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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Thompson: It's family issue
The GOP candidate says he faced a Schiavo-like situation with a daughter who died.
By JOHN FRANK, Times Staff Writer
Published October 23, 2007
GOP presidential candidate Fred Thompson answers questions after taking a tour of the Port of Tampa's security features. Thompson talked about issues ranging from Terri Schiavo to his campaign efforts.
[Chris Zuppa | Times]
Republican presidential hopeful Fred Thompson talks to a group of Republican business women in Kissimmee.
TAMPA - Presidential candidate Fred Thompson's first visit to Florida last month left many unanswered questions.
At the top of the list: his thoughts on whether the federal government should have intervened in the Terri Schiavo right-to-die case, a Florida case that sparked a national debate in 2005.
Thompson dodged the questions initially, saying he didn't know much about it. But he changed direction Monday while answering questions from reporters at the Port of Tampa.
"Obviously I knew about the Schiavo case," he said. "I had to face a situation like that in my own personal life with my own daughter.
"I am a little bit uncomfortable because this is an intensely personal thing for me," Thompson said, mentioning his 38-year-old daughter who died in 2002 from an accidental drug overdose. "These things need to be decided by the family."
The former Tennessee senator toured the shipping port for 45 minutes as part of his third tour of Florida, ahead of the state's key presidential primary early next year.
The visit also follows Sunday's confrontational debate among the Republican candidates. Thompson - prompted in part by questions from the Fox News moderators - went on the attack, hitting Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney bluntly on a number of issues, including abortion rights and taxes.
The morning after, he didn't continue the fight, but he didn't back down either. "I don't have any apologies to make to anybody for any of that," said Thompson, the only candidate to remain in Florida after the weekend GOP event.
The start of this trip had a decidedly different taste from the first, when thousands of starry-eyed fans seeking autographs and pictures mobbed the former movie and Law & Order actor.
This time, Thompson appeared at strategic locations to highlight policy issues he plans to talk about more in coming days, such as Social Security, the economy and national security. Today, he will meet with the Collier County sheriff and focus on immigration.
The change was clear at the first stop in Celebration, where he had staged an event in September. Last time, he spoke at a campaign pep rally, but Monday he opted for a quiet sit-down with 10 local businesswomen at a boutique florist shop less than a mile away.
Thompson talked Social Security reform -- a touchy subject in a state with so many beneficiaries. He called the entitlement program and others like it the "most dangerous thing facing the economy of the country."
Retiree benefits are currently calculated using wages -- if you pay in more, you get more -- but Thompson proposes using the rate of inflation as the benchmark for adjustments.
"Why should future retirees get more?" he asked. "They should get the same."
Thompson is quick to note that any changes wouldn't affect current retirees or near-retirees. He also suggested a private account component, but stopped short on the details except to say his idea "does not track President Bush's plan."
The former lobbyist noted that he is the only candidate tackling the divisive issue. "Why are they not talking about it? The reason is, it's difficult," he said. "It's a risk, but it's a risk I'm willing to take."
In a brief driving tour and private security briefing led by Richard Wainio, executive director of the Tampa Port Authority, Thompson examined the container tracking system and the U.S. customs process.
Stepping in front of reporters afterward, he called ports the "gateway to the American economy" and an important security border in the war on terrorism.
"I am very impressed, particularly with the container inspection operations," he said. "I think they are ahead of the game as far as security is concerned."