March 17, 2007


Thompson would be candidate from conservative central casting: Activists court the actor and GOP ex-senator for a White House bid. They consider other hopefuls too moderate on key social issues. (Peter Wallsten and Janet Hook, March 17, 2007, LA Times)

Conservatives often ridicule Democrats for espousing the "culture of Hollywood." But in the latest sign of Republican discontent with the field of 2008 presidential hopefuls -- and in a familiar plot twist -- some of those same activists are eyeing an actor as the party's potential savior.

Fred Thompson, the former GOP senator from Tennessee who once played a White House chief of staff on the big screen and who appears now as a politically savvy prosecutor on TV's "Law & Order," is positioning himself to answer the call and, perhaps, follow the script that saw Ronald Reagan jump from Hollywood to the White House. [...]

"One advantage you have in not, you know, having [the presidency] as lifelong ambition is that if it turns out that your calculation is wrong, it's not the end of the world," Thompson said in a recent interview on Fox News.

But Thompson, whose spokesman said he would not comment for this article, is taking steps that serve to accentuate the buzz around a possible candidacy.

During the Fox News interview, he staked out solidly conservative positions on key issues, opposing same-sex marriage, gun control, and the landmark Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion. [...]

Thompson first gained national attention as the counsel for Republicans serving on the Senate Watergate committee in 1973 and '74. Starting in the mid-1980s, he began balancing his legal and political interests with acting jobs -- in one of his more notable roles, he portrayed a rear admiral in "The Hunt for Red October."

He was elected in 1994 to fill the Senate term that Al Gore gave up for the vice presidency; he easily won reelection in 1996, then decided to step down in 2002. Around the same time, he was cast as Dist. Atty. Arthur Branch on NBC's "Law and Order."

Sometimes called "Hollywood Fred," Thompson's pitch to social conservatives could be complicated by his personal life. Divorced once, he was known for having an active social life that included a relationship with country music star Lorrie Morgan. He married his second wife, political media consultant Jeri Kehn, in 2002.

Although Thompson probably would offer himself as an outsider, his official residence is no longer in Tennessee, but in the affluent Washington suburb of McLean, Va.

Moreover, some question whether Thompson has the temperament and discipline to raise the money and adhere to the grueling schedule required by a presidential campaign.

"The only rap I know on him is he doesn't like to work hard," said influential conservative Paul Weyrich, chairman of the Free Congress Foundation.

Geez, he even has Reagan's "laziness" down.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 17, 2007 8:34 AM

Here in Tennessee, we've known Fred forever. He'll work as hard as it takes to get what he wants.

For many reasons that would take too long to explain, there are lots of folks around here, including Fred, who have a strong desire to do whatever Howard Baker asks them to. If Baker is advising Fred to run, instead of just asking him to consider it, Fred is in.

Posted by: Dan at March 17, 2007 9:51 AM

Laziness? Mr. Weyrich hasn't gone to law school, has he?

Posted by: Mikey [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 17, 2007 11:34 AM

The best qualification yet. Policy-wonks do not make good presidents.

Posted by: Gideon at March 17, 2007 12:30 PM

Geez, he even has Reagan's "laziness" down. And Eisenhower's. Somehow only Republican presidents are dumb (Ike, Reagan, W), lazy (Ike, Reagan), wimp (Bush I, the youngest navy pilot in WWII), or evil (Reagan, W).

Carter, was billed as a brilliant nuclear engineer, in fact was a technician; Kennedy, who plagiarized Warren Harding's last campaign speech: "ask not what your country ...", was the genius; Clinton, who dodged the draft, was able to brand Bush I a wimp; who let a foreign head of state waiting for him to finish whatever "non-sex" he was doing with Monica, who wanted to finish a game of golf before taking a call to authorize an airstrike on Iraq's no-fly zone, was hard working.

Posted by: ic at March 17, 2007 3:37 PM

Only historians such as Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., could find Eisenhower to be unintelligent, ic. Anyone who could keep such talented egotists as DeGaulle, Montgomey, and Patton pulling more-or-less in the same direction (and yes, they were talented and OhMyGod-level egotists) and having the confidence of talented non-egotists such as Allenbrooke and Marshal has to be an intelligent, militarily-able, diplomat.

Not to mention his WWI service as a young officer in a postion that called for unbelievably good administrative skills. Not to mention being MacArthur's chief-of-staff; and if there was a talented egotistical jack*** it was MacArthur.

But he didn't fit the ideological mold of the academics, so he was dumb.
(Not to discount being a PT boat skipper - that did take guts - lots and lots of guts. Fortunately, young men are (for the most part) full of guts if not full of "what if?".)

Posted by: Mikey [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 18, 2007 1:02 PM

Mikey, you're right that young men are full of guts. They think they're invincible which is why they are so incredibly brave . . . and why, if for no other reason, rambunctious little boys shouldn't be drugged into zombiness.

Fred Thompson let us down as a senator. We had high hopes he'd bring the force of his personality to the job, but alas, he found a young wife instead. The similarity to Gingrich is remarkable, except of course that Thompson wasn't married at the time.

We shouldn't take a chance on someone who already let us down once.

Posted by: erp at March 19, 2007 11:07 AM