Category Archives: Fred Thompson

Come on, Fred — put your ol’ friend John over the top

So is it OK now to talk about how it would be the most logical, natural thing in the world for Fred Thompson to just go ahead and endorse John McCain, overtly and openly?

When I suggested he do so a couple of weeks ago, his supporters — apparently still believing that he was actually trying to get elected president — came from across the country and danced on my head, virtually speaking.

Then, when I pointed out that my fellow Memphis State grad was sorta already supporting McCain, by beating up pore ol’ Mike Huckabee in the MB debate, I got a friendlier reception. Note that, sometime afterward, George Will is making note of what I pointed to back when:

    Thompson, having left the race, could continue to support John McCain. In New Hampshire, Thompson attacked McCain’s principal problem there, Mitt Romney. In South Carolina, Thompson’s attack on Huckabee as a “liberal” might have provided McCain’s margin of victory.

Maybe it helped McCain more to continue to be a putative candidate and pound Huck in the debate. But now that, as Mr. Will notes, Mr. Huckabee’s moment is quite likely over, Fred could do John a lot more good by coming out and endorsing him in such a way that folks actually understand what’s going on. That’s on account of the wicked way that Florida runs its primary, which is that they don’t let folks like me vote. There, you have to swear party loyalty, so McCain can’t count on the very independent and crossover support that (in case Republican party types still haven’t figured it out) is the very reason why he is the GOP candidate most likely to actually win the whole thing in November.

Since Fred was portraying himself as the real conservative (as opposed to all those other real conservatives out there, who tend to be much shorter), and he had a modest-sized chunk of folks believing he actually was the (taller) embodiment of Ronald Reagan, his support could help McCain repeat his SC success in Florida.

All this assumes that Fred actually does want to have an impact on election outcomes — a positive impact, that is.

