Fred Thompson

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to hear Fred Thompson speak in person.  He was the keynote speaker for the CT GOP's annual fundraising dinner and out of curiosity I got a press credential to cover the event.  Thompson gave an early version of what will become his stump speech, trying out ideas, and one liners in front of an intimate and largely friendly audience.  

The meme of the moment is that Republicans are looking for the next Regan.  It's apparent that Fred Thompson would like to play that role.  Stump speeches usually contain a laundry list of party values and Thompson made sure to mention taxes, terrorism, Iraq, the DC disconnect, and of course how Democrats want the enemy to win.  He made no mention of abortion but since most Connecticut Republicans have pro-choice leanings that makes sense.  Actually Thompson went out of his way to be non-offensive heaping praise on Chis Shays, Jodi Rell, and honorary Republican Joe Lieberman.  

Seeing Thompson speak was like watching an actor play a candidate in a TV movie.  Thompson plays himself well.  He knows when to smile, when to sound ominous and, when to pause for laugh and applause lines. On the surface he looks and sounds presidential.

Beyond that who is Fred Thompson? I don't know and I don't think anyone else who saw the speech does either. What I enjoy about early stump speeches is that the audience generally sees more of who the candidate is and less of what their campaign wants them to be. That wasn't the case with Thompson. His speech offered plenty of polish but no sense of who he is as a person.

Considering how much buzz surrounds Thompson I'm left to wonder what Republicans are actually looking for in a candidate. Do they like Thompson for any reason beyond that the other candidates are so disappointing? Is it because like Regan he's an actor? I've been thinking on this for two weeks and I still don't understand the appeal.

Tags: 2008, Fred Thompson, President 2008, Republicans (all tags)

Comments

42 Comments

Re: Fred Thompson

The appeal is he's not Rudy McRomney and that's about it.

Do they really want to run a lobbyist for President? I would welcome having to run against someone like him.

by Ga6thDem 2007-06-03 08:17AM | 0 recs
Re: Fred Thompson

Exactly, he is not Rudy McRomney!!  But when he get out there and go to these debates, he better have it together.  But again, the supposed savior, an actor, Fred "Basset Hound" Thompson, is supposed to bring the GOP back.  Democrats, we better pick the right candidate this time, the right one.  One for the future, because Thompson is "so the past".

by icebergslim 2007-06-03 08:53AM | 0 recs
Re: Fred Thompson

Thompson is about as close to a generic Republican as you can get. No campaign finance reform, no socially liberal stances, no expansive health care plan from him. Thats his appeal. The closest thing the GOP had before Thompson was George "Macaca" Allen, but since he got knocked out, there's been a big void in the GOP field for a generic Republican. I think Thompson is the one (whether or not that gets him the nomination remains to be seen...)

by AC4508 2007-06-03 11:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Fred Thompson

I think George Allen must watch this current crop of Repubs and literally cry at the thought that his foot in mouth moment not only cost him the Senate, but the opportunity to be the "next Reagan".  How sweet it is.

by Kingstongirl 2007-06-03 02:39PM | 0 recs
Re: Fred Thompson

Rudy McRomney!  I like that.

Thompson just seems like such a  strange choice to me.  It will be interesting to watch him alongside the other candidates at the next debate.

by Melissa Ryan 2007-06-03 08:23AM | 0 recs
Thompson has the acting career

but he was known for being rather lazy while he was in the Senate.

One thing I've seen is this: Mitt Romney will NOT go down easily. I'm beginning to believe, flip-flops or not, that Romney is the candidate to beat on their side.

Thompson, well, aside from being a familiar face and really being a good communicator, he's going to have to run on his record at some point and that's not going to work out well for him. He was a corporate lobbyist and an underachieving Senator.

