April 14, 2007

Is Fred 'Someone Else'?

The Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes takes a look at the Fred Thompson phenomenon in the Republican presidential primary race and concludes that he embodies None of the Above, at least for the moment. Make no mistake, Hayes warns -- he won't play that role for long. If conservatives find themselves disheartened by the passive (or nonexistent) conservativism of the Bush era, Thompson promises a more assertive, robust form that could hearken back to Ronald Reagan:

The presence of the cigars and the absence of a press chaperone were clues that Thompson is taking a different approach to his potential candidacy. A campaign flack would have insisted on hiding the cigars--Senator, how did you get those Cuban cigars? Isn't there a trade embargo?--and might have dampened Thompson's natural candor. On subjects ranging from Social Security to abortion, the CIA and to Iran, there would be lots of candor over the next several hours.

And by the end of the conversation, two unexpected realities had emerged. If he joins the race for the Republican nomination, and if he campaigns the same way he spoke to me last week, Fred Thompson, a mild-mannered, slow-talking southern gentleman, will run as the politically aggressive conservative that George W. Bush hasn't been for four years. And the actor in the race could well be the most authentic personality in the field. ...

There is considerable talk among the other Republican campaigns that the Thompson boomlet is driven by little more than celebrity. Maybe. But history suggests that Thompson may actually be underpolling right now. As was the case when he ran for office in Tennessee, he has a very recognizable face but his national name identity is actually quite low.

Gallup conducted a survey in late March asking respondents an open-ended question: "What comes to your mind when you think about former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson?" Sixty-seven percent of Republicans responded that they had no opinion of Thompson or were not familiar with him. And yet he shows up in the top three choices of potential Republican nominees in most of the polling that includes his name. As voters come to associate that name with a familiar and well-liked face, and if they get to see the personable Thompson on TV, Thompson strategists assume those polling numbers can only go up.

Hayes took a well-considered break from his work on a biography of Dick Cheney to interview Thompson, and he gives Thompson a chance to set the record straight on his record from the beginning. For those who doubt his pro-life credentials, he reminds people that he received a 100% rating from National Right To Life, an anti-abortion advocacy group. His rating at the American Conservative Union for eight years in the Senate is 86%. He supports federalism and small government, even to the point of opposing the formation of the Department of Homeland Security as the kind of large bureaucracy that does most tasks poorly. Later, he worked to keep unionization and civil-service protections from applying to DHS personnel, to keep the bureaucracy from bloating any further.

Hayes, who knows a thing or two about intelligence matters, gives a verbatim response from Thompson that defends the White House better than the White House defends themselves. In part:

The irony here is that intelligence services had consistently over the years understated the capabilities of enemies and potential enemies. Now, here there was unanimity among the intelligence services, some of whom are supposed to be better than ours. . . . People don't understand intelligence. They don't understand. It's seldom clear. It's often caveated. It's sometimes flat-out wrong. Different people often have different ideas. That's what a president is faced with. And some today would say that politically a president has got to have unanimity before he can make a choice. And then they say that if he has that unanimity, the president has to make that choice--at the same time talking about how deficient our capabilities are. But if those deficient capabilities produced a recommendation, the president of the United States and leader of the free world has to take that recommendation.

Perhaps the most prescient and revealing statement in Hayes' article comes in the beginning, though. Hayes had expected to meet an unpaid aide to Thompson for an interview about the prospects for his candidacy. Instead, as Hayes says, "Fred Thompson showed up."

That's what Republicans hope Fred does for the primary race -- and if Fred does, he's likely to be received warmly and with enthusiasm. (via Power Line)


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Comments (16)

Posted by Doc Neaves [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 14, 2007 8:54 AM

Every word you say is more evidence as to why Thompson will be not only the next president of the US, but the greatest. George W. had that opportunity thrust upon him, and he failed. Fred Thompson will not. He clearly sees the choices of destiny ahead of us. He sees more clearly our enemies. His attitude is probably best shown by the fact that he showed up instead of an aide. That's the way he works, up close and personal, taking responsibility at every step for making the hard decisions.