Just one more day

AT TIMES this week it has seemed as though, to paraphrase Marshall McLuhan, the media themselves were the message.
    For me, the apex of absurdity was achieved Monday morning, when I sat in a conference room here at the paper shooting video of a guy from French television who was shooting video of me talking about Saturday’s S.C. Republican presidential primary. You remember how, in old-fashioned barbershops, you could see yourself sitting in the chair in the mirror in front of you, reflecting the mirror behind you, and on and on? It was kind of like that.
    After the interview, the Frenchman followed me to the Columbia Rotary Club, where I had been asked to speak about the newspaper and its endorsement in said primary. In case you missed it, we rather emphatically endorsed Arizona Sen. John McCain in Sunday’s paper. See more about that at my blog (address below).
    As I was stepping down from the podium at Rotary, a Danish journalist gave me her card, saying she wanted to interview me later. She had followed Columbia businessman Hal Stevenson to the meeting. Poor Hal. I had been sending some of the national media who were calling me to him, as a good, thoughtful example of the “religious conservative” kind of voter they were so eager to talk to. Now here he was, dragging journalists right back at me. (Just keep looking into the mirrors. Whoa … is that what the back of my head looks like?)
    On Tuesday, Michele Norris of NPR’s “All Things Considered” called on her cell while traveling across South Carolina, and we spoke for 53 minutes. But that was just the preliminary; we’ll tape the actual interview this morning. I’m also supposed to be on local public radio with Andy Gobeil this morning — and Andy and I will be on ETV live for primary results Saturday night.
    Thursday, I spoke with Dennis Miller of SNL fame, who’s now a conservative talk show host. He wanted to know how come South Carolina was having its Republican primary Saturday, but the Democratic primary a week later. I couldn’t give him a good reason, because there isn’t one.
    All this attention can be fun, but some get tired of it. Bob McAlister, for one. Bob is a Republican media consultant who made his rep as chief of staff to the late Gov. Carroll Campbell. In 2000, he was for George W. Bush. This time, he’s for McCain. He’s feeling pretty confident that he’ll be on the winning side again.
     But he’s got a beef with all the media types. “The national press wants to know about segments” of the GOP electorate, he complained. As in, don’t you think McCain has the retired military vote sewn up, or will McCain, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney split the evangelical vote?
    “They talk about evangelicals as though we were some sort of subset of the culture,” Bob (a Baptist) complains. “They try to put us in a little box, as though we were apart from the mainstream in the Republican Party.
    “But in South Carolina, we are the mainstream.”
    As The Wall Street Journal said Thursday, “McCain campaign aides are hoping Mr. McCain and his rivals — Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson — divide the evangelical vote, leaving the state’s sizable population of military and independent voters to Mr. McCain.”
    Mr. Huckabee’s main hope, as a Baptist preacher himself, is to attract that whole evangelical “subset” of the GOP here. But it seems pretty divided. Fred Thompson, surprisingly, has the endorsement of S.C. Right to Life. Bob’s for McCain. Hal Stevenson is for Huckabee, but he seemed worried Thursday that there aren’t quite enough like him to put the former Arkansas governor over the top. He said he’s found “a lot of support for McCain and Romney among social conservatives,” because they think they have broader appeal. He particularly notes the McCain advantage on national security.
    Sen. McCain is counting on people like Jack Van Loan, about whom I wrote in this space yesterday. Jack’s a retired Air Force pilot, now a Columbia community leader, who met Sen. McCain when they were both prisoners of the North Vietnamese.
    In the interests of full disclosure, and in order to keep with my theme of media-as-message, he’s also counting on people like my Dad — a retired Navy captain who lives in West Columbia. My father is like most career military officers — politics has been something other people did, while those in uniform did their duty.
    Not this time. Dad spent a couple of hours working the phones at McCain HQ in Columbia Thursday morning. He was given a list of names to call, which he dutifully did. Speaking of mirrors, he was amused to find his own name and number on his list. Orders are orders — he called the number, and talked to my Mom.
    I did go out and check the pulse of the real world once or twice this week. But I didn’t gain much new information.
    Take Tuesday night: I went to hear Fred Thompson speaking at the Sticky Fingers in Harbison. He did OK — the crowd was good-sized, and seemed to like him. If you were in the Fred Thompson bubble, you might think he had a chance to win.
    Then I went out toward Lexington, to Hudson’s Smokehouse, to hear Mike Huckabee. Wow. The place was packed, and the people were pumped. That, I thought, was what a contender’s rally looks like in the last week. The crowd was impressive, even though from where I sat it was hard to see past the — you guessed it — media types.
    I missed the McCain rally on Gervais Street Thursday, because it happened at the same time that I had promised to talk to Dennis Miller. Bob McAlister says it was awesome, and had all the marks of a campaign headed for victory. But he would say that, wouldn’t he, being a McCain man.
    Maybe I’ll call a reporter who was there and get an objective view. Just kidding — sort of.
    Just one more day, folks. Tomorrow, it’s what you say that counts. Then we can do it all over again with the Democrats.

Video: Fred and Huck in SC tonight


Earlier this evening I swung by campaign appearances by Fred Thompson (at Sticky Fingers in the Harbison area) and Mike Huckabee (at Hudson’s Smokehouse near Lexington).

I’m not going to go on and on about it, as I’ve overdue for some sack time. But here’s a VERY brief synopsis:

  • The Thompson event was well-attended and the crowd was supportive. Fred’s delivery was smoother, more confident than the last time I saw him in person — of course that was awhile back, at Doc’s Barbecue. I would have said it was a really successful event that showed him as a candidate with a significant following.
  • I would have said that, except that when I arrived at Hudson’s — long before the candidate showed up — it was plain that, in the last days before the primary, there’s a significant difference in energy levels between an event featuring a well-liked candidate, and a guy who actually has a chance of winning. Huckabee had a larger crowd, and it was really pumped up.
  • But Fred gets more points for punctuality. The Huckabee event was scheduled for 7:30, and he arrived after 9. Before he finally got there, I had thought about going on home to get my supper, but I had such a good spot right in front of the podium, so I hated to give it up. He was so late, he was able to congratulate Mitt Romney for his win in Michigan at the start of his appearance.

Here you have two  rough clips from the events — Huckabee above, Thompson below — just to give you the flavor. If I get time any time in the next few days, I’ll see if I can come up with something more polished. I know, for instance, that there must have been some better footage of Thompson — but I used this because he talks about immigration, and he got a cheer for that. (Note that I didn’t have such a good spot for the Thompson event.)


Rasmussen: McCain widens lead; Clinton gaining on Obama

Right after I posted this video of McCain talking about 2000, I ran across evidence that things are definitely looking better for him this time than last time. Rasmussen has him up nine points over Huckabee. (And for you Fred fans — Thompson’s numbers have improved, too.)

