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Filling the void in the race for president
Posted by: Billy Hollis on Sunday, May 06, 2007

I grew up in a small county in southern Middle Tennessee called Lawrence County. Today’s Nashville Tennessean has an article talking with some folks from down there. The article is about a fellow who graduated from Lawrence County High School just before I started elementary school. A lot of people are talking about him these days. His name is Fred Thompson (though he was called “Freddie” in those rural Tennessee days).

I’ve been meaning to post about Fred for a while. My intuition says his chances at getting the Republican nomination look pretty good, considering the current crop he would be running against.

I’m not the only one who thinks so. Take a look at these numbers:

Rudy Giuliani - 32.0
John McCain - 21.1
Fred Thompson - 18.0
Mitt Romney - 17.2

The field drops off rapidly then, with Newt Gingrich coming in at 2.8.

The latest poll? No, it’s the betting line at InTrade, which I pay more attention to than any poll. When people are putting money on the line to back their opinions, I consider that a more reliable measure of potential than anything Harris or Zogby can come up with.

(The numbers change all the time, of course. Those above are for Sunday, 6 May, 2007 at about 6:30 PM CST.)

The Tennessean article has some interesting points:
They remember Freddie as the class clown — he was likable and smart, though not studious.

...

"He had a way of making you like what he was saying even if you didn't agree with him at first," said childhood friend Jan Clifton...

...

"He comes across as so sincere," said Tommy Beurlein, one of Thompson's high school classmates. "He's not trying to answer some way to be popular at the minute."

...

They describe him as a genuine and decent man with a knack for being in the right place at the right time.


None of these sound like the description of a politician. And that, in my opinion, is Fred Thompson’s biggest advantage.

In 1992, a whackjob named Ross Perot was for a brief period a serious threat to win the presidency as an independent. That incident told me just how hungry some voters are for someone who isn’t a typical politician.

Fred Thompson has been a senator, serving one partial term and one full term. And he’s spent some time on the inside in Washington, as one of the lawyers during the Watergate hearings. But he walked away from his Senate seat, and he’s done something more difficult than getting elected to the Senate as a Republican. He’s succeeded as an actor even though he’s Republican.

George Bush has changed my mind about how much acting or some equivalent experience is a good asset for a president. Back in the 1980s, I considered Reagan’s acting credentials to be incidental to his success, or perhaps just a minor advantage. After watching George Bush’s inability to explain critical issues to the American people, I’ve changed my mind.

Acting per se is not a qualification to be president. Acting alone doesn’t even tell you whether someone can string together a coherent sentence. Some actors are simply craftsmen who know how to make words written by someone else come alive.

Thompson is in a different category. He writes a good speech and knows how to deliver it. He recently did Paul Harvey’s slot on a relief basis, which exposed him to millions of like-minded listeners for an extended period. He explains his own positions in a way that makes one weep for George Bush’s limitations. The same ability that allowed him to succeed as an actor allows him to connect with an audience in a way other candidates must envy.

Thompson's policies are what I would call libertarian conservative (though admittedly light on the libertarian). That comes through in his writing and speaking.

Most of what he has had to say lately concerns foreign policy. He's refreshingly blunt about topics such as Iran and the way many Islamic societies treat women. Straightforward stuff, sure, but you don't hear much of it from George Bush, or any of the current candidates.

Domestically, he seems to be a pragmatist. In that case, I hope he's learned from Bush that the Republicans' attempts to imitate the Democrats and bribe their way to power don't work.

So far, he’s making a big impact on the race, even though he’s not even declared. Some conventional politicos claim his delay is fatal to his chances. I don’t think so. I think his best chance is to emphasize that he’s not a typical politician, and is not interested in playing the game the way the insiders expect.

John Fund of the Wall Street Journal concurs:
In every election some conventional wisdom is swept aside. Be it that third party candidates can't influence the race (Ross Perot won 19% of the popular vote in 1992), that sitting presidents have to wait for their opposing party to pick a candidate (Bill Clinton ran negative ads more than a year before the 1996 election and went on to be the first Democrat to win re-election since FDR in 1944) or that an Internet-based campaign can't threaten an establishment candidate (Howard Dean surged, if briefly, past everyone in 2004), conventional wisdom is only right until it turns out to be wrong. This year, the assumption that the best way to run for president is to, well, run for president might go by the boards.
Thompson himself has made a couple of interesting points.
I would just point out that I've never lost an election. No one has ever come within 20 points of me. I've always led the ticket.