Posted by pilsener [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 14, 2007 9:23 AM

A major frustration with President Bush, the Bush administration and the Republican Congress has been their lack of ability to speak clearly and coherently about policy, principles, and problems. It has seemed as if they are unfaniliar with the concepts of public relations, sales & marketing, or effective communications.

Fred Thompson, besides a solid, clean record of accomplishment, brings a well-honed ability to communicate clearly and articulately. That alone would not make him an effective President, but it has me leaning his way.

Posted by Angry Dumbo [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 14, 2007 11:59 AM

If communication is the only problem with the President's popularity and the Republican message in general, what about VP Cheney or former Senator Santorum?

Both were/are articulate spokesmen for the war on terror. Cheney is VERY unpopular and Santorum lost big time in 06.

As I see it the Republicans were triangulated in 06 and didn't see it coming. Triangulation does not work if you stick to a set of principles and hammer the inconsistencies of the triagulating opposition.

The triangulators over at the Chuck and Rahm Show will kick Republican ass again in 08 unless Republicans return to their base.

Posted by Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 14, 2007 1:24 PM

I am so tired of hearing people on the right complain about Bush. I remember back in 2000 when he got the nomination instead of McCain, because the conservatives said McCain was not conservative enough. And the conservatives kind of held back on the bellyaching until Bush won his second term. And then it was just bitch bitch bitch.

Bush is prolife, very much so. Bush appointed two conservative justices, just like his base demanded. Bush's stance on immigration is not only mainstream, it is actually to the right of where it was when he won the White House in the first place. He did not run back in 2000 promising a wall.

Bush did not really support the Homeland Security Department at first either, but he was lambasted for it...now people can complain all they want, but back when it was put together there was not some huge conservative groundswell out there to nix the thing. So, if Fred runs, will he just complain that there is a Homeland Department or will he demand that is be shut down?

Bush has never apologized for or hid his faith, even when people said he had too many ties to the Religious Right. And when he ran for reelection in 2004 he won with a record number of votes.

No, just whining about Bush and looking for someone new to love {and ultimately complaing about too} will not fix the problem.

Fred Thompson's appeal is not that he is a conservative in a field of Phillistines. His appeal is his character and his personality and he is a sort of new face.

Most Americans are not as conservative as the readers here or as Thompson himself might be. However, I think they feel that his conservatism is tempered with common sense and intelligence and if they vote for him they will not find themselves stuck with Tancredo or Buchanan. He is comfortable for people.

BTW, the man who lost in my district here in Indiana, John Hostettler was very conservative. A blue dog Democrat beat him. Hostettler was not a big supporter of the war. He was a fiscal and social conservative incumbent who made a huge deal out of illegal immigration. And he got hammered, just like Santorum.

So when people say the Republicans need to return to their base, which base? I have made people angry before by noting that come hell or high water Democrats almost always stick together. Republicans on the other hand, attack each other with wild abandon and then sit back surprised to discover their ranks are thinning out.

I wil vote for Thompson if he gets the nomination whether I support all his stances or not, because of that big picture out there, however, if someone else gets the nomination his supporters need to be prepared to do the same. The Republican party is a political party, not a cult. It needs to win if it is to have influence.

Posted by burt [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 14, 2007 1:42 PM

Terrye, I think you are the one doing the bellyaching here. Those of us who may be more conservative than you held our noses both times we voted for Bush as well as both times we voted for his father. We did not expect much from either one. We were not surprised.

Posted by Rose [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 14, 2007 2:09 PM

Fred Thompson does embody the "NONE OF THE ABOVE" vote - mainly because the people pulling for him generally don't know much about his voting, they know him as a likeable character actor, a well-liked Congressman who quit Congress before he garnered any significant enemies. Nice.

I was excited about him, until I began to learn about his voting record and his friendship with McCain.

When his friendship with McCain is storng enough that he becomes ONE OF ELEVEN GOP members who voted for MCCain Feingold and is, today, on Sean Hannity, totally unapologetic for that vote - I've learned something I really do not like about Fred Thompson .