Romney, for all his faults, did manage the Salt Lake Olympics effectively and can point to some achievements(health care, budget) as Governor of Massachusetts.

by mihan 2007-06-03 08:41AM | 0 recs
Re: Thompson has the acting career

Romney worries me too.  He's an chameleon but so far an effective one.  Long term I think he'll win over conservatives, especially since Thompson really is a dud.

by Melissa Ryan 2007-06-03 08:51AM | 0 recs
Re: Thompson has the acting career

The guy is already running strong in the NE, and he'll probably win over Michigan's Republicans as well. Throw in Utah, add in his strong showing in Iowa, figure his former moderatism isn't going to hurt him in states like Washington, Minnesota, California and possibly Florida(given Jeb Bush's endorsement).

If I'm on their side, I'd be liking Romney's chances.

by mihan 2007-06-03 09:04AM | 0 recs
Wait on Southern polling

Southern Baptists traditionally think of Mormonism as a cult. National Republican leadership think Romney can just slip around the corner on that one, just as believing that the South will look at Giuliani as 'America's Mayor' and not as a guy that looks fabulous in pink. Me, I am not so sure.

I don't know if the dynamic for Thompson is what he's for, instead I suspect it is for what he is not. If the campaign gets down and dirty, and given that this is the modern Republican Party you can expect it will, then you will need someone to act as the flight to safety candidate and Thompson is well positioned to fill that role.

by Bruce Webb 2007-06-03 09:30AM | 0 recs
Re: Thompson has the acting career

Romney seems like the most likely candidate. He'll probably do badly in the south, but unlike McCain and Giuliani his campaign isn't sitting on an unexploded grenade of an issue - Mormonism aside, which whilst unpopular amongst the base isn't as bad as a lack of nativism or a pro-choice stance.

I honestly think that if their troubles force McCain and Giuliani out of the running that Romney will wipe the floor with Thompson. Romney at least seems to be an actual human being, whereas Thompson's campaign is based on being a cardboard cut-out with ideologically correct policies and a passing resemblance to Reagan.

by Englishlefty 2007-06-03 10:34AM | 0 recs
Re: Thompson has the acting career
I agree that Romney seems more and more likely to be the GOP candidate who conservatives can build a consensus around.
As for Rudy, he continues to lead in the polls, but I cant help but think he's going to get screwed by the primary calendar. Iowa and SC are dominated by social conservatives, and McCain and Romney poll well in NH, so those first three states are non-starters for Rudy despite his national lead. I know he's planning to put all his eggs in the super-duper tuesday basket, but if he doesnt finish in the top-2 in any of the first three states, how can he overcome that loss of momentum?
by AC4508 2007-06-03 11:26AM | 0 recs
He wants to be different too

From what I have read and heard he is sayinf he is going to run a "different" kind of campaign and he wants to "reach out" to people and do away with the cynical politics we are so used to.

Sound familar?

Sheez, the pols trot out the same BS every four years.  Who here thinks Thompson, who is looking for the conservative base to rally to him, is going to be all that different from Bush, McCain, Lott, McConnell, or any other rightwing nut.

I hope Fred wins.  I think he will be an easy beat.

by dpANDREWS 2007-06-03 08:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Fred Thompson

Thompson isn't anything special. I saw some clips of him speaking at the California GOP gathering in Orange County, and there wasn't anything beyond an average, ho-hum performance.

I can't see him going far in the race.

by PsiFighter37 2007-06-03 09:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Fred Thompson
Don't underestimate an empty suit going all the way.
BTW, it's spelled REAGAN.
by Cismontane 2007-06-03 09:16AM | 0 recs
Re: Fred Thompson

we underestimate Thompson because what we see doesn't impress us, it's the same type of thinking that leads us to almost always nominate the well qualified "experienced" but unlikeable candidate against the telegenic Republican. Honestly I'd give Thompson about a 50-50 shot of beating Hillary becuase he doesn't seem scary and face it Hillary is simply not going to be well liked among about half the country, Hillary will ahve to go real negative on issues and try to compare him to Bush, it'll probably come down again to Ohio, with Obama I think we would win a landslide against this guy but if dem voters  want experience instead of likeability we will have a problem agianst this guy, Hillary would have a better chance against Rudy who she can atleast make look like a thug.