...

…if I didn't think I could win in November I wouldn't think about it. I'm not interested in winning a primary and losing in November. I'm not interested in being the tallest midget in the room.
I would be unreserved in saying I would vote for Thompson, except for one factor. He voted in favor of McCain/Feingold’s Campaign Finance Reform. He has since expressed regret that he did so, but it simply scares me that anyone who loves freedom could vote for the biggest restriction on freedom in the US in the last few decades.

That bothers me a lot. But, then, let’s look at the alternatives. The current declared crop of presidential candidates leaves much to be desired. Well, no surprise there. Libertarians do not often find presidential candidates they are satisfied with. But this year, it’s even worse. Among the declared candidates, there’s not one I could even muster the energy to go vote for.

The Democrats are tripping over each other to oppose the Iraq war and bash Bush. Now, Bush deserves some bashing but they’re all now to the point that their Middle Eastern policies are virtually indistinguishable from your typical Islamist terrorist. Bill Richardson is the only exception. I don’t care much for his policies, but at least he’s not de facto on the other side. That may mean he's in line for Lieberman treatment. In any case, he's not a factor.

The Republicans look confused to me. They know they want to support the Iraq effort, but they don’t seem to know what else they want to do. I’d expect Giuliani to have the basic character, but the last debate showed a man who can’t tell you clearly why he wants to be president. Mitt Romney looks too plastic, and I don’t trust anyone who can win in Massachusetts. I’ve previously declared that there are no circumstances that I could vote for McCain (see the comments in this post), because I literally don’t know what he would do.

I declared months ago that we need a better candidate. Maybe we have one.


*** Update 7:15 PM CST ***

I made a couple of minor clarification edits.
 
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Also his voice is deep and has a certain quality I really like.

He sounds like that grandfather everyone has that they really like.

I used to back Mitt...

But now I am Fred’s man. ALL HAIL FRED!

*cough* I mean, um... Go Fred go!
 
Written By: Scott
URL: http://
I’d also support Fred. The current crop of Republican candidates were so uninspiring that I was briefly flirting with the idea of supporting Hillary as the best of a bunch of bad choices. Fred is really the only hope I have of getting excited about the 08 election.
After watching George Bush’s inability to explain critical issues to the American people, I’ve changed my mind.

Acting per se is not a qualification to be president. Acting alone doesn’t even tell you whether someone can string together a coherent sentence. Some actors are simply craftsmen who know how to make words written by someone else come alive.


I think Bush the Younger is an okay president but he has been badly hobbled by his inability to express himself in public. A great president doesn’t have to be a Rhodes Scholar he just needs to be an effective leader and part of that is being able to communicate one’s ideas to the American people and inspire them. I’ve tried to watch a couple of Bush’s speeches and I had to turn it off because it was too painful watching him grasp for the right words and always coming up short.
 
Written By: Bob
URL: http://
I’ve tried to watch a couple of Bush’s speeches and I had to turn it off because it was too painful watching him grasp for the right words and always coming up short.
I have this same problem. I keep asking myself "Who the hell are this guy’s speech writers, and why can’t they do better by now???"
 
Written By: Scott
URL: http://
Hearty agreement from me! "Run Fred Run!"

Ron Paul strikes me as the candidate most strongly in line with liberty and limited government, but I’m not impressed with his grasp of what’s at stake in the War on Terror (from which he basically wants to utterly resign) and I think he’s infinitely less electable than Thompson would be.
 
Written By: kazoolist
URL: http://kazoolist.blogspot.com
Who’s going to vote for Ron Paul? Who, outside of his constituency and the libertarian block, have really heard of him? That’s a non-starter.
 
Written By: Grimshaw
URL: http://
but it simply scares me that anyone who loves freedom could vote for the biggest restriction on freedom in the US in the last few decades.