Meanwhile, the race on the Democratic side is seen as tightening up. with Hillary Clinton only five points behind Barack Obama.

So is Thompson helping McCain NOW?

Fred Thompson supporters got pretty worked up about me suggesting he should bow out and support his friend McCain, as his best chance to have an influence on the outcome. His wife also explained how wrong I was, although she was nicer about it.

But this new thought occurred to me yesterday morning, when my clock radio came on… NPR was running a bit on the Republicans in South Carolina, and there was a clip of my fellow Memphis State grad talkin’, and he was really pounding on pore ol’ Mike Huckabee from over across the Big Muddy. And in that half-asleep state, I thought: "Is he staying in to help John McCain, by using the soapbox thus obtained to tear down the only candidate with a chance (note the polls) of beating him in South Carolina?" Fred’s no dummy; he can count. He knows either McCain or Huckabee is going to win here.

But I dismissed the thought, on account of its having arisen during the aforementioned twilight state of consciousness. And on account of what’s the point in mentioning it, since it would just make all those folks mad again.

Then I watched the debate last night out of Myrtle Beach. And first thing you know, ol’ Fred comes out whaling on Huck something fierce, just pounding away, using up a good chunk of his allotted time to tear the preacher man down.

After the debate, all sorts of folks commented on Fred’s attack on Huck. In fact, it was probably the most memorable thing about the whole show, one of only three things I still recall 24 hours later. (The other two things were the setting of the new Guinness World Record for saying "Ronald Reagan" most often in a 90-minute period, and the way the group ostracized poor Ron Paul yet again. I don’t agree a whole lot with Dr. Paul, but I believe he’s sincere, and I do hate to see a guy get picked on.)

What struck me as myopic was that so many of those commenting on those attacks by Fred on Huck interpreted them as Fred really, really wanting and needing to win in South Carolina. But he was just attacking Huckabee; he offered only the mildest criticism of McCain on immigration (allegedly the big reason he’s running instead of backing McCain as he did in 2000). Surely Fred knows you don’t win by tearing down just one of the three guys who are beating you.

I’m not trying to goad Fred into attacking McCain — or Romney, either (Romney’s kind a moot point anyway, since he’s deserted S.C. for a live-or-die effort in Michigan). But the facts before me push me toward one of several conclusions:

  1. Fred and McCain are in cahoots, with Fred playing the Huckabee-bashing heavy (which certainly doesn’t help Fred, because while it might hurt Huckabee, nobody likes the guy who does the beating-up). I don’t believe this for a second, because I don’t believe either McCain or Fred would do anything that underhanded.
  2. Fred is doing it on his own figuring that if he can’t win, he’ll at least help out his old buddy by taking down the opposition before he calls it quits. Still a doubtful proposition.
  3. Fred isn’t calculating at all; he just can’t stand Huckabee. Maybe, but it still doesn’t smell right.
  4. Fred really likes Huckabee, and was trying to trump up some sympathy for him for being picked on. Nah.
  5. Fred really is, at least on a conscious level, trying to win, but just can’t quite bring himself to pound his old friend McCain — whom he respects personally in spite of their differences — as hard as he’s hitting Huckabee.

That last one sounds the closest to right, but I don’t know. All I do know is that, whatever he intends, what he was doing, to the extent that it hurt Huckabee, was helpful to McCain.

Each Republican faces a different challenge in S.C.

