- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 21, 2007

Though it is early to discuss the 2008 presidential election, as Internet-time has reached presidential politics, the pre-primary debate regarding credible candidates has begun. Yet the current crop of Republican pretenders brings to mind that truism of physical science “nature abhors a vacuum.” One doesn’t have to be a Lee Atwater to see the obvious the glaring weakness of the presidential pretenders (from both parties) leaves a void to be filled.

Former Sen. Fred Thompson, while possessing a certain establishment pedigree (think former Sen. Howard Baker and Sen. Lamar Alexander), nonetheless has sufficient conservative credentials (supported by a voting record) and the underrated prerequisite of persona to make a credible run. He also has the working-class background and experience with grief (his older daughter recently died) to provide a compelling life story, which would also refute the routine, leftist complaints about a patrician Republican Party.

First, Mr. Thompson looks presidential. Who can forget the Elmer Fudd-like image of former Democrat nominee Michael Dukakis (the infamous tank)? On the other hand the c ool patrician-like John Kerry may be better-suited for the premiership of France. In contrast, Mr. Thompson has the right appearance what some would call gravitas or charisma, neither a pretty-boy nor a Jay Leno joke. He looks presidential (remember him as the aircraft carrier commander in the film “The Hunt for Red October” and other roles?) What Mr. Thompson lacks in name recognition he makes up for with face recognition.

Second, the Republican base remains the South as the Left Coast and Northeast remain the bastion of the Democrats. The candidate who has an advantage in his party’s home geographic base presents a difficult hurdle for the others (this is one of Hellary’s advantages). Each of the party’s current Tier One candidates lacks a base of support in the South. At first glance, Mr. Thompson would crush the Republican pretenders in the South Carolina primary.

With regard to his Southern heritage, Thompson is the real deal. Unlike the transplant Newt Gingrich, who hails from Pennsylvania, Mr. Thompson is a native Southerner, born and bred in the Volunteer State. And unlike Al Gore, he was actually raised there, not in a Washington, D.C., hotel. More importantly, like all true Southerners, Mr. Thompson is a conservative, and sufficiently so to command the respect and support of the Republican base. It is notable that three of the last five elected presidents were native Southerners.

Third, Mr. Thompson has the political stature as a former senator to command sufficient respect from the rank-and-file, money-men, and the media. Given this scenario, it was inevitable someone would ride to the rescue. But would it be a white knight or Darth Vader? Alas, Newt Gingrich, despite his virtues, is more of the latter, with his quirky social views and neocon positions on foreign policy.

Moreover, Mr. Gingrich has had a screen test as speaker of the House and was found wanting in that role, which requires certain management skills and focus/discipline that Mr. Gingrich lacks.

Fred Thompson is potentially that man. He would need to resist the RINO-trap advice of the mostly-establishment/country club Republican “handlers” and consultants to moderate the conservative position on the key issues of our age immigration (legal and illegal), the environment (global warming), foreign policy/defense, and taxes/spending. Any softening on these issues even after securing the nomination would dampen his support.

This does not preclude throwing the increasingly important moderate/independent vote rhetorical bones on some issues to ensure them that these matters will be addressed comprehensively from a nonideological perspective.

Fred Thompson has most if not all of the prerequisites for a successful primary and presidential race, and thereby fills the current void in the Republican presidential sweepstakes. He has the persona/charisma, stature, and conservatism to attract support or respect from those that matter the party’s base, the big financial contributors, the media, and ultimately the American public.

Mr. Thompson’s recent quote in National Review Online (excerpted from “The Paul Harvey Show”) regarding the Mexican-border problem shows he understands the root cause of the issue (a socialist/monopolistic Mexican economy that can’t produce enough jobs for its own people), and has the right positions to address it (securing our border through whatever means necessary and demanding that Mexico de-socialize/de-monopolize its economy). Do you recall President Bush confronting the Mexicans with their self-inflicted wounds? But Mr. Thompson addresses the matter in direct policy terms and not demagoguery.

The only question remaining is whether Mr. Thompson has the “fire in the belly” to spend the next two years of his life raising the money, making the speeches, and undergoing the glare from a 24/7 media that has little else of substance to follow.

Does he have the sense of duty to country, or the “calling” at this perilous time in our history, to plunge into the sizzling presidential political waters? Or is he content enough with his multi-million-dollar TV income and young family to avoid the scrutiny with which leftists, who control the Establishment Media, would target him?


Alexandria, Va.

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