Long Tall Fred swaggers to the rescue, but of what?

Editorial Page Editor
FOR MONTHS NOW, “conservative” Republicans have waited for their hounddog-faced Godot, Fred Thompson, to bring something to the presidential contest that was missing.
    So it was that quite a few of us left our cool offices and moseyed down to Doc’s Barbecue Monday with a mind to learning what that something was.
    The star of screen, lobby and courtroom swaggered onto the riser in the parking lot and launched into a hickory-smoked litany of what he had been talking about since his previous foray into electoral politics back in the ’90s. His delivery had a poetic — or perhaps “lyrical,” in a country-song-lyrics sense — quality:

… talkin’ about the val-yuh (that’s “value” to you pantywaist Easterners) of being pro-life;
talkin’ about the value of standing strong for the second amendment;
talkin’ about the rule of law;
talkin’ about the value and the rightness of lower taxes;
talkin’ about a market economy; talking about the ingenuity and the inventiveness of the American people and the value of competitiveness and how we would fare well in the international marketplace. We do more things better than anybody in the world, and it works for us….

    OK, so maybe it got a trifle less lyrical there for a moment, but he got his rhythm back right quick:

We’re talking about first principles, things this country was founded upon,
the idea that there’s some things in this changing world that don’t change.
Certain things,
certain things such as human nature,
and the wisdom of the Ages that led us to the Declaration of Independence
and led us to the Constitution of the United States,
and they are not outmoded documents to be cast aside….

    OK, Fred, all that’s great, but who said they were — documents to be cast aside, I mean? Who’s the bad guy here? Certainly not the men who’ve been running their fannies off seeking the GOP nomination while you were playing Hamlet all these months.
    Sure, Rudy Giuliani might have a bit of trouble on the abortion thing, and so might Mitt Romney — depending which Mitt Romney you chose to believe from the assortment available on “YouTube.”
    But that other stuff? Come, on, this is boilerplate, par for the course, warming-up exercises, the kind of stuff Republican babies cut their teeth on.
    So what sets you apart, aside from the fact that you are obviously way-up-yonder tall? (I would have said “Rocky-Top tall,” but Fred and I are both Memphis State grads — from back when they called it Memphis State — so I can’t hang a U.T. image on him).
    One thing, as far as I can see — and it goes back to the predicate in the first sentence of my third paragraph: swaggered.
    That ol’ boy’s got more swagger on him than John Wayne in a roomful of Maureen O’Haras. It’s in his voice, and in everything he chooses of his own by-God free will to say with it. It’s in his accent; it’s in those jowls sliding off his face like McMansions on a muddy California hillside.Fred_thompson3
    I’d say it was literally in his walk, if I could ever see how he walks, but he always has a crowd around
him, with his craggy head poking up above it.
    Those crowds respond to him: The ladies like a man who sounds like he durn-well knows what he’s talking ’bout and don’t mind saying so, and the men can tell right off that he’s one-a them — or what they like to think of themselves as, from the swagger itself right down to that hot-dang wife a-his that smiles so purty when he brags about sirin’ them babies on her.
    All of this can disguise the fact that this is a very smart man of rather broad-ranging sophistication (I mentioned he went to Memphis State, right?), but nobody holds that against him.
    And so it was that he came a-ridin’ into town on that bus a-his with Johnny Cash boomin’ out of it, ridin’ to the rescue of… of what?
    Once again, what was lacking? Who had to be saved from what?
    Last month, ol’ Fred told David Broder that he only considered getting into the race because his friend John McCain had stumbled along the way. Before that, “I expected to support John, just as I did in 2000,” he said.
    I remember him supporting McCain back then, because he came to see me at the time, and said we were wrong to have endorsed George W. Bush in the S.C. primary. And he was right.
    So I found myself puzzled last week, a week in which the biggest political news was the resurgence of John McCain. A few days after a well-reviewed debate performance in New Hampshire, the Arizonan was back in Washington to hear Gen. David Petraeus — who might as well have had a “McCain in ’08” button wedged among those rows of ribbons on his chest — tell the world that the strategy Sen. McCain had advocated for the last four years had succeeded. Suddenly the guy who was supposed to have fallen on his sword over Iraq looked “prescient and courageous on the campaign’s most vital issue,” according to The Associated Press.
    Sure, there are those Republicans who are still hot because Sen. McCain isn’t mean enough to Mexicans, whereas ol’ Fred leaves little doubt that he’d kick their Rio-moistened behinds clear back to Juarez.
    But while I grant you the man sure can swagger, I still find myself wondering: Why’s he swaggering into town now?

For video and more, go to http://blogs.thestate.com/bradwarthensblog/.

9 thoughts on “Long Tall Fred swaggers to the rescue, but of what?

