August 16, 2007

Fred The Fearless?

David Broder sat down for a cup of coffee with America's most anticipated primary-race entrant, Fred Thompson, to talk about why Fred wants to run for President at all. He had a great gig at Law and Order, the one television series that has its own retirement plan and subsidiaries. He has a new family and plenty of money to spend the rest of his days relaxing on his Tennessee porch, if he so desired. So why run?

"There's no reason for me to run just to be president," he said. "I don't desire the emoluments of the office. I don't want to live a lie and clever my way to the nomination or election. But if you can put your ideas out there -- different, more far-reaching ideas -- that is worth doing."

Thompson, like many of the others running, has caught a strong whiff of the public disillusionment with both parties in Washington -- and the partisanship that has infected Congress, helping to speed his own departure from the Senate.

But he says he thinks the public is looking for a different kind of leadership. "I think a president could go to the American people and say, 'Here's what we need to be doing. And I'm willing to go halfway. Now you have to make them [the opposition] go halfway.' "

Thompson says he wants to run a different kind of campaign, even in the primaries. He wants to talk real solutions, not just pander to the base. In order to do that, a candidate has to speak hard truths and unpleasant realities, even when they may not find favor with the party and its leadership. Fred says he's the man who can do that.

But will he? In talking with Broder, Thompson pointed out a few issues that may rub some Republicans the wrong way. He wants to talk about overstretching the military in Iraq and the administration's attempt at a "free ride" in Iraq. He opposes the prescription drug benefit that added "$17 trillion" to an already-failing entitlement program, which will put an uncomfortable spotlight on Republicans in Congress who voted for it. He thinks that the FBI can't handle domestic counterterrorism efforts due to structural impediments, which will not likely win him many plaudits from Justice officials.

Most of all, Thompson wants to attack the fiscal management direction of both political parties. Democrats want to tax and spend, while Republicans want to spend and cut taxes. Both policies are wrong, and Fred says it starts with the tax code, which has become an "unholy mess". Thompson wants to tackle tax reform, and has even offered some admiration for the Fair Tax in the past, although he has been careful enough not to endorse it.

It sounds like a good start. Plain speaking always gets the attention of voters, but it has to be followed by rational and well-considered policies. In this cycle, we actually have any number of candidates who have no trepidation in describing America's challenges in detail, and if Fred wants to jump in after Labor Day with nothing more than another litany of our problems, he won't get far. If he wants to impress, he'll need a series of actual and specific policy proposals, and an explanation of how he'll make them into reality.

That's real fearlessness. I hope Fred displays it.

UPDATE: I forgot the word "anticipated" in the first sentence, and James23 in the comments pointed it out -- as well as offering his suggestion...


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Comments (19)

Posted by RBMN | August 16, 2007 10:56 AM

People who play hard-to-get, like Fred, also need perfect timing. I think Ol' Fred may have missed his window of opportunity to be instantly in the top tier. Now when he gets in, he'll be starting from where Huckabee is. And Huckabee's a runner--Fred's not.

Posted by FedUp | August 16, 2007 11:03 AM

I think Fred missed the boat. All that playing around without committing... doesn't bode well for someone who should be a decisive leader. Fred, stay home you have nothing to offer that all the rest of the candidates have.

Posted by Todd G | August 16, 2007 11:15 AM

My greatest 'Fred fear' is that he has the steak but not the sizzle. In my engineering & sales life I've seen numerous great ideas that never went anywhere because the 'idea guy' didn't have the ability to get others excited and roused to action enough to actually get something done. I've seen videos of Fred's speeches and his appearance on Leno's show. Great ideas but a slouching, lackluster presentation.

To win you not only have to have the ideas but be able to convnice people to act. That "Fire in the belly" thing. I'm hoping once he finally comes out we'll see more Arthur Branch and less of the style I've seen clips from the last few months.

Between the lack of an incumbent and the dissatisfaction with (hatred of?) the status quo, this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for someone to shake things up. I likewise hope he's up to the task.

Posted by filistro | August 16, 2007 11:27 AM

Fred's only hope is to appeal to younger voters. I can't believe a generation of older Americans would vote for a man with such an uncanny resemblance fo Foghorn Leghorn.

For the kids among us who might be unfamiliar with this cultural icon:

"Foghorn Leghorn is the name of a character appearing in numerous Warner Brothers animated cartoons, especially Looney Tunes. He is a large, anthropomorphic adult rooster with a strong Southern accent and a penchant for mischief.... "

Posted by james23 | August 16, 2007 12:27 PM

Cap'n: word missing in the first line of your post. I'm guessing that "invisible" is the word you intended to insert in this phrase:
"America's most primary-race entrant"

Posted by Kelley | August 16, 2007 12:37 PM

Fred is doing just fine. The only person ahead of him is the 9/11 Mayor, which gave him a huge head start and deservedly so.

Every candidate sees his numbers go up and down a little, including Rudy's.

Rudy's problem is that Fred will sweep the South, with its extra delegates. Meanwhile, Fred is liked elsewhere as well. He has won straw polls in WA, CA, GA, and PA.

It's unheard of for so many candidates to be announcing 18 months before the election. If Fred gets in in September, that's still early, and provides plenty of time, especially since he'll have huge advantages in the delegate count.

