A NOTE ON THE NOTE: Thanks to John Bentley at the CBS blog for addressing the problem. All fixed now.
NOTE to visitors from the CBS blog: The blog item posted by John Bentley Saturday contained a serious error! This is Brad Warthen’s Blog, and as such, it only reflects the thoughts of Brad Warthen. The jottings you find here are in no way the opinion of The State, South Carolina’s largest newspaper. For further explanation, note this item.
Eight years ago, Fred Thompson came for an editorial board visit after we had already endorsed George Bush, to tell us how wrong we were. We should have backed John McCain, he told us. I knew that, of course, but I sat still for his gruff advice as a sort of penance for my failure. I had tried hard (more about that in my Sunday column), but the consensus on our board had gone against me.
As futile as his gesture was at that point, I still appreciated Sen. Thompson’s position, as bad as it made me feel. McCain had been the man, and it was the nation’s loss that he was not elected in 2000.
Since he knew that then, and Sen. McCain is the same man he was, I’ve wondered all year why in the world Mr. Thompson even thought of running. As I said back in this column, he forgot to do one thing when he jumped in late: Tell us what it was he brought to the campaign that the candidates already running did not already offer.
Now, it’s my turn to return the favor and tell Fred Thompson something that he should already know: It’s time for him to do the principled thing again, and assert what he knew to be true back then: He should bow out, and support McCain. And he should do it now; now is when he can make a difference.
Sen. McCain is tied for first place in New Hampshire polls with a damaged Mitt Romney; Mr. Thompson is in single digits. By the time he comes South, all he will be able to do is be a spoiler, to pull just enough voters away from another candidate (and I suspect that candidate would most likely be his longtime ally McCain) to throw the victory to the surging Huckabee.
Nothing against Huckabee on my part; I just don’t see him as the alternative Mr. Thompson himself would prefer. Meanwhile, he has continued to express his continuing respect for Sen. McCain; this would be a chance to show he means it.
Speaking of Gov. Huckabee, his victory is his own. But he was not in a position to begin that rise, he was not in striking distance, until Sam Brownback gracefully departed from the race. They had both been drinking from the same well of voters, and Sen. Brownback clarified matters for them.
Quitting when he did was Sen. Brownback’s greatest contribution to this campaign, and was the best thing he could have done to serve the values and ideas he espouses. If Sen. Thompson wants to advance his own values, if he wants to make a difference and serve the country — or if he simply wants the gratification of being a player at all — he should get behind McCain now.