by nevadadem 2007-06-03 09:23AM | 0 recs
Exactly

Dems should not keep on nominating Adlai Stevenson over and over again.

by Populism2008 2007-06-03 12:10PM | 0 recs
Re: Exactly

I see no reason why not. It's not like Eisenhower can run again.

by Englishlefty 2007-06-03 12:28PM | 0 recs
Re: Fred Thompson

Personally, I think many people will like him because they think they're voting for Arthur Branch, the character he plays on Law & Order. Beyond that, it's becoming apparent that the media is creating the perfect image for him.

Eric Alterman wrote a good piece about why we should worry if Thompson runs. Here is the link:

http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/eric _alterman/2007/06/worrying_about_fred_th ompson.html

by Phil from New York 2007-06-03 09:37AM | 0 recs
Re: Fred Thompson

Reagan was a B-level actor and a spokesperson for General Electric. He was good at being tall and handsome, telling jokes, slapping people on the back, and attacking leftists. It didn't seem like he would be very popular or go very far in politics. But backed by a lot of money and fauning mainstream media coverage, he was tranformed (in many people's minds) into a statesman of giant stature. His administration engaged in many illegal acts, had major scandals (Iran-Contra), and ran up massive deficits (buying everyone off), but the Republicans and mainstream media ignored these faults. He was the "Teflon" president.

Fred Thompson, Rudy McRomney, and the other Republican aspirants don't have much going for them. And with the  Iraq war, Katrina non-recovery, and massive corruption haunting the party, the Republicans should be dead meat in 2008. But remember that the power elite have a lot of power and money and they don't want to lose control. So expect 2008 to be the year the empire strikes back. Mr. Bassett Hound or one of the others may suddenly be anointed by the mainstream media and become untouchable. We can't be complacent.

by RandomNonviolence 2007-06-03 09:46AM | 0 recs
Re: Fred Thompson

On the surface he looks and sounds presidential.

In Friday's FindLaw column by John Dean, he is dismissive and critical of Fred Thompson's opinions on why he favors a pardon for Scooter Libby. Dean's article contains links to support his contention that Thompson is way off track. For example, he points out these erroneous statements:

1) that Valerie Plame was not covert:

Thompson: The only problem with this little scenario was that there was no violation of the law, by anyone, and everybody -- the CIA, the Justice Department and the Special Counsel knew it.  Ms. Plame was not a "covered person" under the statute and it was obvious from the outset.
2) that the investigation by Patrick Fitzgerald was a sham, and

3) the charges against Libby uncalled for:

 Thompson: In no other prosecutor's office in the country would a case like this one have been brought.

In this speech before the Council for National Policy in Tyson's Corner, VA, Thompson states that although he didn't know Libby, he wanted to offer his support. The first part of the speech was on the nomination and appointment of Chief Justice John Roberts. Thompson uses each case to illustrate his own stance, but by holding such blatant perversions of the truth, he continues a sorry Bush administration tradition. The report link is in Dean's column if you wish to read it in full.

by Books Alive 2007-06-03 09:55AM | 0 recs
Of course they like Thompson because like Rayguns

he is an actor! There are several elements coming together:

* magical thinking - they hope that since like Reagan he's an actor they can convince themselves and everybody else (including FT) that he is the new Reagan

* image instead of ideology - since FT is an actor and lacks ideological substance, every winger can project onto him whatever ideology they seek in their candidate - allowing Thompson to paper over the ideological rifts that are tearing apart the GOP

by brainwave 2007-06-03 09:57AM | 0 recs
Re:Of course they likeThompson because like Raygun


* image instead of ideology - since FT is an actor and lacks ideological substance, every winger can project onto him whatever ideology they seek in their candidate - allowing Thompson to paper over the ideological rifts that are tearing apart the GOP

Much like many, many people are doing with Obama.

by Quinton 2007-06-03 10:14AM | 0 recs
Re:Of course they likeThompson because like Raygun

Yeah, Obama shows that people can like unabashed liberals.

by sterra 2007-06-03 11:49AM | 0 recs
Re: Fred Thompson

Thompson doesn't have a chance.  What does he bring to the table?  Anything?

