Fred Thompson, DOA?


Slate's John Dickerson discusses the problems with putative potential maybe could-be GOP savior Fred Thompson:

Thompson's chief appeal is emotional. Until now, many conservative Republicans have had to wince when they thought of their plausible presidential choices. Giuliani is too liberal, McCain is too unpredictable and too well-liked by the media, and Romney seems like a flip-flopper on the issues they care about. The possibility of a Thompson candidacy excites the Republicans I talk to. He's an "outsider"-having left Washington for Law and Order before the Beltway rot set in. He's a good communicator, which means he can sell conservative policies and has the star power to battle Hillary or Obama. Though he hasn't been through the press-vetting process, his voting record and talk-radio performances suggest he holds conservative enough positions…..

The myth behind the Thompson quasi-candidacy is a dangerous one that bedevils both parties: If we just get a better communicator, people will love our policies. But once Thompson enters the race, he will have to either embrace or distance himself from GOP policies, which will either ruin his chances in the general election or hurt him with his conservative supporters. In short, he'll become just like any other candidate-something he might not like after such a big buildup.

I daresay the Libertarian Party also sometimes suffers from that belief Dickerson notes–that is, that getting libertarian ideas out there via a skilled communicator is all it takes for the nation to fall in line. Who, after all, doesn't like freedom? Well, depends on what the meaning of "freedom" is….

The Thompson wavelet seems to me a prime example of media and activists needing something new to talk about every few days to stave off the inevitable endgame of repetitious and predictable boredom, in an endless campaign where "every few days" is going to bring us any number of go-nowhere flashes in the pan.

NEXT: Mr. President, Can I Have A Hall Pass?

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  1. I wonder: Is instant gratification news (or anything, for that matter) like a drug, in that it takes more of it, more frequently, to gratify us?

  2. Dick Wolf for President

  3. I don’t think Dickerson understands that current “GOP policies” are quite a bit different from what “his conservative supporters” want to support.

    For instance, the massive corruption and corporatism of the Bush administration tends to find quite a bit more support among Reason writers than it does among the Republican base or those further right.

  4. Fred remembers flying along, when he hit something in the air…

  5. My problems with big Fred are 1) that he’s a Republican, which is basically a deal-breaker with me from the get-go, but also 2) the guy is an empty suit.

    What has he done? He was elected senator and set out to kick Clinton’s ass with his investigation of the 1996 election, which turned up bupkis despite all the lurid allegations that Thompson led with, accusing Bill of taking money from the Communist Chinese.

    It’s my impression that Thompson spent the most of the rest of his one term dating Hollywood babes and pissing off his Republican colleagues. It’s entertaining that Republicans are actually excited about this guy, because it strongly suggests that, basically, they got nothing.

    The Republican base–the real Republican base–are southern and western evangelicals. They know that neither Giuliani nor McCain give a damn about Jesus, while Romney is more into Joseph Smith. As for Newt, he worships Newt. Everyone knows that. There isn’t an evangelical in the whole crowd. So naturally they’re ready to get pumped about anyone whose real name is “none of the above.”

  6. the massive corruption and corporatism of the Bush administration tends to find quite a bit more support among Reason writers

    Maybe you’re reading a different Reason than the rest of us?

  7. Maybe you’re reading a different Reason than the rest of us?

    The Spanish version?

  8. Thompson has folksy gravitas. What more could anyone want?

  9. My goodness. Fred Fear has spread from Mr. Weigel to the rest of the Reason staff.

    And still no coverage of the captured and exploited British Sailors and Marines; not a word about that other Thompson, aide to Senator Webb.

  10. I love freedom. For me. Not for thee.

  11. …that is, that getting libertarian ideas out there via a skilled communicator is all it takes for the nation to fall in line.

    I guess I’ve disassociated myself from libertarians who fall prey to this; and it is a source of no small amusement to me to try disabusing a leftist of the same. Right-wing-nuts don’t usually expect better communication to work, because they believe it’s up to you to hear the Lord’s word and take it to heart – so any failure is on the part of the listener and not the communicator.

  12. I really wish I weren’t this cynical, but, honestly, I think that people support Thompson because they confuse him with his characters. The Manhattan DA is tough on crime but seems so nice and competent; the guy who plays him must be wonderful, too. Reagan had been governor of California and a few other things before he ran for President. This guy spent what? two terms? in the Senate and several seasons playing a DA. If we need someone to impersonate steely-eyed and lantern-jawed toughness, Thompson’s our guy. Actual competence, maybe someone else.

  13. I’ve always had a positive impression of Thompson but after reading and hearing recent opinion pieces that I understand were done as he filled in for Paul Harvey, I was unimpressed. His attempt at the folksy approach bordered on patronizing.

    Others have pointed out that he is taking this approach because of the format of the Harvey show but if he wants to be taken seriously as a candidate, the first thing he should do is drop the Harvey show and put a little more thought into his statements.

  14. This guy spent what? two terms? in the Senate and several seasons playing a DA.

    Which is more terms than any of the Democratic candidates has spent in the Senate.

