iowa (with Huckabee nipping at him in Iowa). But that’s Zogby, so apply salt to taste. The RCP averages more or less agree, but have Huckabee up by a sliver in Iowa. Romney’s religion speech is set for tomorrow from College Station, TX, and that speech is a huge gamble. A statesmanlike-like, pander-free speech on religious freedom and patriotism could vault him past Huckabee in the national polls and put an solid grip on Iowa. A defensive, overly sectarian speech could doom his run and set up a Giuliani-Huckabee firefight for the nomination, or make room for someone like Fred Thompson to get back in the game. The point of all this background is to point out that this is a big week and the stakes are high, and that’s without even mentioning ongoing stories like the NIE or Gitmo, two issues that have helped dent Huckabee this week.

What does Mitt have to say on those issues? Well, he says things that make a lot of sense, at least to me.

That’s a solid reaction. A little more skepticism of the NIE is warranted than Romney displays here, but he makes the right point about the success of ongoing efforts to keep the Iranians and nuclear weapons far apart.

On the Romney campaign site, there’s a press release that gets into the Guantanamo issue, and here again all of the right notes make it into the tune.

“Today, the Supreme Court will once again hear arguments on the detention of captured terrorists being held at Guantanamo Bay. Some people view Guantanamo as a symbol of American aggression. I view it as a symbol of American resolve.

“Our country is asking young men and women in our military and intelligence services, and their families, to sacrifice beyond all knowing to capture or kill radical Jihadists before they plan and execute another attack on the United States. To win this fight, we must be able to detain and interrogate the terrorists they catch.

“The base at Guantanamo is designed to hold and question enemy combatants who pose a threat to the nation or have intelligence value. Closing and relocating the facility to the heartland of the United States, as some have suggested, would pose an undue risk to innocent Americans and, as today’s arguments demonstrate, could have profound legal implications.

“So long as it remains a vital tool to keep America safe, I will fight to keep Guantanamo Bay open.”

Gov. Romney is putting American security above international hand-wringing and adopting a wait-and-see approach to the case that’s in front of SCOTUS today. Two for two.

Now, how about teh Fred?

The polls have him dead in the water, but he’s still out there sounding the right notes. Campaign Spot caught him on the Charlie Rose show (video isn’t available yet) talking about issues versus principles with the host.

CHARLIE ROSE: You constantly say in this campaign that you are a conservative. What does that mean today? Is George Bush a conservative?

FRED THOMPSON: Well, let`s talk about me. (LAUGHTER) I thought we might get to that. I think that it means things that are consistent with God`s design for man. It`s consistent with human nature. It`s consistent with the lessons of history and the lessons of the ages. They found form in the Constitution, I think, and what our founding fathers believed. They understand that man can do great and wonderful things, but man is prone to error, and sometimes do terrible things. That too much power in too few hands is a dangerous thing, that power is a corrupting thing.

CHARLIE ROSE: In all of that, you didn`t mention abortion, gay rights — all things that have been part of recent presidential elections.

FRED THOMPSON: Those — well, you`re talking about different things there. Those are issues that are before us, which derive from principles. I don`t consider them to be…

CHARLIE ROSE: Principles.

FRED THOMPSON: … the first principles. But the principles are what guides you in coming to positions with regard to the issues. You know, the Declaration of Independence said that our basic rights come from God and not from man. The founders talked about, you know, life and liberty and the importance of that. And everything is based on those basic principles. And I take those principles, and you know, for example, I come to a pro-life conclusion there. And when we had issues, you know, for eight years when I was in the United States Senate about whether or not the federal government should be funding, for example, abortion-related activities and things of that nature, you know, the application of those principles in that instance told me the answer was no, properly.

Solid. Fred gets federalism and gets to his issue stances based on his first principles, and his first principles are very similar to my own. I’d quibble with him about the Human Life Amendment, since the amendment process itself is largely a state process, but I can respect his stance without agreeing with it.

Based on what I know as of this writing and not just based on what’s in this post, I would be comfortable with Mitt Romney as President. I would also be comfortable with Fred Thompson as President. Both of them and several of the other GOP candidates are head and shoulders above all of the Democrats.

Update: Turns out the video of Thompson’s interview is available, here.