When I learned only this week that he voted against the impeachment (of Clinton???), then I have to feel like I'm looking at a man who if he were still in Congress WOULD BE A MEMBER OF THE GANG OF 14, no doubt - sorry - no vote for this man.

Terrye says if the GOP is to have influence it needs to win.

Well, if I want the GOP to have influence, I NEED TO SEE SOMETHING IN IT THAT I APPROVE OF.

So far, all I see is a DIM ENABLER in the GOP, and after reading the brochure of an Alcoholic enabler in the AA literature, I have to say, of the enablers I've met in my life, I don't see anything I care much for.

I cannot think of anything I am less interested in at the moment than DIM ENABLERS.

If I won't vote for John McCain, I ain't interested in any of his butt buddies.

I gawr-own-TEE.

Posted by Karen [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 14, 2007 2:30 PM

One of the objectives we should have is to get the McCain Feingold law repaeled. I don't expect any action until the 09 Congress is seated, and then it would depend on who is in the White House and which party controls either side of Congress. I don't expect change prior to the elections, there are too many pussies in Congress and that is a part of the problem in and of itself. It seems like the politics of personal destruction is taking the place of doing the right thing and what is best for the country. What is even worse is the attempt to criminalize politics now.

I support Fred because I think he can cut through the bull and call a spade and spade and the American public will hear and understand him. Since communication is a weakness in the Republican party, getting a great orator to head the ticket and then country would be a good thing.

Also, I think Fred can beat anyone who will head the Dem ticket.

Posted by kymar [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 14, 2007 2:36 PM

Point of Fact: Thompson voted Guilty in the impeachment vote in the senate on the Obstruction of Justice charge, Not Guilty on the Perjury charge, along with 4 other Republican Senators - Shelby, Stevens, Warner, and Gorton: http://home.netcom.com/~speaker6/lists/impeach.html

Posted by jaeger51 [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 14, 2007 2:36 PM

We desperately need another Reagan type. Someone who can be personally appealing enough to be able to brush off the MSM's constant attempts to paint all conservatives as either evil geniuses or bumbling idiots (usually somehow at the same time) and yet holds US first /small government ideals. If Thompson is that sort, more power to him.

Posted by Rose [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 14, 2007 4:37 PM

Point of Fact: Thompson voted Guilty in the impeachment vote in the senate on the Obstruction of Justice charge, Not Guilty on the Perjury charge, along with 4 other Republican Senators - Shelby, Stevens, Warner, and Gorton: http://home.netcom.com/~speaker6/lists/impeach.html

Posted by: kymar


Thanks - Sean Hannity didn't get specific in his question, and Thompson didn't clarify anything specifically when he made a reply statement standing by his vote - and I haven't looked it up, yet.

Posted by Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 14, 2007 5:41 PM


Well you know what burt?That kind of attitude is what made Bill Clinton president and it might do the same thing for his wife.

For eight years I listened to the same people who bitched about Bush's father bitch that Clinton was president, when more often than not the truth was it was their vote for Ross Perot that put Clinton in the White House in the first damn place. If they had not pitched their little tantrum it would not have been necessary to impeach Clinton, because he would never have made the move from Arkansas to Washington DC in the first damn place.

Hey, but Bush did not do your bidding in all things so he must be insulted. I guess that means that if Fred does not kiss butt he too will be treated like pond scum. Just someone else you had to hold your nose to vote for.

The truth is I am not bellyaching at all. I am saying I will vote for Fred Thompson if he gets the nomination. Now if you don't want me to because I am not up to snuff, just say conservatives only allowed, we are tired of holding our noses by God.

That will get you about 30% of the vote and permanent minority status.

Posted by Adjoran [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 14, 2007 9:40 PM

In politics, of course, if one expects to win enough support to compile a working majority, one must be prepared to do fair bit of holding of the nose. On the few occasions ideologically "pure" candidates managed to win, it was the unpopularity of the incumbents which carried the day more than a rush to adopt a particular ideology. FDR and Reagan leap to mind in this regard.