He's the Wes Clark for the GOP 2008, except without any of the things that made Clark a unique and good candidate.  All Thompson has going for him is some witty comments and the ability to look "tough" without actually having anything to support it.

I will be shocked if he is ever above 10% in the polls after the end of the summer.

They fell in love with Reagan because he really seemed like he meant it.  He fought and fought for the far right's ideals even when it went nowhere, and he kept butting his head against the wall.  So when he finally gained tractability, the right loved him.  Thompson hasn't done any of that, and has many of the same semi-liberal skeletons in his closet as the others.

by Baldrick 2007-06-03 10:51AM | 0 recs
Re: Fred Thompson

Regan had semi-liberal skeletons as well.

Thompson may not have substance, but really neither did Reagan.  They both appeal in the exact same way.

However the difference between him and Reagan is that conservatism has just been totally tarnished by bush.  Reagan wouldn't have won in such an environment either.

by sterra 2007-06-03 11:45AM | 0 recs
Re: Fred Thompson

Fred Thompson has a well rounded appeal, but support will water down when people realize he had a child out of wedlock, has a divorce under his belt, and has a "trophy wife".  

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-06-03 11:24AM | 0 recs
Re: Fred Thompson

I think the trophy wife will do him in if nothing else does.  You see the two of them together, and it's creepy.  There's no way that couple is going to be America's First Family.  Ever.

by texas dem 2007-06-03 01:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Fred Thompson
Regarding Thompson's lack of energy in the Senate: Look at George Bush.  He never succeeded at anything and was elected President.
Yes, Democrats, it's likeability that counts.  It also helps to have a Republican media spin away any bad points and keep alive the myth of a reincarnated Ronald Reagan.
by hawkseye 2007-06-03 11:39AM | 0 recs
In OC, They're Wondering, Too

I picked up a section of the OC Register at the car wash this morning, and found a rather lukewarm assement of him, "Thompson no panacea for conservatives"

It starts off like this:

The way the pundits reported it this past week, you'd have thought the imminent entrance of former senator and "Law & Order" star Fred Dalton Thompson into the Republican presidential sweepstakes represented manna from heaven for conservatives.

But from what I can tell, in Orange County at least - where there are probably more conservative Republicans per capita than most other places in the country - that wing of the GOP is not breathing a collective sigh of relief.

First of all, Thompson gave a less than stellar performance last month when he was in Newport Beach for a Lincoln Club event. Not good, particularly given that club members are the ones able to pony up the big bucks Thompson will need if he's going to compete in a field that already has 10 candidates.

Interestingly, I'm told that Lincoln Club members who were at the dinner and were disappointed thought more of the speech when they watched it later on television. Well, I guess that's not surprising. After all, Thompson has been an actor for two decades. He knows how to play to the camera. And outside of New Hampshire and Iowa, and maybe South Carolina, most presidential campaigning will be done on video - either on television or on the Web.

Also, many conservatives say they're not sure where Thompson stands on the issues. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, who is still uncommitted, said he's still casting about for a candidate who can speak to the issues most important to him, such as illegal immigration, China, trade and globalization. And, Rohrabacher said, even after some private time with Thompson, he wasn't convinced he was the guy. Rohrabacher was so unimpressed, he skipped the Lincoln Club event.

