Friday, November 09, 2007
The lazy man's candidate
Fred D. Thompson entered the race a while ago, and it's safe to say he's nestled comfortably within the first tier of candidates without doing anything exciting. He's taken the lead on immigration, but otherwise done very little to dispel the rap that he's a candidate whose heart really isn't in it.
It's a thin line really. We want to have a President with some energy, aggression and passion, but at the same time has enough humility to deploy them in the service of a higher purpose, not merely his own ego. I think it's fair to say that our last two Presidents have been better on the campaign trail than on the job. It's especially sad in the case of Mr. Clinton, who was notoriously protective of his place in history. Nonetheless, he was more or less a bystander to the major events of his era. After all the turmoil associated with him, his substantive accomplishments are more or less nil. He would be better off if he were Coolidge, who operated that way on purpose.
That aside, back to Fred Thompson. The essence of his candidacy, IMO, is that he uniquely is positioned to restore the Republican party as the majority in America. That's a big job, since the GOP is has less credibility now (more precisely, in the aftermath of the 2006 election) than at any time since 1974. Observers within the party and outside of it are skeptical that it can be done.
The Republicans are caught in a bad pincer. President Bush is regarded as stupid, and the Republicans in Congress are regarded as venal. Put the two together and Republicans in general are stupid _and_ venal, and that's a deadly combination. A well-adjusted person might, under some circumstances, have respect for a person (on in this case, an institution) that is one or the both, but to be venal and stupid together is to invite contempt with a flashing neon sign.
This is the hole that Fred Thompson can dig us out of. More so than most of the other candidates, he has the opportunity to clearly and aggressively define what the party stands for, away from the cul-de-sac that it's currently in. But that will take more energy that we've seen from him so far.