TO ALL THE candidates seeking the presidency of the United States of America: Welcome to South Carolina. Iowa is behind you; so is New Hampshire, and we understand that we are to have your undivided attention for the next couple of weeks, which is gratifying.
    So let’s take advantage of the opportunity. The South Carolina primaries have little purpose unless we learn more about you than we have thus far, so we have a few matters we’d like you to address while you’re here.
    Let’s do Republicans first, since y’all face S.C. voters first (on the 19th) and come back to the Democrats (after the cliffhanger night Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton just went through, they could probably do with a rest today).
    We’d like some specifics beyond the vehement claims that pretty much each and every one of you is “the real conservative” in the race.
    We’ll start with John McCain, the big winner in New Hampshire Tuesday.
You’re a war hero, and you’ve got the most experience in national defense and foreign affairs. You take a back seat to no one in fighting government waste. You were for a “surge” in Iraq long before the White House even considered the idea, and you weren’t afraid to say so. It’s no surprise that you lead among retired military officers, and others who have been there and done that.
    But folks who are not retired would like some reassurance that the oldest man in the race, with a spotty medical history, is up to the world’s most demanding job.
    Most of all, though, South Carolinians need to better understand your position on immigration. You’re the one who decided to try to lead on this radioactive issue in the middle of a campaign, and plenty of folks around here don’t like the direction you chose. Start explaining.
    Next, Mike Huckabee. You have qualities that Sen. McCain lacks: You’re (relatively) young, fresh, new and exciting. As a Baptist preacher, you’re definitely in sync with S.C. Republicans on cultural issues. More than that, you are on the cutting edge of a new kind of Republicanism, one that is more attuned to the concerns of ordinary working people, from health care to education.
    But let’s look at some headlines from this week: The U.S. Navy almost had to blow some Iranian gunboats out of the water. Hundreds are dead in Kenya, one of the few African countries we’d thought immune to such political violence. Pakistan, nuclear power and current address of Osama bin Laden, continues to teeter on the edge of chaos after Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. I could go on.
    Every day, something that threatens the security of this country happens in yet another hot spot, calling for a depth of knowledge and experience for which on-the-job training is no substitute. Those blank looks you’ve given when asked about current events are disturbing. Reassure us. We know you don’t get daily intelligence briefings yet, but you could at least read the paper.
    Mitt Romney, you come across as Central Casting’s idea of a Republican: Perfect coif, square jaw, a private-sector portfolio that confirms your can-do credentials. Moreover, as governor of Massachusetts you presided over health care reform that many other states are looking to as a model.
    But increasingly, 21st century Republicans are less impressed by a business suit, and I think you’ll find South Carolinians a lot like Iowans in that regard. You’ve got to have more to offer.
    Also, voters here would like to hear more positive reasons to vote for you, and less about what’s wrong with everybody else. In all the years since I’ve been getting e-mails, I have never seen anything like the blizzard of releases from your folks trashing this or that rival.
    After the nasty whispering campaign that sank Sen. McCain in 2000, South Carolinians have had a bellyful of the whole “going negative” thing. Just forget the other guys, and tell us what’s good about you.
    As for Rudy Giuliani, we know you’re a tough guy, and a tough guy can be a good thing to have in the White House. You inspired the nation through some of Gotham’s darkest days, and you took on all Five Families at once as a mob-busting federal prosecutor, which is why John Gotti and some others on the Commission wanted to have you whacked. You’re definitely a man of respect.
    But if you do bother to campaign down here, South Carolina Republicans might be forgiven for wondering whether you’re one of them. You were doing OK in polls a couple of months ago, but let’s face it — that was just the early national media buzz, and we’ve gotten past that.
    You need to do some fast talking — we hear New Yorkers are good at that — about some of those “cultural issues” that, to put it mildly, distinguish you from candidates who happen to be Baptist preachers.
    Finally, Fred Thompson — you certainly have no need for a translator. As your wife, Jeri, reminded me when she dropped by our office Tuesday, you speak fluent Southern.
    But there’s a reason y’all were campaigning down here rather than up in New Hampshire: After the biggest “will he or won’t he” buildup in modern political history, your campaign failed to catch fire nationally after it finally got rolling.
    That could be because, while you can play a “conservative” well on TV, you have yet to communicate exactly what you bring to the campaign that other candidates don’t bring more of. Are you better on national security than McCain, or more in tune on abortion than Huckabee? And if what the party was crying out for was a guy who was tough enough on immigration (as your supporters keep telling me), why didn’t it go for Tom Tancredo?
    Once again, welcome one and all to the Palmetto State. Whether you go on from here may depend in large part on how you answer the above questions.
For my blog, go to

Small world — or a small state, anyway

My brother just called. It seems that about the time Jeri Thompson was here, his wife and their younger daughter ran into Jeri’s husband at a Starbuck’s in Greenville.

That is so South Carolina. Everybody runs into everybody else, often at the same time.

In fact, my sister-in-law and niece had their picture taken with the candidate, whose campaign bus had stopped there before heading down for a Lexington event early this afternoon.

Unfortunately, I can’t share the picture with you — the staffer contacted my sister-in-law later to beg her forgiveness. It seems that after he got back on the bus, he realized he had missed the shot because the card on his digital camera was full.