After Thompson's Lincoln Club appearance, many Orange County conservatives are still searching for the perfect candidate to fill the vacuum. In fact, contrary to what has been done in previous years, the club is considering throwing open its endorsement process to a vote of the entire membership. That's mainly because members are all over the board on whom they support.

OC is pretty credible as a conservative microcosm, so I'd recommend reading the whole thing.  It is, of course, just one analyst's take.  But still worth a look.

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-06-03 11:49AM | 0 recs
Conversely

I ran across this this morning and was immediately curious... it was an article titled "Fred Thompson's Achilles' heel" and started out "Fred Thompson is being hailed in many conservative circles as nothing less than the messiah the Republican Party desperately needs to retain the White House in 2008... But conservatives might want to think again before crowning King Fred."

Okay, interesting, I thought, this breaks from the narrative most of the media is following and I'm curious to see what they're talking about. ... and then, almost at the very end of the article, I finally got to the explanation of what the author believed Thompson's Achilles heel was, and I just burst out laughing. Take a look yourself...

At this point I'm starting to almost starting to wonder how much the satisfaction of the right-wing base really matters. Years of US VS THEM thinking have loaded up the conservative psyche with so many litmus tests that it seems basically impossible ANYBODY could pass all of them at this point. At the same time, it seems like there's abundant evidence that any or all of these litmus tests can and will be cheerfully suspended if the right movement leader (that is, a radio or cable talk show host) announces that such and such a person is the One (although, just to confuse all of this, it appears that "business conservatives", religious conservatives and neoconservatives no longer share the exact same movement leaders, as they did just a few years ago...).

I mean, yes, if the Republican base isn't satisfied then that means doom for the Republicans in 2008, just like an unsatisfied base meant doom for the Democrats in 2000 and 2004. But whether the base is going to be satisfied-- it just seems like the process for approval by the base over there is so close to purely random that it defies analysis or prediction. It's certainly possible there's some kind of clear rubric for conservative satisfaction that just happens to be nonobvious to me from my liberal ivory tower or something, but it's also possible there's nothing that would satisfy the fractured, reality-deficient monstrosity that is the conservative movement at this point.

by mcc 2007-06-03 01:04PM | 0 recs
Actors

Don't underestimate actors. I never thought Reagan was anything. His acting was B level Hollywood but he knew how to play to a camera. A commentator said during his presidency, it was the best role he every played. So much of politics is not rational but about unconscious appeal. That was Reagan's success.The American people never agreed with him on the issues. But when he talked about the "shining city on the hill" he spoke to their unconscious and he tapped into the pre-rational unconscious myths that move people and make them melt, even though it's all illusion, all smoke and mirrors. If you are operating on the conscious analytical level, you just don't get it when people tear up and come unglued with these type of political actors.

by cmpnwtr 2007-06-03 11:49AM | 0 recs
Re: Actors

If Thompson has any "magic" that's it.  He didn't offer much in the way of substance but he made it sound good.

by Melissa Ryan 2007-06-03 11:55AM | 0 recs
The American Voter

Beware.  Look at the fools our voters have been willing to put in the White House.  What qualities or expertise did George Bush bring to the game when he got in.  Governor of Texas?  Glad hander for a baseball team?  He was a C student and had failed at every opportunity.  He didn't even complete his obligation to the Texas National Guard Champagne Squadron--yet he managed to get close enough to steal the election twice.  

The Republicans should be called the "yellow dogs" as they have given us Presidential candidate who in some cases did not have the ability to fetch, much less run the country.  

I am so afraid of the American voter.  So many of us don't read, don't think and are incredibly uninformed.  Most make their voting decisions on TV commercials and truly I'd say a great percentage could not point out Iraq if given a globe.  Though I worry about low voter turnout, I'm almost as afraid what would happen if everyone showed up at the polls.  

With such an uninformed group of voters, I fear  Fred Thompson, who is an actor and lobbyist has a great advantage.  He knows how to find the light as they say and this is a country that, in many circles, still revere "the great communicator".  

