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Monday, September 10, 2007

Meet your exciting new Republican candidate for the presidency
Posted by Jill | 7:23 AM
At least it was well into Reagan's second term when the Alzheimer's took hold:

Freshly minted GOP White House hopeful Fred Thompson puzzled Iowans yesterday by insisting an Al Qaeda smoking ban was one reason freedom-loving Iraqis bolted to the U.S. side.

"They said, 'You gotta quit smoking,'" Thompson explained to a questioner asking about progress in Iraq during a town hall-style meeting.

Thompson said the smoking ban and terror tactics Al Qaeda used to oppress women and intimidate local leaders pushed tribes in western Anbar Province to support U.S. troops.

But Thompson's tale of a smokers' revolt baffled some in the audience of about 150 who came to decide whether the former Tennessee senator is ready for prime time.

"I don't know what that was about," said Jim Moran, 72, who had driven from nearby McCook Lake, S.D.

Iowans, several of whom told the Daily News they were intrigued by Thompson's down-home charm, got their first extended chance to press for details of his broad theme of "common-sense conservatism."

On abortion, Thompson said he would appoint judges in favor of overturning Roe vs. Wade but had reservations about a constitutional amendment banning it.

He also said he'd finish a wall along the Mexican border to stop illegal immigration: "We get to decide who comes into our home."

Thompson said "things are turning around" in Iraq and that troop reductions should not be linked to some "arbitrary time line."

His cue to stop talking came from 4-year-old daughter Hayden, who came on stage with a bow in her hair to tug on Thompson's pants leg - drawing "oohs" from the audience.

The man is quite clearly an idiot. But look at how easily his audience is diverted by bright shiny objects. Must be that much-lauded Fred Thompson "sex appeal" (speaking of "shiny objects"):

Honk if you've had Fred Thompson's baby.

(link via Skippy)

But in a year which already has a ton of Scary Republican Candidates, from the dictatorial and unhinged Rudy Giuliani to the Stepford candidate Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson is perhaps the stealth weapon that once and for all will put to rest one way or the other whether Americans have really become completely stupid.

Michael Scheuer:

The ol' Southern lawyer Freddie Dalton Thompson stands before two stuffed chickens and a fake white picket fence, where a plastic grapevine pretends to grow at the end of a phony Main Street. He's here to tell a crowd of a couple hundred that he is the real thing, a small-town boy who never had much ambition, who never grew up wanting to be president, who still doesn't know where he stands on many issues -- but ain't America a wonderful country.

"My story is just another American story," says the former senator, his baritone Tennessee drawl rounding the edges of his words. "Growing up in a town that wasn't quite this big. My folks came in off the farm. Didn't get a chance to go to high school or any further education. Had to go to work. Became the most wonderful parents anybody could have. Because they really saw in me a little more than I saw in myself sometimes."

Thompson goes on like this for about 20 minutes, keeping the crowd's interest, even though they are squeezed in like matchsticks at one end of Music Man Square, an indoor museum built to celebrate the musical of the same name. "I've seen America from every vantage point. I've seen it from the factory floor on the graveyard shift," he says. "I've been able to dine in foreign capitals with foreign leaders all over the world."

His speech patterns are hypnotic and calming. He paces back and forth, looking at shoes as often as faces. Nothing is forced, emotional or too complex. He explains his decision to abandon a lucrative acting career for the world's most difficult job, presidential candidate, as if he woke up one morning and decided to put down the whiskey bottle for his family. "I could sit back and read somebody else's script and maybe clip coupons once in a while," he says. "Or I could step up."

He chose the latter, however hesitantly, leading to his Republican campaign announcement on "The Tonight Show" last Wednesday, followed by a chartered bus tour of Iowa's browning cornfields -- three days, six events, about as many folksy aphorisms as there are catfish in a Mississippi mud pond.


Add Thompson's 6-foot, 5-inch frame to the mix, and his advantage is clear. He is new to the game, and unlike all these politicians who try so hard, he is just like you. He even says so on the stump. "Let's get right to the chase," he told a crowd in Sioux City on Friday. "The main question that you have a right to know from me is why I'm running for president. And the answer is pretty simple. I'm just like you are."

Yes, Fred Thompson is just like you -- if you've spent most of your adult life as a Washington lobbyist.

But having grown up with having reality never seeming more real as when viddied on a screen, you don't have to actually BE presidential, you just have to look it on TV.

Here, my friends, is your typical Republican voter:

"It really doesn't matter what issue is at hand as long as he has the fundamentals and the principles to make the right decision," one Republican voter, a maintenance man named Chris Enos, told me after Thompson spoke in Cedar Rapids on Saturday. "He's everybody's dad. He's everybody's grandpa. He just is a likable person."

After Thompson finished up in Mason City, I fell into conversation with Dean Davidson, a Republican business consultant from Minneapolis, who had stopped by during a visit to Iowa to see some family. "I get so tired of the people who say they know the answers to everything," he told me, explaining the Thompson appeal. "When he talks about working on the factory floor, dirt under your fingernails, and how his parents taught him to achieve something, that's me." After an event in Des Moines, a third voter, Jim Deeds, explained the magic this way. "He's the real deal," he said. "He's not Ronald Reagan, but he's a close second."

Note to America: Public figures are not people you know. I don't care how many times you've seen them on TV, I don't care how likeable they seem on the stump, or at the book signing, or sitting in the audience in Conan O'Brien's studio: YOU DO NOT KNOW THESE PEOPLE.

A few years ago I was enlisted by ModFab into being part of the "meet and greet" staff at the Drama League awards. And what struck me most as I pointed hot and cold running celebrities to the appropriate seating area was just how much SMALLER most of them seemed from what I expected. The most striking example I saw that day was Frances Sternhagen. You know her as Charlotte's first husband's mother. She always plays these stern WASP matriarchs. You'd think she was about 5'10" tall, wouldn't you? Nope. She's about five feet tall at most, and if I recall correctly was carrying a backpack. Can you imagine Trey's mother carrying a backpack? Of course not. But Frances Sternhagen is not Trey's mother, because there is no Trey. And he has no mother.

Now it may very well be that Thompson, like John Edwards, has not forgotten his upbringing, for all that he's been successful. But unlike John Edwards, that remembrance is for political effect only, for his voting record demonstrates his "pull up the ladder behind me" elitism:

  • Voted NO on allowing reimportation of Rx drugs from Canada. (Jul 2002)

  • Voted NO on allowing patients to sue HMOs & collect punitive damages. (Jun 2001)

  • Voted NO on including prescription drugs under Medicare. (Jun 2000)

  • Voted YES on limiting self-employment health deduction. (Jul 1999)

  • Voted YES on repealing Clinton's ergonomic rules on repetitive stress. (Mar 2001)

  • Voted YES on killing an increase in the minimum wage. (Nov 1999)

  • Voted NO on reducing marriage penalty instead of cutting top tax rates. (May 2001)

  • Voted NO on increasing tax deductions for college tuition. (May 2001)

No, Fred Thompson is not "just like you." But you Republicans in the flyover states keep believing it. Just don't come crying to me that you have no jobs, you can't afford college for your kids, and the road you drive on every day in your job hunt is full of potholes.

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