  15. libertarian cred for Fred Thompson?

    how about 99-1 on a Senate Vote to set national drunk driving BA standard at .08
    Though I’m sure Fred’s opponents will portray this in the typical political manner, “Thompson Supports Drunk Driving”,he was the lone dissenter as he saw it no business of the Feds to set state drunk driving laws. I believe he was in a similar position on a “____ Free Schools Act” as well (Fred Supports Guns and Drugs in Schools)

    Thompson’s recent radio opinion on abortion should please everyone but the “baby-killing is a constitutional Right” Left and “Save the Sperm!” Right. He stated Roevs Wade is bad law
    and should be overturned (anyone besides the lefty trolls here disagree with that?) Opposes a Constitutional ban and says abortion should be left to individual States. I believe that is Ron Paul’s position as well.

  16. As an addendum to that post, I’m not trying to bash the Democrats (not that I wouldn’t like to…) – it’s just that in recent years, the level of experience in office required to be a “serious” presidential candidate has dropped a lot – if it was ever extremely high to begin with.

  17. I don’t think “Reason’s Buddies” understands that the “GOP policies” that any putative Presidential candidate will have to genuflect to in order to win the nomination are:

    1. War Forever
    2. All Torture, All The Time
    3. Carve W Into Mt. Rushmore

    All that “we’ve lost our way because we forgot about small government” whining that goes on at freerepublic is nice to hear, but has no real electoral reality within the Republican primary voter base. All the candidates will make nice-nice and talk about small government, so it’s irrelevant. Every candidate will be forced to declare their desire to drink the blood of every Iraqi in order to have any chance in the primary, and doing so will make it essentially impossible for them to win the general.

    That goes for Thompson too.

  18. Fluffy,

    I think your requirements for a Republican nominee are more acceptable to the American people at large than that demanded by the Dem base.

    1 Surrender and Apologize to Al Qaeda for our actions/policies that lead to our well deserved spanking on 9/11/01-agree to scrap the Constitution for Sharia Law.

    2 Turn authority over our military over to the UN while reserving our sovereign rights to have gay and women combat units commanded by officers with liberal arts degres from a “Peace College”

    3 Renounce our use of technology and capitalism
    until we can replace it with centrally planned govermentally determined collective/socialist green alternatives while giving the rest of the world a chance to “catch up”

  19. What do you want to bet that the cable networks and syndicators whose paychecks rely on innundating us poor viewers with Law and Order reruns are going to offer Fred beaucoup de buckos, if he will only set aside any ambitions he may have for the Presidency. The minute he becomes an official candidate, there goes their meal ticket.

    If Fred actually goes for the Oval, you can be pretty sure it is because he can’t be bought — or because someone else was willing to pay a higher price to own the next POTUS.

  20. It seems to me that a few too many voters want a ‘rock star’. For the Democrats, it’s Barack Obama. For the Republicans, it’s Fred Thompson and/or Giuliani. Wouldn’t it be nice if some of the voters in both of these parties could actually use some intelligence and look at the issues and do some research on the candidates. How many people who support Obama have read his book “Audacity of Hope” for example? How many people who bash Mitt Romney have read Hugh Hewitts new book on him, “A Mormon in the White House, Ten Things Every American Should Know About Mitt Romney”? After reading some of these books, how many people then start inspecting a candidates voting record?
    These, of course, are just some examples of potential starting places in ones’ research.
    Sadly, it seems that many are just listening to little blurbs instead.

  21. ….that getting libertarian ideas out there via a skilled communicator is all it takes for the nation to fall in line.

    Yes. I used to think that too. Then I got old waiting for it to happen. I think Walter Williams said something to the effect that libertarians have the best stuff in the world but we can’t sell it to anybody. Actually, we can’t even give it away. Pretty sure that’s an indictment of our fellow man, but maybe not.

  22. Why would Dick Wolf or other people want to bribe Fred Thompson not to run for POTUS?

    Does something similar to the Tiki Barber Rule Apply?

    If Fred runs for POTUS, will he have to give up his Cadillac endorsements..I mean his L&O episodes will have to stop airing? When Reagan was Prez, were cable stations banned from airing his movies?

    I dont remember that.

    If you are implying L&O will end if Thompson leaves… The show has been on like 18 seasons and every member of the cast is expendable. Apparently SVU needs it’s main cast, but the original show cast is revolving ( and Criminal Intent cast literally alternates). DAs, ADAs,detectives- come and go. If anything it might be time for it to end soon anyway.

    Hell, Fred thompson is on that show? I thought it was Dianne Weist. I barely noticed.

    BTW, I remember Fred playing senator-types as an actor, long before he was a Senator.

    He was an actor before Congress, kinda like Cooter from Duks of Hazzard.

  23. If tomorrow, Sam Waterston announced he was running for president, I bet he and Romney would be at least tied in the polls… Let’s give this Fred Thompson thing a month before we start devoting precious thought-power to it. Hell, that goes for the whole election.