Posted by Carol Herman | August 16, 2007 1:15 PM

Fred's not in the race, yet.

And, for my money Guiliani is gaining ground. Since what happens to him as he tours the country, speaking to locals, ends up on the NET.

Yesterday? Well, you know where he stands, now! He called terrorists ISLAMISTS. He said he's unwilling to see Irak go to elections in 2009, if the population, ripped and rent by factional rivalries, thinks it can vote in terrorists, or co-religionists, into office. He tore the Saud's a "new one."

VERY CLEARLY SPEAKING not just to primary voters; but to people at large. I think he runs! And, he'll run as an independent, who makes it, IF the GOP pulls a stunt, like the Bonkeys did, in connecticut, with Ted Lamont. Remember him?

Today's voters are screaming mad at the opportunists from both ends of the spectrum, who think they own the nominating stage. They don't.

Posted by exDemo | August 16, 2007 2:14 PM

It wasn't all that long ago that presidents did not leave their homes to "run" for election. Runniing about and shaking hands, mumbling some innanitiy like "Have a great Day", "Vote for me," "Give me your support.". was a wayto get on the local news, which used ot be a monopoly of bu tone or two voices.

Today there is little cohesion to the media, divided into a thousand voices.

Thoughtful speeches and debates produced a platform that meant somethng. Not any more when the candidates are treated like toothpaste and their images are manipultaed by media mavens. I don't hink much of a "leader " who allows this to be done TO him.

Fred's idea ot return to the earlier mode of seeking the presidency, produced better presidents, IMHO.

Posted by John425 | August 16, 2007 3:00 PM

I'm a Fred backer but his "talking plain" scares me- In 1964, Barry Goldwater was plain-spoken- and went to Florida to attack the Social Security system-Florida! of all places.

Posted by starfleet_dude | August 16, 2007 3:57 PM

IMO, Fred's only future claim to fame will be that he wasn't the first Thompson to bow out of the 2008 GOP race.

In case anyone's counting, those Iowa caucuses are only five months away, followed by everything else happening in a matter of weeks immediately afterwards. Playing Candidate Hamlet now may be a nice acting gig for Fred, but it isn't getting the job done because that takes actually running in the race for President instead of pondering the question "so why run?"

Posted by Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] | August 16, 2007 4:39 PM

I think Fred is pandering to voters when he talks about immigration and I think that if he runs on repealing that drug benefit the bad spotlight will not be on Congress, but on him. Millions of people are using that program, it is costing less than it was expected to and the people who are receiving the benefit are already on Medicare or Medicaid or both so their health care costs are already being born by the state. Cutting off a program like this will not help cut costs, it will only make people mad.

I work in health care and I do not know of anyone, Republican or Democrat who complains that the government is helping them or their family too much. Sometimes the choice is between stop gap measures like this and nationalized medicine which would be even more expensive.

So Thompson is wrong. He is just another guy with money who does not know what it is like to spend half his disposable income on medication and if he runs on cutting a benefit to the older Americans he will find a good deal of opposition.

Posted by Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] | August 16, 2007 4:45 PM

BTW,a lot of the people who used to receive help with medication from medicaid are not reaceiving that help from this program instead because Medicare is a first provider or primary provider so a lot of those costs Thompson is talking about are not additional costs at all. And I am sure he knows that.

Posted by Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] | August 16, 2007 4:49 PM

And the entire budget is not 17 trillion, how many years is that anyway?

Posted by John Bragg | August 16, 2007 4:57 PM

Maybe the rumors that Fred doesn't really want to run are true. So he's decided to run on a politically suicidal platform. Very clever--win lots of adulation, get decimated in the primary. Then back to acting.

Posted by poodlemom | August 16, 2007 5:33 PM

When it first appeared Fred would jump into the fray, I was leaning in his direction......but this tap dance he's been doing has definitely curbed my interest. If this was the plan all along, then he's been too clever by half.

Rudy is looking better to me all the time. His personal life doesn't concern me in the least; I admire his willingness to be unPC at times (Arafat & the sheik with the million dollar check post 9/11) comes to mind.

Posted by Norm | August 16, 2007 10:47 PM

I made a small contribution, and I believe he will actually announce and start to run.

I just hope this doesn't turn out to be another Ross Perot/Ralph Nader kind of thing. I have no specific reason to think so; just once bitten twice shy.

Posted by Sharpshooter | August 17, 2007 4:36 PM

Oh, that's what we need...some used car saleman for Prez.

Gawd help us!

Posted by Sharpshooter | August 17, 2007 4:38 PM

Oh, that's what we need...some used car saleman for Prez.

Gawd help us!

How interesting that a nation founded by (true) intellectuals is now hostage to a bunch of overgrown adolesants (from both parties) that need to be entertained 18 hours a day, everyday.

Posted by Sharpshooter | August 17, 2007 4:48 PM

"And the entire budget is not 17 trillion, how many years is that anyway?"

That's the expect cost over the next 20 or so years. But, hey, it's our selfish grandkids that'll foot that bill ,so we need not worry about "Compassionate Conservatism".

BTW, CC is the same welfare/nanny state, just with a "faith based" facade over the same altruism.

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