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August 16, 2007

Teh Fred Promises Big Things

Big, transformational stuff, though he doesn't say yet what this stuff might be.

When Fred Thompson makes his long-delayed entrance into the Republican presidential race, he will not tiptoe quietly. Instead, he will try to shake up the establishment candidates of both parties by depicting a nation in peril from fiscal and security threats -- and prescribing tough cures that he says others shrink from offering.

In a two-hour conversation over coffee at a restaurant near his Virginia headquarters, the former senator from Tennessee said that when he joins the battle next month, he "will take some risks that others are not willing to take, in terms of forcing a dialogue on our entitlement situation, our military situation and what it's going to cost" to ensure the nation's future.


"There's no reason for me to run just to be president," he said. "I don't desire the emoluments of the office. I don't want to live a lie and clever my way to the nomination or election. But if you can put your ideas out there -- different, more far-reaching ideas -- that is worth doing."


The approach Thompson says he's contemplating is one that will step on many sensitive political toes. When he says "we're getting a free ride" fighting a necessary war in Iraq with an undersized military establishment, "wearing out our people and equipment," it sounds like a criticism of the president and the Pentagon.

When he says he would have opposed adding the prescription drug benefit to Medicare, "a $17 trillion add-on to a program that's going bankrupt," he is fighting the bipartisan judgment of the last Congress.

When he says the FBI is perhaps incapable of morphing itself into the smart domestic security agency the country needs, he is attacking another sacred cow.

"Clever my way." I like that. I like words used as the wrong part of speech, like when a friend of mine, figuring out how to pick up a chick, said, "This will take all my suave."

A big concern is the growing cohort of retirees and the strains that puts on Medicare and Medicaid:

"Nobody in Congress or on either side in the presidential race wants to deal with it," Thompson said. "So we just rock along and try to maintain the status quo. Republicans say keep the tax cuts; Democrats say keep the entitlements. And we become a less unified country in the process, with a tax code that has become an unholy mess, and all we do is tinker around the edges."

I don't know about that last part. He seems to be criticizing both sides for the mess, which is fine and all as far as rhetoric, but I hope he's not planning to rescind the tax cuts. The tone of this part of the interview -- hints about Uncomfortable Truths and Straight-Talk That Upsets The Party Wisdom and Bipartisan Solutions -- reminds me of He Who Shall Not Be Nominated, John McCain.

Is Fred thinking that while the McCain candidacy is dead, the McCain constituency is very much alive and ripe for the picking? If so, this would be a much different Teh Fred than what we've been imagining. Then again, this interview is with David Broder, he of gauzy faith in bipartisan solutions and hopes of never-quite-explicated uncomfortable truth-tellings, so maybe Broder is just hearing what he wants to hear. Or Teh Fred is just having a bit of fun with the coot.

Thanks to someone.

In related Fred news, two (sorry to say) quite miss-able articles about whether Fred has timed this all perfectly or whether he's missed his moment.

Given that he's doing 90% of what a declared candidate would be doing, I can't see how simply not having declared yet is hurting him. And for the life of me I never get crap like this:

The campaign has also been beset by staff turnover, as controversy surrounding Jeri Thompson's involvement in the campaign has leaked into the media. Thompson's first manager in waiting, Tom Collamore, was dumped after just over a month. Campaign aides said former Sen. Spencer Abraham and a prominent Florida Republican, Randy Enwright, would take over. Then, just weeks later, Thompson went to his former advisor Bill Lacy to run the race.

I am never exactly sure why I am expected to care about the hiring and firing decisions of a candidate. The media always seems to assume that it's some sort of calamity to have fired a political operative; little wonder, as it's the fired operative feeding them the story most of the time, and even when it's not, the media needs to juice a rather mundane and commonplace occurrence -- a firing! -- into something of Great Import and Ominous Significance.

A guy got canned. So?

I'm also not sure why I'm supposed to find it alarming that Jeri Thompson has a large say in Fred's campaign. She's a longtime political operative herself; I don't know she's a gifted one, but neither do I know she's incompetent. Basically, I don't know if she's making good decisions or bad ones, and neither does the media. And yet we're to assume (in order for this to be a story of even the slightest interest) that she must be some power-mad harridan incompetent. Why should I assume that? The media keeps pushing Jeri's making decisions in the campaign as the equivalent of Jeri's making disastrous decisions in the campaign. The one morphs into the other through tone, slant, and the occasional useful thesis-establishing quote from a disgruntled campaign staffer, a staffer connected with a rival campaign, or the DNC.

These firings stories are useless. The only time they're marginally interesting is when they confirm that a struggling campaign is in fact struggling, as in the case of McCain's bad polls and subsequent staff shake-up. But we already knew the campaign was struggling, and that's the interesting thing; the firing only confirmed what we already knew.

Ah, well. These are absurdly easy stories to write, which is why I guess the MSM writes so many of them.

digg this
posted by Ace at 10:09 AM

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