Sheesh. These amateurs…

Video: Jeri Thompson drops by the office

Ken Wingate had just called me back — I was wanting to talk with him about his support for Mitt Romney — and word came up from downstairs that Jeri (Mrs. Fred) Thompson was in the building, and would like to come up and say hi.

Mrs. Thompson graciously sat down for a few minutes to chat, and since I don’t let anybody sit down without turning on my camera, we have video. (FYI, the "Joshua" I speak to off-camera is Joshua Gross, former blogger.)

And yes, we DID talk about my blog post over the weekend about her husband… Just watch the video.

CBS sets the record straight

John Bentley of CBS sent me this e-mail yesterday, and I just got a chance to read it today:


Thank you for reading our blog and
posting your comments (I’m assuming the comments are yours – if you could,
please reply to this e-mail to verify that I’m talking to the authentic Brad
Warthen).  My editor and I have changed the posting to reflect your concerns. 
My original copy was vetted before it was posted and we believed your posting to
be reflective of The State’s stance on Senator Thompson; however, if we have
taken that out of context, I hope the updated posting addresses the



Reporter, CBS


I checked the updated post, and it’s all better. I wrote Mr. Bentley back to tell him so, reiterating The State does not have a position of any kind with regard to Mr. Thompson, and can no way be held responsible for my off-the-cuff, blog-level opinions. And yes, absolutely — anything you see on the blog is by "the authentic Brad Warthen" (don’t be fooled by cheap imitations!).


We’ll have an official opinion about Mr. Thompson by the end of the week, however — hopefully, after interviews with him and the rest of the GOP field. (We’ve only seen McCain and Huckabee so far.) Just to keep y’all up-to-date on all that, here’s what I told a colleague in an e-mail a few minutes ago:

    We are working with the Giuliani, Romney and Thompson campaigns to get them in this week, but of course, none of them will really be focusing on us until Wednesday morning, and so far nothing is pinned down. We have our calls out to the Democrats, but will try to put them off until next week, since we’re so squeezed on the Republicans already, and we plan to run our GOP endorsement Jan. 13, which is the Sunday before the GOP primary. With the Dems, we’re aiming for Jan. 20.
    I have a feeling that, the way things are unfolding, these things will be done very much on the fly, with short notice. Maybe, once N.H. is over Wednesday morning, we’ll be able to schedule the Dems a few days ahead of time. But we’ll have no such luxury with the Republicans…

If we don’t get the remaining GOP candidates in by the end of the day Thursday, we’re are up the creek, sans paddles.

By the way, in addition to McCain and Huckabee, we have talked to two other candidates — Sam Brownback and Joe Biden. Fat lot of good that does us now, huh? But I don’t regret it; both were interesting.

Pay no attention to that man on the blog

Folks, please disregard the error published on this CBS News blog yesterday, headlined "S.C. Paper Asks Thompson to Drop Out," which said:

GOFFSTOWN, N.H. — The largest newspaper in South Carolina is asking Fred Thompson to drop out of the Republican nomination and endorse John McCain. 

    “It’s time for him to do the principled thing,” writes The State’s
editorial page director, Brad Warthen. “He should bow out, and support
McCain. And he should do it now; now is when he can make a difference.”

    The editorial from the Columbia, South Carolina, paper comes at a
time when Thompson is getting ready to focus all of his attention on
South Carolina, after finishing third in Iowa and admitting he is “not
competitive” in New Hampshire…

First, it wasn’t "an editorial." Editorials actually DO speak for the newspaper as an institution, and reflect the consensus of the editorial board, NOT of an individual. So the headline is wrong — this "S.C. Paper" said nothing at all on the subject.

Anyway, when I saw people were being directed to my site by CBS, and followed the link to that blog item (by a guy named "John Bentley") and found the error, I tried posting a comment there, as follows:

I’d like to request a correction.

This "S.C. Paper" has not said a word about Fred Thompson. It’s just a thought I happened to share on my blog. No one else on our editorial board had anything to do with it; in fact, I doubt that anyone else is even aware that I said it, since I posted that on a weekend and they all have other things to do.

It’s OK to say the editorial page editor [and not the editorial page "director;" what is THAT, some TV term?] said it, but The State did NOT say it.

