Quick! Less Substance, Please!
My suggested headline for this week was "GOP Searches For Anybody Who Can Say This Stuff With A Straight Face" but the editor went less inflammatory and wound up with dull. I'd always thought the Giraudoux quote was from Sol Hurok, but it doesn't appear so.
THOMPSON'S MORE BIT PLAYER THAN LEADING MAN
East Valley Tribune, June 17, 2007
These must be frustrating days for the McCain for President campaign. Your guy’s been a stalwart anti-choice vote his entire career in politics, down the line right to life. Somehow, you’re trailing in the polls a guy who was absolutely outraged in his 2002 campaign for governor of Massachusetts (it’s great video, you should watch it) that anybody could possibly have the temerity to doubt his stalwart pro-choice credentials.
But even if you find Mitt Romney frustrating -- and, for the record, I don’t have a problem with having a president who’s Mormon; my problem is having a president who’s a cyborg -- what’s really got to frost McCain is the latest GOP-flavor-of-the-month, Fred Thompson.
Yes, the party that always attacks "Hollywood values" invariably goes all weak-kneed for actors. Never mind issues or philosophy; somehow, the party of Abraham Lincoln became the party of Stella Adler. Maybe the Democrats can take advantage by nominating Sam Waterston; that’ll show ‘em.
How do Republicans always pretend to be supporters of the wisdom of the public, except for our apparently abhorrent taste in popular culture -- and, these days, our disgust with the Iraq war? The common people are always right, except when GOP elites prefer a different answer. Why else is the immigration bill coming back?
I just don’t get the Thompson boomlet. He was known as a diffident, if not downright lazy, senator during the whole eight years he served. His one big moment, his much ballyhooed hearings about alleged Chinese political contributions in the 1996 elections, fizzled when he closed down the investigation -- reportedly after Democrats listed witnesses who would testify about similarly questionable fundraising by Republicans on the committee.
As an actor, he’s not a leading man, but rather an ensemble player, unlike Ronald Reagan, who actually had starred in a couple pictures. And for 18 years before his election, and since leaving the Senate, Thompson has spent time between his acting gigs as a very well compensated DC lobbyist.
Thompson’s also a big faker with a reputation for being "authentic" with pundits who find it easier to talk about their own feelings than to do any actual reporting or policy analysis. His 1994 Senate campaign rented a red pickup truck Thompson drove to campaign events -- until he drove out of sight, when he’d switch to a more comfortable luxury sedan. Yeah, Thompson’s authentic all right, if you can rent authenticity for only while people are watching.
It was French novelist Jean Giraudoux who wrote, "The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that, you’ve got it made."
Thompson, as minority counsel to the Senate Watergate committee in 1974, did come up with Sen. Howard Baker’s memorable line, "What did the president know, and when did he know it?" Thompson’s clearly a smart guy who knows a lot, but he’s going to spend the next year pretending he isn’t and instead mouthing content-free soundbites, displaying his faux folksiness.
Here’s a guy whose second wife is 25 years younger than he is; they have 2 kids under age 6. Instead of running for president, he should be trying to make sure he stays healthy until his second family graduates high school. Oh, I forgot; you only get to criticize women politicians (or Game and Fish Commission members) for neglecting their families. The way this two-parent political family thing works, if the father signs checks, we’re fine.
But however frustrating, McCain has nobody but himself to blame for his lack of traction. He’s all-in committed to two positions shared by about a third of the voters -- which usually is enough to win GOP primaries. Unfortunately, while a third of voters support the immigration bill and a third still support the Iraq war, the intersection between those two non-null sets basically consists of President Bush, the Arizona Republic editorial board, and John McCain. Not the crowd you want to hang with for 2008.