  1. Doug Ross

    You keep using the line about McCain being “mean enough to Mexicans”. Isn’t tjat one of those “bumper sticker” statements you don’t approve of? Particularly when it’s untrue?
    McCain’s problem on immigration is about refusing to enforce immigration laws; rewarding people who have broken the law; propping up a third class economic system that encourages employers to hire workers at below minimun wage; and placing even more tax burden on Americans to pay for social services for people who are in this country illegally;
    The people he’s being mean to are the American citizens.
    Senator McCain is a public servant for the United States, not the world.

  2. Karen McLeod

    If you quoted what he said, that speech scares me! Its just that non specific ‘motherhood and apple pie’ type junk that makes too many people smile and nod and say to themselves, “That’s just what I believe.” Its demagoguery. It’s in part how Bush won.

  3. weldon VII

    For the love of fatherhood and pecan pie, I just can’t see how you can call a “motherhood and apple pie” speech demagoguery.
    Make it a dialogue:
    Fred: “Talkin’ about the value of standing strong for the second amendment.”
    Karen: “You demagogue.”
    Fred: “Talkin’ about the rule of law.”
    Karen: “You demagogue. Stop it.”
    Fred: “Talkin’ about the value the constitution still has today.”
    Karen: “You demagogue. Stop it right now, and I mean it.”
    If the constitution and free enterprise coupled with a pro-life reference scare you, I’d guess what really scares you is the pro-life reference you didn’t mention.
    There was no demagoguery in what Thompson had to say. A demagogue is a political agitator appealing to the basest instincts of a mob.
    Do you really think rule of law and the U.S. Constitution are the basest instincts?

  4. jim c.

    I was always taught that objective journalists quoted subjects accurately.
    Mr. Warthen inserts a comment into Mr. Thompson’s speech without noting that it is an editorial comment and deletes a portion of the speech without noting the break.
    Mr. Warthen should be reprimanded for his attempt to mislead the public in this manner.

  5. Allan S.

    Brad, there are a few issues afoot in the land that promise to never go away. You may think the gentle conquest of the U.S. by the Mexican political squatters, is just the flavor of the season. It is not. If nothing is done to close the borders, and eject at least a third of the illegals, (that’s about 7 million people), those who are merely angry, may evolve into hundreds of thousands ,who may pretend they are in the French underground. On talk radio, and in personal conversations, there is talk of something akin to inserection, along about the time that another 10 or 20 million sneak in. Bush or likely next President,H.Clinton, may fail to address the problem & stem the flow. Right now, millions are as angry about it as they have been about abortion. But for sake of illustration, let’s assume the new law of the land was not simple abortion, but something even worse… “TODDLERCIDE”, meaning the legal right to murder unwanted children up to their third birthday…I use very far out example, since it is way over the top! But suppose the impossible, that was the law, and even a few tens of thousands were being euthanized, I imagine at least a few hundred thousand moral activists would be using some of the hundred million plus guns to halt the killing of our children. Strangely enough, a few tens of thousands are already that mad.They love the American Dream like their children.They called Washington and stopped the Amnesty, and they are now seriously “ticked off”.
    As I said, many opposing open borders and Amnesty consider the next 10 to 20 million folks, migrating illegally, to be the “kill-shot” of the American social fabric and culture.Just as men volunteered to die in the Civil War, and the overseas wars like WWII, A minority will likely put up a fight to save the nation, if need be. Fred is responding to the earliest rumblings from those who see America to be in a terminal tailspin, from this and other brain dead, “liberal” policies. Every day several
    dozens post comments about “the coming
    civil war” on important conservative blogs.

  6. James D McCallister

    I’m gratified to hear that the State’s 2000 endorsement of Bush over McCain is now seen to be a mistake–how impressive the Decider must have seemed compared to a namby-pamby war hero. (And make no mistake, McCain is just that–his body badly broken and injured, when offered the opportunity to be released from the Hanoi Hilton because of his father’s high rank, John McCain chose to stay in solidarity with his fellow airmen and others for nearly six years. Ask yourself what the frat boy in chief was doing during that same period. Or consult the fake-but-not-fake CBS docs that prove the President of the US is/was a deserter from that glorious military he now wields like Harry Potter’s wand.)
    Think about it: A simple newspaper endorsment, but another small step taken which may have changed forever the geopolitical stability of the planet. A Bush loss here in SC might have finished him. But no. SC’s newspaper of record approved and endorsed a campaign that could only win by calling simpletons and “telling” them through push-polling that McCain had a black baby and a drug addict wife.
    Somewhere (I suspect a very hot place), Lee Atwater must be chuckling.

  7. Brad Warthen

    Well, James, I’m glad you’re gratified. But you seem to think there’s something new about this, which is odd, since you are not new to the blog.
    As regular readers know, I have always much preferred McCain to Bush. In 2000, I lost the argument. I preside over the editorial board, but the board and I are not synonymous. I have been known to lose arguments. The endorsement in the 2000 GOP primary was my biggest loss ever, but far from my only one.

  8. James D McCallister

    Well, I just wish you’d won that battle, my friend, and we’ll leave it at that. I’m glad to hear that you felt that way back then.


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