As I said in a column (which is ALSO personal opinion, and does not speak for The State), "Such are the pitfalls of blogging. Some folks mistake my passing observations for final conclusions and (an even greater mistake) my opinions for those of the whole editorial board."

For more on that subject, here’s a link:

Anyway, please take note of this problem. I don’t wish to embarrass my colleagues by the world thinking they are somehow responsible for my personal eruptions.

So, to play on the allusion I used in my Friday column, pay no attention to that man behind the blog — especially not the erroneous one … but don’t attach to much importance to this one either. My thoughts are what they are — my thoughts. And I wouldn’t even want anyone to think they are MY final word on the subject, since one of the purposes of editorial board discussions is to make each other think a little more — as I also suggested in today’s column.

Thompson’s chance to make a difference: Bow out, endorse McCain

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.

Buzzwords that don’t buzz

Just a moment ago, I suddenly remembered who Fred Thompson keeps reminding me of, and it turns out it’s a fellow Tennessean — Victor Ashe, the former mayor of Knoxville.

Mr. Ashe was the Republican nominee selected as a sacrificial lamb to go up against Al Gore in 1984, as Rep. Gore strode easily into Howard Baker’s former Senate seat. I covered the race, such as it was.

Mr. Thompson reminds me of Mr. Ashe not because of any physical resemblance — there is none — but because of a rhetorical quirk.

During the 1984 campaign, Mr. Ashe led a bulldog around on a leash, and adopted the slogan, "Bulldog Tough — Downright Tennessee!" At least that’s the way I remember it; it was either that or something equally goofy and meaningless. (If you were there, and have a record of the exact quote, please contact me.)

Perhaps as his answer to McCain’s "Straight-Talk Express," Mr. Thompson has apparently also named his bus tour. It’s called "The Clear Conservative Choice: Hands Down!" Really. I don’t know what they call the bus when they’re in a hurry. "Clear," maybe. A sample release:

December 17, 2007  571-730-1010
"The Clear Conservative Choice:  Hands Down!" Bus Tour Schedule
McLEAN, VA – The Fred Thompson campaign announces an updated schedule for Senator Thompson’s bus tour through Iowa from December 18-December 22.
    In addition to Senator Thompson’s previously scheduled events in Iowa on December 18th, he will also be interviewed on various radio and television programs. There are no other changes to the schedule.
    Media inquiries for the Iowa tour should contact Darrel Ng …

… and so forth. "The Clear Conservative Choice: Hands Down!" is almost, although admittedly not quite, as devoid of clear meaning as Mr. Ashe’s long-ago effort.

It reminds me of some of the statements Jim DeMint has issued in favor of Mitt Romney. Never mind the details, he’s conservative, I’m telling you! Just like you and me!

Buzzwords, but no buzz, as near as I can tell. But wonderfully goofy — Hands down! Downright Tennessee!

Is Romney the Republican Hillary?

Even as Hillary Clinton is being criticized for going negative on Obama (and Obama is apparently making the most of it), as I try to clean up e-mail from the past week, I see a similar pattern starting to emerge over on the GOP side.

It’s a testament to Mike Huckabee’s rising status in recent days that, even before the Des Moines Register poll came out, he was under attack by Mitt Romney:

And as we know, THEM’S FIGHTIN’ WORDS among the sort of folk Romney is trying to win over (and trying to express that he is one of, which is the amusing part).

Of course, Romney wasn’t entirely alone in going after Iowa’s new front-runner. Here’s a release from Fred Thompson. Poor ol’ Fred just wants to get noticed these days, I suppose.

Remind me not to scoff so quickly

Been meaning to tell this one on myself since last week. Since I’m sitting here waiting for some copy for an upcoming page, I’ll do it now…

A week ago today, I got this release:

News Release: Former Governor David Beasley issues comment on National Right
to Life Endorsement decision
November 12, 2007
COLUMBIA, SC — Former South Carolina Governor David Beasley issued the
following statement today on behalf of Gov. Mike Huckabee‘s presidential

    "I can’t fathom the idea of the National Right to Life organization endorsing anyone in the field besides Gov. Mike Huckabee. Mike Huckabee has worked in the vineyards and trenches on behalf of the pro-life movement. His pro-life record is outstanding and it is more consistent than any other candidate for president. He is also arguably the most electable candidate in the field.
    "If, in fact, they endorse Fred Thompson over Mike Huckabee, I’m disappointed because Fred Thompson doesn’t support a constitutional amendment protecting human life. It just goes to show that, at first blush, even the best of organizations may have yielded to Washington politics and made a mistake. In my opinion, this would be one of them.
    "I look forward to Mike Huckabee receiving the support of the grassroots
pro-life movement around the country.

