Thanks to Sen. Thompson for his post at RedState. Something happened with that post that I think is very telling and worth further discussion.
The post went up, originally, at 4:08 p.m. EDT on Saturday, March 7, 2007, a holiday weekend. Within two hours it had 69 comments. On a holiday weekend. Within 15 hours it had over 150 comments. On a holiday weekend. Within 24 hours of the post appearing, it became the fifth most popular post at RedState since we’ve had the ability to track — and I’d venture to say is in the top five for all time at RedState. On a holiday weekend. The series of tubes we call the internets has been buzzing about Sen. Thompson’s entry into the blogosphere. We’ve gotten inbound links from across the conservative blogosphere and even from the left.
The vast majority of the links have thanked the senator for finally saying what the rest of us were thinking and begging him to run. Why? Lest we forget, Fred Thompson was a one and a half term Senator with no elected executive experience — of course that still makes him more qualified than Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. But why does Fred Thompson excite so many people including me?
I think it is because this is the first candidate who conforms not just to how we see ourselves, but who also seems a perfect fit for the American electorate.1 Fred is one of us and throughout his elected time in office, he was one of us. There has been no moving to the right for Fred — he’s been right in line with our values and, more importantly, he’s not afraid to speak plainly and boldly to defend our values.2
That comes down to the core issue of this primary season. The other candidates running, from Romney to Brownback to McCain to Giuliani are spending their time nuance-ing issues and they really don’t have time to talk about the big issues in expressive terms. Part of that, to be sure, arises from Thompson not actually being a candidate. But the other part comes from Thompson’s unwillingness to mince words and nuance. That, I think, is where the “Southern Fried Reagan” comparison comes from, not from the acting. Reagan was unafraid to call government the problem. Thompson is unafraid to call government the problem. Reagan was unafraid to speak boldy, Thompson laid the smack down to the Iranians and in the process gave Reuters a fist across the jaw too.
The others? They are willing to hold on to the moniker of “compassionate conservatism,” which is just another way of saying the nonsensical “big government conservative.” They seem, and I’m willing to admit I could be wrong, too unwilling to say anything that might give a hint at offending general election, non-base, voters. In effect, they are using code words, subtle winks, and third party surrogates to woo the base, while themselves not speaking plainly enough that some mushy moderate voter in Dubuque might get offended. In short, they strike many as being scared or ashamed to be conservative despite every winning Presidential candidate since 1980, including Clinton, running as a conservative.
Fred Thompson speaks to many of us in a way the other candidates do not. He has natural charisma, he does not come across as too clever by half, and he impresses us with his willingness to unapologetically fight on our side — heck, that he is willing to fight at all on our side is enough for a lot of us. The other candidates are still out trying to convince the Republican base that they are one of us. Romney is trying to convince us that he is a pro-life, small government hunter. Rudy is trying to convince us that while he’s not one of us, he’ll stand by us, but just don’t pay attention to the man behind the curtain. McCain is trying to convince us that despite his ego and what he said about those damned Christofascist wingnuts, he really is a Christofascist wingnut too. Fred Thompson does not have to. He is already one of us and that is why we like him.
Fred Thompson is not the perfect candidate. He just strikes a large segment of the base as more perfect than the other candidates.
I have, however, learned a lesson from Hugh Hewitt and, like with him and Mitt Romney, I will not endorse Fred Thompson.
In 1994, according to the Hotline, Fred Thompson ran as a “pro-choice” Republican who favored ending government funding to Planned Parenthood, ending taxpayer subsidized abortions, re-implementing the Mexico City Policy, allowing parental notification statutes, and allowing states to pass laws to restrict abortion. He was, in effect, more pro-life in 1994, than Mitt Romney was in 2002.
The other sore spot in Thompson’s record is his very ardent support for campaign finance reform. He supported McCain in the 2000 election and was, during his time in the Senate, a zealous advocate of BCRA. In addition, he used his chairmanship of the Senate’s government oversight committee to investigate Clinton administration campaign finance violations relating to the communists in China.
After leaving office, however, Thompson has backed away from his support for BCRA conceding it has not worked and saying, “I wonder if we shouldn’t just take off the limits and have full disclosure with harsh penalties for not reporting everything on the Internet immediately.” (Source).
To be sure, he is not the perfect candidate, but he strikes many on the right to be more perfect than the other guys.