Saturday, September 22, 2007
FRED THOMPSON & THE "DEAD CAT BOUNCE": "NO PASSION . . . NO ZEAL"
Picture of Fred Thompson, second wife, and youngest children
Note: I'll continue my "scum of the earth" series on Democratic Senators (Robert Byrd, Jay Rockefeller, Edward M. Kennedy, and others) next week.
NOTE: NEXT WEEK I'LL ENDORSE A CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT. OBVIOUSLY, IT WON'T BE FRED THOMPSON! IT ALSO WON'T BE MIKE HUCKABEE, WHO IS IN SOME WAYS THE MOST ATTRACTIVE CANDIDATE. MIKE MAY IN FACT HAVE A BRIGHT FUTURE, BUT IT WON'T INCLUDE WINNING EITHER THE REPUBLICAN NOMINATION OR THE GENERAL ELECTION.
Former Senator Thompson's presidential campaign has experienced what stock traders call a "dead cat bounce." That refers to a stock whose price drops precipitously and then rises slightly, only to continue its downward trend. The concept behind the phrase is that, if it's dropped from a high enough point, even a "dead cat" will bounce.
Many evangelical Christians urged Thompson to enter the presidential race. However, he didn't exactly take off like a rocket. Evangelical Christian and Focus on the Family guru James Dobson expressed his disappointment with Thompson by saying the candidate had "no passion . . . no zeal."
Dobson got it right. Thompson is in his 66th year -- note: I'm 67 -- and he looks it and acts it. He's eligible for both Social Security and Medicare. Saddled with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, Thompson is a chronic (mild) belcher and throat-clearer. He usually looks like a man who needs a good nap.
Let's face it: Fred Thompson is a boring guy. He's charisma-challenged. In many ways, he's a living embodiment of Arthur Branch, his character on "Law & Order," a man who never met a risk he wouldn't prefer to avoid.
Prior to announcing his candidacy on "The Jay Leno Show," Thompson ran for the presidency in a manner reminiscent of Warren Gamaliel Harding's Ohio-centric "Front Porch Campaign.".
In Thompson's case, the campaign consisted mainly of regular columns on Townhall.com, a web-site known for the almost total predictability of every comment that appears there. He also gave occasional speeches to the kind of conservative groups that still revere the sacred memory of William Howard Taft.
One observer described Thompson's speaking style as consisting of "conservative cliches . . . punctuated by long pauses." His style with essays isn't much better.
An excellent blogger on townhall, GenXDad, analyzed the many essays Thompson's staff produced for Townhall. He found the pieces only one-step up from the ancient Zen question that asks: "What is the sound of one hand clapping." The answer of course is: silence. GenXDad found nothing insightful or exciting in the Thompson essays. He describes reading them as an eerie experience. http://genxdad.townhall.com/
How can a man produce so many essays and have so little to say? It's like Robert Frost at his lamest: "Good fences make good neighbors . . . something there is that doesn't love a wall."
Actuarial charts suggest that Thompson many not live long enough to see those beautiful children above graduate from elementary school. From the looks of him, his chances of making it to Election Day appear to be about 50-50.
He's announced that even with his now-dormant cancer, his life expectancy will be "normal." In fact, by Inauguration Day in 2009, Thompson will already have exceeded the life expectancy for someone born in 1942.
He's a man with an uneasy relationship with the future. As a Senator after 9/11, he announced that "Now is not the time to leave [his position]." Shortly thereafter, he left.
He should have stayed -- even though of course he could make A LOT more money on TV. .
In reading about Thompson's life, one keeps wondering: what on earth was the man thinking? I realize that a fair number (not enough) people like Fred Thompson, although I can't understand why. He's a guy who chucks social conservatives uner the chin -- but provides no coherent explanation of how he would lead this country.
For example, what was he thinking when he divorced Sharon Elizabeth Lindsey (Thompson), his wife of 26 years? Also, in his lucrative lobbying career, what was he thinking when one of his "pro bono" clients was the dictator of Haiti? And what was he thinking when his TV work on "Law and Order" consisted of laboring for Richard Wolf, a Moveon.org-type who can't figure out which he hates worse: Christians (usually portrayed as lunatics or perverts), Dick Cheney, or the Iraq War?
Was it all about the money? I'll rely on Jerry Maguire to answer that one.
Thompson isn't seeking the presidency with anything resembling enthusiasm. He says he wants the office because there are "things" he could only accomplish in that office. One is almost afraid to ask what those "things" might be.
For some months, I've been fearful of being too candid about some of the presidential candidates. I didn't want to do anything that would detract from the candidacy of Gov. Sarah Palin for vice-president (and, eventually, for President). But Sarah's character and accomplishments can stand on their own. I hope no one defects from Sarah because of something I say, but if they do, so be it. Fearful is not my style.
Thompson is not the man for the presidency. I don't see a single state he could carry in a general election that Giuliani, McCain, Huckabee, and Romney also couldn't win. Do you?
I expect his campaign -- lacking in passion, substance, and probably money -- to fizzle out. There's no evidence he can raise enough money -- or build a strong organization -- to compete effectively in the Super Tuesday states on Feb. 5, 2008.
Thompson's bowing out of the race, which may happen this calendar year, would be good for America and, frankly, good for him. "Run, Fred, run?" Only if he's running away from his bad decision to announce as a candidate for the nation's highest office.
Now is not the time, and he is not the man.
Stephen R. Maloney
One lady formerly from Pittsburgh and now living in Tennessee responded to my post by saying that "Thompson was a great Senator, and he will make a great President!"
In fact, no one, including Thompson claims he was a great Senator. When he was asked what he had accomplished in his terms there, he responded (in paraphrase, but close), "Well, sometimes it the things you DON'T do that matter most." He did excel at not doing things. One thing he didn't do, because he left after saying he wouldn't, was to play any kind of positive role in the War on Terror (although he's recently said he's for it).
Instead, he worked for a TV producer -- Richard Wolf -- who has made the "Law and Order" series the television equivalent of Moveon.org. As Lucy's Ricky Ricardo put it, "He has a heap of 'splaining to do."
Tomorrow, I'll post comments by my friend John Hawkins (of "The Forgotten Street") who hopes Thompson is a conservative. In my case, I've not seen anything that suggests he is electable. He's just another low-energy, aging white guy who will get chopped to ribbons in the general election. He's Bob Dole, circa 1996.
According to Gallup, the most popular male politician in America is Bill Clinton. Also according to Gallup, the most popular female -- politician or otherwise -- in the U.S. is Hillary Clinton (with Oprah second).
You figure it out.