That struck me as though the former governor was whistling to keep the dinosaurs away. There was no way that, in an election with Huckabee and McCain out there as pro-life stalwarts, the Right-to-life movement would get behind Fred Thompson, of all people! Sure, religious conservatives had done some pretty weird stuff lately, from Bob Jones III to Pat Robertson, but does weird stuff always to come in threes?

So I wrote back, scoffing:

That’s interesting. Where did the notion that they would endorse Thompson come from?

My correspondent sent me this link, which, being busy, I blithely ignored. So the next thing I know, this breaks. So we have weird, weirder, weirdest.

In case you’ve forgotten, this is what makes this weird behavior:



It’s one thing to change your mind, like Mitt. It’s another to be wrong on the issue, in the eyes of the movement in question, like Rudy. But to have been paid to be wrong on the issue, like Fred? And still get the endorsement. Getouttahere.

I’m just glad I know Hal Stevenson, because that way I know there’s at least one sane religious conservative out there still.

Ayres poll shows Romney, Giuliani, McCain in dead heat

Whit Ayres has some figures he’s releasing today from a poll he did for tourism interests. A side finding of the poll — which talked to 300 likely voters each in the S.C. Democratic and Republican primaries — is that the horse race has shifted.

Romney and McCain are within the margin of error (which is large — 5.6 percent — for a sample that small) of each other, with Giuliani between them. Essentially, they’re in a tie for first.

Thompson, who recently had been said to be in the lead, comes in fourth.

I heard about this from someone with the McCain campaign, who was justifiably pleased, as it showed his candidate doing better than in recent polls. He neglected to mention that McCain’s lead over Thompson is also within the margin. But if the poll is accurate, we’re looking at the post-announcement bounce for Thompson wearing off, and McCain apparently being the main beneficiary.

I hear our newsroom will have a story on this, so I await the details from that.

Punishment by GOP might serve us right

You know, if it’s indeed true that Fred Thompson is leading in South Carolina, maybe we deserve for the national GOP to take away half our delegates to their convention.

I have a friend who maintains that South Carolina has no business having an early primary, that giving South Carolina voters such a disproportionate voice in choosing the next president is not at all a good thing for this country. Whenever this subject comes up, I vehemently disagree.

But if Fred Thompson — a man who has yet to give anyone a good reason for his presence in the field at this late date, and has only in the last few days was able to cite the names of any South Carolinians willing to work in his behalf — actually comes out ahead in January (something which remains to be seen), I will have to admit that my friend has something of a point.

I’m assuming, of course, that he doesn’t come up with some good reasons to support him between now and then. He may. I’m not holding my breath, but there’s always that possibility.

Hey, you Republicans! You want to stop McCain, or you want to stop Hillary? Looks like it’s one or the other

Speaking of polls that really count, the only kind of national poll
that means anything is one that looks toward the general election. So
it is that I pass this on from the Rasmussen folks, in case you had missed it:

McCain and Clinton Are Neck-and-Neck

Arizona Senator John McCain has fallen nearly out of the top tier in the race for the Republican Presidential Nomination, but he’s still competitive in a general election match-up with Senator Hillary Clinton. The latest Rasmussen Reports survey shows Clinton with just a single point edge over McCain, 44% to 43%.
     McCain also trailed Clinton by just one percentage point in September and by two points in August.  Those consistent results put McCain in a more competitive position at this time than any other Republican hopeful.
    The new survey shows Clinton with a 47% to 41% lead over former
Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Clinton has led Romney every time
we’ve polled this match-up. In September, she had a nine-point advantage.
currently leads former NYC mayor and Republican frontrunner Rudy
Giuliani by seven and former Senator Fred Thompson by 15. Her lead has been growing steadily over these two in recent months.

So, a little something for you Republican ideologues to ponder:
Either get over whatever problems you may have with McCain, or get
ready to start saying "President Clinton" again (if she is indeed the

It’s up to you — unfortunately.

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?

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