Reagan didn't communicate as much as read, but he was a very good reader and knew how to sell his text.  Don't be surprised to see Fred Thompson do the same thing.  He's going for the Reagan prize and with his background as an actor and a lobbyist, I expect he might be very persuasive to those who don't spend their time thinking about the real issues facing the country.

by Nick Stump 2007-06-03 12:26PM | 0 recs
Re: The American Voter

Instead of being afraid of Thompson you should be glad we have Obama running for the democratic nomination in my opinion.

by sterra 2007-06-03 01:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Fred Thompson

"Thompson is a cardboard cut-out with ideologically correct policies and a passing resemblance to Ronald Reagan."

And you think this makes him a WEAK candidate?  Jeebus, I find that description terrifying!  It's a perfect screen for Republican projections and pretty damn good for a lot of other people too.  Plus, he's real tall and big and he's got a pretty young wife--that equals alpha male, buddy!  And we're threatened by nasty little bad guys so who wouldn't want a big guy with a drawl?  It would be like electing John Wayne.  Plus, Thompson is an actor and that's what running for president is about!

And he was a lazy senator?  Who could establish that and who would care?

Thompson and Romney--attractive, polished and absolutely without firmly held core beliefs.  That's a tough team to beat.
     

by Thaddeus 2007-06-03 12:31PM | 0 recs
Actors

Indeed, don't underestimate the total unconsciousness of the American voter. Most Americans thought Ronald Reagan was a World War II hero, even though he never left Hollywood. They confused him with the roles he played. The same is likely to happen if Fred Thompson rises to the national focus. I see him as potentially the most dangerous foe.

by cmpnwtr 2007-06-03 01:36PM | 0 recs
Re: Fred Thompson

Arthur Branch: You're fired.
Serena Southerlyn: Is this because I'm a lesbian?

Arthur Branch: A negotiated deal between two competent attornies is the biggest step forward in jurispudence since the guillotine

Arthur Branch: Seems to me we have enough evidence for two cases. The only thing we don't have is a busload of nuns as eyewitnesses

Arthur Branch: I may look like a stupid Southern lawyer but I've been in this town for over twenty years
Arthur Branch: Justification?

Arthur Branch: Well, you gotta admit, it's a lot more creative than `the devil made me do it'.
Arthur Branch: I think it's genetic.

Arthur Branch: You know what I want? I want this guy stopped before he kills somebody else. Find something to charge him with. Anything

Arthur Branch: A mother had two sons. One sat on the porch all day and the other went out to do the hunting for food, for dinner. One day the War Between the States broke out and the Sarge came to her door and said, 'Ma'am, I'm going to have to take one of your sons into battle with me. It's your choice.

Arthur Branch: Then, the woman says, 'My husband's down by the fishing pond. Why don't you take him?

Arthur Branch: A homicide conviction without a body. That's the prosecutor's quadruple jump.

Arthur Branch: Ah, go ahead. You're entitled. I guess justice isn't always for sale.

Arthur Branch: He's got Al Archer, who'll blow a lot of expensive smoke up the jury's skirts.

Arthur Branch: He also churns more documents then the Land O' Lakes girl churns butter

Arthur Branch: In that case I would be delighted to ponder the psychological enigma that was Jacob Deiter. But I've gotta double-time it up to the appellate division.

Arthur Branch: Chief Judge Leonidas Midonas. I'd sooner 'fess up to cheatin' on my taxes as to hand him a shaggy-dog story like this.

Arthur Branch: They don't grant continuances just because you're getting your butt kicked

Arthur Branch: We deposed a mini-Stalin. A man who tortured and killed hundreds of his own people. Who attacked Kuwait and gassed the Kurds.

Arthur Branch: Cosmetic surgery. It's become an epidemic in this country. Whatever happened to aging gracefully?