Yeah, my life has changed overwhelmingly since MC-Cain Feingold. Let me tell you, I used to run lobbying PAC’s and rake in bucks, and now I’m out of wo... oh, no I didn’t. I used to run sock-puppet group attack ads in my spare time, as a hobby, and now I... hold on. Here we go! As a television viewer, I used to love all those lousy, misleading political ads, and now I hardly ever see the... whoops.

Won’t you take, won’t you take, won’t you take away my ball and chain...


Of course, one inch behind all the lofty rhetoric, conservatives are simply irritated that their soft money advantage is gone and they can no longer buy electoral victories..

I hope he’s learned from Bush that the Republicans’ attempts to imitate the Democrats and bribe their way to power don’t work.

I think he has too. Thus he signed Mc-Cain Feingold.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Glasnost -

Has your life changed overwhelmingly because of the way detainees are held at Guantanamo? Would it change overwhelmingly if abortion was made illegal? I’m guessing an overwhelming no in each case, yet I doubt you’d be satisfied with the same argument.

 
Written By: Grimshaw
URL: http://
Yeah, my life has changed overwhelmingly since MC-Cain Feingold. Let me tell you, I used to run lobbying PAC’s and rake in bucks, and now I’m out of wo... oh, no I didn’t. I used to run sock-puppet group attack ads in my spare time, as a hobby, and now I... hold on. Here we go! As a television viewer, I used to love all those lousy, misleading political ads, and now I hardly ever see the... whoops.
Yeah, loosing freedom of speech is a small price to pay if more Democrats get elected.

 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
I’m probably going to vote for the RINO Rudy. And I’m a serious gun nut, who doesn’t like his history on gun control. I’m agnostic on abortion, but I think some of Rudy’s statements on the issue are troubling.

However, he has solid executive experience. The only others with that are Mitt Romney and the also-ran Democrat Richardson.
 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
Glasnost -

Has your life changed overwhelmingly because of the way detainees are held at Guantanamo? Would it change overwhelmingly if abortion was made illegal? I’m guessing an overwhelming no in each case, yet I doubt you’d be satisfied with the same argument.
I disagree. Guantanamo provided new talking points—no doubt a big boost in his life.

And having Republican nominated justices overturn Roe would probably result in a three day long big O for ’ol Glassy . . .

 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
I’m cautiously optimistic about a Fred candidacy. He appears, at least on the surface, to have what it takes to both energize the base and appeal to moderates.
 
Written By: kalthalior
URL: http://guerillaspot.blogspot.com
I doubt you’d be satisfied with the same argument.

The criticism was of McCain-Feingold as being "the biggest restriction on freedom in the US in the last few decades. Observing how an average citizen’s life has changed is indeed a reasonable if somewhat rough test of that statement for BS.

If I tried to claim that Guantanamo was the biggest restriction on freedom in the US in the past several decades, I would indeed be subject to the same criticism. I hope that answers your question. I didn’t deny the possibility of some valid argument existing somewhere against Mc’Cain-Feingold. I mocked the hyperbole and questioned the motive.

 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Yeah, loosing freedom of speech is a small price to pay if more Democrats get elected.

The exact point of the post, Don, was that I as an ordinary person have lost exactly zero freedom of speech from Mc-Cain Feingold, in terms of speech that I have ever used, considered using, or even thought about using at any point in my life to date.

You seem to have deliberately overlooked that. If you’d care to dispute it logically or factually, please do so.

And having Republican nominated justices overturn Roe would probably result in a three day long big O for ’ol Glassy . . .

Obnoxious smack talk fails to fill the hole: you simply demean your status as occasionally worth discussing the issues with. I’ll abstain from responding in kind.

 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Well, glasnost, I understand your point now, and it was poorly made. Being more direct might suit you better.

Secondly, what has been the biggest restriction on freedom in the US in the last few decades if not this?

Thirdly, who are these ’ordinary’ people who have lost zero freedom of speech? It’s only the non-ordinary people who have had their freedom curtailed?
 
Written By: Grimshaw
URL: http://
...biggest restriction on freedom in the US in the last few decades.
The biggest restriction? On whose freedom? And what else makes that list?
 
Written By: Just6Dollars
URL: http://www.just6dollars.org/blog

 
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