I have no doubt of Thompson's conservatism or his ability to project an authoritative and credible image - something which has been lacking in most Republican nominees, except TR, Ike, and Reagan. He does not, however, possess the requisite management experience to qualify him to run the biggest operation ever, the US government.

That basic qualification is important. Who gets to start a new career at the very top of the field? The experience issue would rise to the fore if proven executives like Giuliani or Romney were the nominee against Hillary, Obama, or Edwards, none of whom has ever run anything larger than their Senate staff. Thompson gives away that issue, because he hasn't run anything bigger, either.

It is said that every Senator who looks in a mirror sees a President, but it is unclear why they should - beyond pure, unadulterated ego. Legislating offers little in the way of particularly useful management skills. At least Vice Presidents have been close to the administration of power and, for most of our history, have had little to do besides observe and learn.

There is a reason we often elect Governors and Generals, and almost never Senators, to the White House. The former have to have qualifying leadership experience while the latter do not.

Besides, why would any sitting Senator WANT to be elected? Neither of the two sitting Senators elected (in 54 Presidential elections) survived their first term.

Posted by Rose [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 14, 2007 11:42 PM

A lot of folks who are going to consider it important to vote GOP for a RINO in the PRIMARIES are going to decide by the time of the General Election that if it is GOOD to vote for a Dim Enabler, it must be more important to vote for a DIM, instead.

Check Arizona voters.

I will vote for a Conservative in the Primary, and again in the General Election - regardless of which IF ANY political party that might or might not support.

I will NOT vote for a RINO who is a Dim enabler. California is all the example I need.

Posted by Doc Neaves [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 15, 2007 6:43 AM

Wow, Rose. So you won't vote for Thompson under any circumstances, insulting him by calling him a Dem enabler. How absolutely close-minded of you. Now, just to show you how close-minded, go ahead, tell us of one single Republican or Conservative who is NOT a Dem enabler. Because when you do, I'll go find some vote he/she made that could be construed as helpful to the left or not as helpful to the right as it could have been, then call your man/woman an enabler, and ridicule you for supporting such a leftist.

Or, we could try to return to some common sense, and realize that it's just that kind of ignorant talk that got us Clinton (not Perot's running, but people like YOU finding flimsy excuses to vote for someone, demanding perfection before you'll vote for change. Thompson isn't perfect, but I defy you to find a more conservative person. And they've shown you where he voted to impeach Clinton on one charge. Remember, Bush let McCain-Feingold through because he said the Supreme Court should have found it unconstitutional. To date, there is great argument that they decided wrongly. Are you going to now reject every conservative who's been wrong? Are you going to reject them all if they've ever had a position that disagreed with yours? If that is the case, then I feel just fine about the election, because THEN YOU WILL BE VOTING FOR NOBODY!!!

Posted by Lew [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 15, 2007 10:42 AM


Just a quibble I suppose, but when Andrew Jackson was elected President in 1828 he was the sitting Senator from the State of Tennessee and served two terms in the White House in robust health, dying in his bed at the Hermitage on June 8, 1845. The only other President elected out of the Senate was of course was JFK, about whom enough has already been said.

If Fred Thompson is looking around for a role model, Jackson wouldn't be the worst one to look at, in my opinion.

Posted by Rose [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 16, 2007 12:56 AM

Posted by: Doc Neaves

Bush "let it go through", but Thompson voted for it, because of his friend, McCain.

In the impeachment vote, the one he voted against he was one of only 4 GOP members to do so. I watched the trial daily - I don't agree with him.

You have a shot at convincing me, we are both on the same forum.

But there are several million others who will not vote tothe Left of my vote - your words didn't sway them during Ford's campaign, and not during Dole's campaign.

Personally, I don't regret denying those two men the Presidency at all. Their actions in office do not convince me theiy would have been BETTER than their Democrat successors.

If you are content with such lefties as RINOS, that is your look-out.

But if you want to consolidate the Right vote, you'll have to go a little bit Right of Hillary to get it.
I've been watching Dah Ahnold Man in California - you'll have to do better than this argument.