Arthur Branch: Keep your month shut and put your witness on the stand. If Fontana said he didn't make a promise, he didn't make a promise

Arthur Branch: But your friend didn't kill anybody, did she?

Arthur Branch: Talk about family values, it took a shredded Bible to bring this bunch together.

Arthur Branch: To make a political statement or because of a dispute with a family member?

Arthur Branch: Religious fervor.

Arthur Branch: I'm telling you to make a deal with the S.O.B

Arthur Branch: The defense will say it was AIDS that killed her.

Arthur Branch: Democracy's still the worst form of government there is, except for all the rest.

Arthur Branch: I'm not complaining about the result

Arthur Branch: No, we did. We let it get personal.

Arthur Branch: Listen to yourself. Your whole plan is fueled by outrage

Arthur Branch: We don't convict people for their thoughts.

Arthur Branch: What did you tell them?

Arthur Branch: In my day, television was a different animal. Husbands and wives in separate beds. Picture postcard towns where the teenagers drank only malteds and went to sock hops together.

Arthur Branch: Yeah, right

Arthur Branch: It didn't take Dena Carter long to make political hay.

Arthur Branch: Interesting fodder for Page Six, but what does it mean for our trial?

Arthur Branch: I saw Pretty Woman too, Connie.

Arthur Branch: Even the noblest crusaders aren't beyond a little hypocrisy, and it usually involves money

Arthur Branch: I'm sure some people love spiders, too

Arthur Branch: Could there be anything to this bribery claim?

Arthur Branch: Still a brilliant campaigner.

by nkpolitics 2007-06-03 02:46PM | 0 recs
Not Ronald Reagan

People on both sides of the aisle forget what Reagan's appeal was in 1980. He was successful not JUST because he was a telegenic actor who tricked the masses into supporting his brand of conservatism. He was successful because he offered a "sense" of optimism in a very pessimistic age. He promised confidence at a time when Americans were held hostage in Iran. He channeled a building conservative economic philosophy perfectly timed to capitalize on 1970s stagflation. He arose just five years after America's final humiliation in Vietnam bore fruit with the fall of Saigon. And he played an integral in building the sort of conservatism that he promulgated, from the 1964 GOP convention to the California Governor's chair between 1966 and 1974 to the almost-successful GOP primary run against Ford in 1976 to influential support for Prop 13 in 1978 to the primary in 1980 where he openly welcomed evangelicals who formerly backed Jimmy Carter. Reagan led an entire movement for a generation before becoming President, and he appeared at the exactly right time to take power for conservatives. His charisma made the sale easier, but his acting cred only shined what was long building as a major political movement. Now don't get me wrong. I think this whole conservative movement has been a disaster for the country. But I recognize that the country at least SEEMED to yearn that kind of leader in 1980.

So, does Fred Thompson fit any of that bill? Is 2008 in any way similar to 1980? Not by a long shot. Fred Thompson has never played a major role in any ideological movement. He came of age in the now-declining Howard Baker moderate wing of the Tennessee Republican Party. He was prosecutor who scored a few high-profile cases, including taking down the governor in the late 1970s. But he never really espoused any major political position or advanced any coherent vision for the country. His charisma is much less natural than it was for Reagan; his 1994 red pickup truck rental was a complete sham and it only worked because it was 1994 and any Republican who claimed he was running against Washington (even if said challenger was a true DC insider as Thompson had become) could win - especially in the South. Fred Thompson is a follower, not a leader.

And there there's the times. George W. Bush is every bit as unpopular now as Jimmy Carter was in the throes of the Iran-Hostage Crisis; worse actually.  The problems plaguing Bush are entirely of the Republican Party's own making. The country detests the Iraq war and desperately wants to extricate itself from it. Thompson, a la Dick Cheney and Karl Rove, challenges the patriotism of those who oppose the war. And as Americans grow increasingly tired of fear-mongering, Thompson piles on with the same drivel. Fred Thompson is no Ronald Reagan.