  24. Sam Waterston. Pfffft! Sam Elliot, you mean. Now there’s a guy who can play a stand up guy.

  25. Any one see Ron Paul shit himself on tv tonight?

  26. Listening to Thompson fill in for Paul Harvey, he sounds pretty good on domestic economic policy, favoring limited government. But he sounds way to hawkish on Mideast foreign policy to be taken seriously. And those foreign policy views would likely make him a loser in the general election anyway if he got the nomination.

  27. If Fred runs for POTUS, will he have to give up his Cadillac endorsements..I mean his L&O episodes will have to stop airing?

    You can be sure his opponents would make that argument.

  28. Sadly, Thompson is looking awfully phat to the bouffant-poofing Republican ladies of Iowa right now. He’s got that certain jowl-de-vivre they cream their Lane Bryants over on bridge night. I think if he gets out here, he’ll do well, at least at first blush.

  29. “This guy spent what? two terms? in the Senate and several seasons playing a DA.

    Which is more terms than any of the Democratic candidates has spent in the Senate.”

    That is a great point I hadn’t thought of. The “lack of experience” argument from the Dems is simply hollow.

    I’m trying to determine if the Dems will think military experience is important this election cycle. Last time it was the #1 issue. I don’t hear about it now.

  30. For instance, the massive corruption and corporatism of the Bush administration tends to find quite a bit more support among Reason writers than it does among the Republican base or those further right.

    Good luck getting back to your own universe.

  31. John C Jackons 3: Cable is in a tricky position. The government keeps rattling a saber about imposing more regulation (censorship) on the industry, even though I don’t think they have a proper leg to stand on, given the First Amendment and the fact that the cable channels don’t use “the public airwaves,” which the FCC controls. So the cable stations may run L&O and they may not, depending on how badly they need the money or how little they fear pissing off the “regulate cable” guys in Congress.

    Broadcast stations, however, will have to observe the Equal Time rule. So they will probably refrain from running Thompson vehicles, including L&O, just as California TV stations wouldn’t run Terminator and other Schwarzenegger vehicles when he was running for Governor, and as an earlier generation of broadcasters refrained from running Reagan movies and TV shows when he was running for Governor and President. (Remember Death Valley Days? That was still running in some places, as late as the mid-70s!)

    Frankly, I do hope that cable channels will run L&O if Thompson runs for the Oval. I just don’t expect it. As Batman said, “broadcasters are a superstitious and cowardly lot…” Or was he talking about criminals (or politicians)?

  32. The Equal Time Rule died back in the ’80s.

  33. The Thompson “wavelet” is going to turn into his Tsunami. The dems are scared to death this guy is going to run. A few points:

    1. Mr. T has better credentials than Clinton, Obama, and Edwards. The “he’s just an actor” rap ain’t gonna wash.

    2. Thompson is a bona fide conservative. Small government, stong on national defense, social conservative but not on the nut evangelical.

    3. Thompson is a slam dunk to sweep the south and Reagan Republicans.

    4. Has the charisma and speaking skills to crush any Dem in a debate and could also use the bully pulpit like no one since Reagan.

    Mark my words, if he runs he’ll be our next president.

  34. A couple of days back while channel surfing I caught Lou (ick…) Dobbs who had a report on efforts to get Thompson to run. The story stated that Fred’s primary roadblock, the Christian Right, represented by James “Look! Daddy has a penis” Dobson, does believe that Fred has the Fundy street cred to woo the bible-beaters. The Jesus-freaks prefer Newt, regardless of his three divorces and extra-marital affairs.

    Still, I wouldn’t vote for Thompson anyway.

  35. Whoops! That link to the James Dobson quote on showering with boys is here.

  36. Dobson’s commentary on Thompson is interesting. “I’m glad he professes to be a Christian.”

    His issue isn’t whether a candidate is a believer, or someone who lives his life according to Christian principles, as the Gingrich-love demonstrates, but whether that candidate incorporates Christianity into his public identity and political ideology.

    Thompson could spend every Saturday night holding vigil in the chapel, and every Sunday leading the choir, but if he kept his religion to himself rather than using it as a political weapon, people like Dobson wouldn’t have anything to do with him.

  37. How do you determine that the response to Fred Thompson is only emotional? I strongly disagree with that assessment. The support for Thompson has two sources in the GOP.

    1. Those who reject all of the above for whatever reason. Since all three front leaders must contort their records to fit the middle of the GOP’s beliefs.
    2. Many in the GOP do not want to support someone that they have to guess about their positions. Thompson has a track record.

    What’s not calculated in to Thompson’s support numbers are the Independents that he will pick up in the General Election, just as he did in Tennessee, when he stood for reelection. He gathered more votes for a statewide office than any other individual in Tennessee history.

    In addition, Thompson puts the fear in Democrats. Think about it! A debate between Thompson and Hillary or Obama. I would pay to see that event. Visit http://www.AnotherRonaldReagan.

  38. I’m just not in the mood for a ponderous, no-nonsense daddy figure. Yuck.

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