Like Electing Limbaugh
Ezra Klein did the perfect call-out of Fred Thompson yesterday.
It's important to note that Fred Thompson isn't going to be just any Republican. He's going to be a hack Republican. This is not a guy like Romney or Giuliani who's had a period of substantial executive experience, and so, whatever their panders, actually possess some independent idea of how policy works. Thompson is a movement conservative with no particular policy specialties and a deep involvement in the oh-so-substantial world of conservative talk radio. It'll be like electing Limbaugh.
I think this is perfectly sound. Thompson has swallowed whole the conservative noise machine rhetoric of the past decade; indeed, he's PART of the conservative noise machine, with his ABC Radio commentaries (which he is STILL doing while essentially running for President as well, something that sounds perfectly reasonable and fair). That rhetoric bears absolutely no resemblance to the truth, nor to the rigors of public policy, which isn't seen as capable of producing anything positive anyway. He's not even really concerned with writing or understanding legislation, so he'll outsource it to industry, or some unitary vice-executive that worms his way into the inner circle. There would be little or no difference in electing Thompson than there would be in electing Bush.
I mean, you remember this style vs. substance argument from 2000, right?
red Thompson's easygoing, no-nonsense style is clearly his strength and undoubtedly has helped him soar in presidential polls. It may only get him so far.
Sooner or later, the all-but-declared candidate will have to answer the question: What else do you offer? [...]
Top candidates Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and John McCain mix it up daily, taking questions from voters and fleshing out their presidential agendas.
His stump speech consists of broad conservative themes, talk of bipartisanship and commentary on issues of the day, but it largely lacks any vision for the future of the country. He deflects questions on what a Thompson presidency would look like and demurs when pressed for specific proposals for how to fix the nation's ills. He opines on hot topics, from taxes to terrorism, in online columns and on his Web site, usually without being challenged. His campaign-trail time is minimal, largely limited to giving speeches at state GOP events.
There's little difference between any of this and the kind of themes in Bush's pre-campaign hackography A Charge To Keep. Bush didn't write that one, it's likely, and I don't think Thompson has any handle on what he's saying either. And on one of the few times we know of where he did exercise independent judgment, it was to spy for Nixon during Watergate, which he admits:
The day before Senate Watergate Committee minority counsel Fred Thompson made the inquiry that launched him into the national spotlight -- asking an aide to President Nixon whether there was a White House taping system -- he telephoned Nixon's lawyer.
Thompson tipped off the White House that the committee knew about the taping system and would be making the information public. In his all-but-forgotten Watergate memoir, "At That Point in Time," Thompson said he acted with "no authority" in divulging the committee's knowledge of the tapes, which provided the evidence that led to Nixon's resignation. It was one of many Thompson leaks to the Nixon team, according to a former investigator for Democrats on the committee, Scott Armstrong , who remains upset at Thompson's actions.
The article is a doozy. Thompson says that he was so brainwashed and blinded by party that he was convinced of Nixon's innocence, but just in case, he spilled information to the White House every step of the way without authority from the Judiciary Committee. He was a friggin' MOLE for Richard Nixon. And he's running for President 30 years later.
With that kind of judgment, and considering that no public figure has taken a more high-profile or public stand in defending convicted felon Scooter Libby, do you really want 4 or 8 more years of party over justice and country in the White House?
...one thing I forgot to add to this is that I do think the American public is ready to reject style in favor of substance, for once, and that competence will win out (although perhaps not over change, and if someone like Obama can exude competence AND change, he'll be tough to beat). This is essentially what liberals are ALWAYS hoping, but the disaster of the past 6 years does suggest that all hat and no cattle will be shown the door.