Fred Thompson’s rise in the polls and heightened media profile have generated a number of criticisms and critiques about both his candidacy and his record; and rightly so, as all candidates should go through the typical vetting and examination process. Democratic opposition researchers are assembling its a number of anti-FDT talking points, and so far, these criticisms are either of the frivolous or meritless variety. However, this writer has noticed several sloppy and snarky critiques by commentators and analysts considered to be on the right side of the political spectrum which I feel merit rejoinder. Im referring specifically to recent articles and commentary authored by George Will and Bill O’Reilly.
George Will launched what I feel was an completely unecessary and withering attack on Fred Thompson in his latest column. Will’s article in Newsweek entitled “Is Fred Thompson all charm, no Substance”, and from there it only gets more brutal. Consider the following barb, buried amid several others in the same article:
“If he did not look like a basset hound who had just read a sad story—say, “Old Yeller”—and if he did not talk like central casting’s idea of the god Sincerity, would anyone think he ought to be entrusted with the nation’s nuclear arsenal?”
I typically enjoy Will as a writer very much, but sometimes beltway pundits, even the best ones, need to remove themselves from their own echo chambers and actually do some due diligence before they put pen to paper . If Will had taken a moment to actually research FDT’s public record, voting record, numerous commentaries, and recent statements in the media, he would realize that his barb would have been much better directed at a real lightweight candidate with little understanding of realpolitik or real-world experience, like, for example, Barrack Obama.
Why Will has to make a remark about a Thompson that is probably more applicable to perhaps any other announced candidate in the race, particularly the Democratic ones, is shabby work on Will’s part. Will goes on to say that Republicans, in their haste to annoit another Reagan, have picked someone who is “99 percent charm, 1 percent substance”. Ludicrous, George, just ludicrous. Movement conservatives are not going to support an empty suit simply because he’s charming, or he’s got a southern drawl, or a folksy down-to-earth demeanor, or is a TV/Film star. Movement conservatives are rallying behind Fred’s candidacy because we perceive that we are supporting a bona fide conservative who isn’t going to waiver throughout his tenure as President or take “maverick” stands which fly in the face of either conservative principles or the Constitution.
Likewise Bill O’Reilly, on a recent episode of the Factor, asserted that FDT’s rise in the polls was simply due to his acting and his TV stint in Law & Order. That is only part of the reason, Mr. O’Reilly. Once again, for the record, Mr. O’Reilly- if Fred Thompson weren’t the most reliable conservative in the field who consistently articulates conservative principles and themes, thousands of Movement Conservatives such as myself would have dismissed his candidacy out of pocket, rather than encouraging his likely run for the president. O’Reilly’s shoddy analysis basically implies that politically engaged conservatives would have the same level of enthusiasm for Warren Beatty that we currently express for Fred, and it’s simply the celebrity-status that FDT has which is alone responsible for his ascendancy. Sure, there will be lots of Americans who will pull the lever for FDT because they’ve associated him with his no-nonsense straight-talking characters in both film and TV, but FDT would be a second-tier candidate if it weren’t for the conservative grassroots who are energized to get behind what they view as one of their own.
Of course, there will be several issues that conservatives will need to press Thompson on- most notably, his initial support of (but now more recent backing away from) some of the unconstitutional provisions of the campaign finance “reform” he supported with John McCain. That said, it would be very unrealistic for conservatives to only support a candidate who has maintained perfect ideological purity throughout that given politician’s career- even Reagan made mistakes and held positions on several issues that would have rankled today’s conservatives early in his political career, as well as during his presidency.
I for one view Thompson’s lack of legislative “accomplishments” in the Senate something of an admirable accomplishment in and of itself, considering the river of mostly frivolous, extraneous, and porkbarrel legislation that typically passes through its chambers.
So to all you beltway pundits who think Thompson’s candidacy is merely a fluke, let’s get beyond the assertion that we conservatives are merely supporting an empty-suit actor who can’t tie his own shoes, or how we are just so desperate for the Second Coming of Reagan that we’ll back anyone who can look into a camera and come across as convincing. We demand substance in our candidates, it’s not simply an afterthought .