Thompson is quite simply the wrong man for the times. The only Republican who can win in 2008 in Rudy Guiliani, and that's only because so many Americans still have a cartoon image of him as some sort of 9/11 hero. Only somebody who pledges to take the GOP in a new direction - away from the neoconservative fear and war-mongering of the Bush years - can win in 2008.

I realize folks are still spooked at the public's willingness to buy an idiot like George W. Bush. But you have to remember how awful John Kerry was as a politician. Nobody I know of - myself included - voted for Kerry because they liked him. We all voted for Kerry because we hated Bush and wanted a Democrat in the White House. Any Democrat. More importantly, as this past November showed us, 2004 was a LONG time ago. The GOP has completely imploded since then. Support for the war, which was around 50-50 in November 2004, has fallen to less than 30 percent now. The American people won't vote for a man just because he "seems" presidential on television. They'll vote for the man because he seems to be the right man for the times. Fred Thompson is not that man.

Don't fear Phony Fred.

by elrod 2007-06-03 05:19PM | 0 recs
Re: Not Ronald Reagan

I don't think the fact that he isn't Reagan matters, really. No, he isn't Reagan, but this is not Reagan's era, either. Thompson needs to capitalise on new currents to capture the current energy, and I think he has at least a hope of doing that, at least better than the other Republican contenders right now.

by Senori 2007-06-03 07:39PM | 0 recs
Re: Fred Thompson

Hillary will be the candidate on the left baring some gi-normous unforseen scandal. Obama is an excellent speaker but lacks the experience factor. This will become evident when the primaries get close and the attack dogs are unleashed upon him by the Clinton machine. Edwards is weak all around and has little chance of advancing much past where he is currently polling.

FT has a good shot at the Rep nomination as Guliani and McCain have big negatives from the conservative side and Romney is viewed as suspicious on his conservative values due to past positions. The Rep race is FT's to win if he does well head to head in any primary debates. The tell will be if he can connect with these people during any debates when you have a think-on-your-feet type of atmosphere. The conservative values he expressed as a Senator align very favorably with middle America and the south (the red states). Anti-abortion, anti-gay rights, anti-gun control, smaller government, balanced budget, strong defense (those are not in order of significance)... those are very core values for the conservative minded and FT falls right in the thick of them.

Don't think for a minute the media will love FT or give him a free pass because he is from Hollywood. The media are just dying to get another dog in the race to stir things up because the current group is growing stale with nothing "new" to be reported on. If FT commits he will be micro-analyzed just as the rest of them have been. Controversy means headlines which is what the media is largely about. The current coverage is about as exiting as watching OJ drive down the freeway again and again and again.

If FT gets the Rep nomination and it comes down to "who people like" on camera against Hillary then watch out!

by Uncle Remus 2007-06-03 05:25PM | 0 recs
Re: Fred Thompson

He's at least as competent as any of the other Republican candidates, and seems to be smart enough. That he is an actor shouldn't hurt him at all; regardless of his profession, the test should be whether he would do well. And I think it's a case he's making to the Republican voters on an emotional level, even if it isn't reaching us on the left, and even if it isn't true.

Even though Giuliani would without a doubt be the most formidable general election opponent, I think Thompson is much more palatable to the primary voters and still acceptable to the rest. I wouldn't be surprised to see him winning the nomination, or doing well in the general.

by Senori 2007-06-03 06:17PM | 0 recs
actor actor actor

Reagan once said (about acting, and then later, about being a politician): "80% of this business is sincerity. If you can fake that, you've got it made."

It's not because he's an actor "like Reagan," it's because he's an actor, period. Like you said, he looks presidential, and I'm sure he feels presidential to the audience. The authoritarian movement knows no difference between reality and feeling.

They have their potemkin President putting on their potemkin war and they want another of both.

by msnook 2007-06-03 08:31PM | 0 recs

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