FRED THOMPSON: PLAYING TO THE CHEAP SEATS
I actually think Peggy Noonan is on to something here:
...Fred Thompson ... is running a great campaign. It's just not a declared campaign.... It has been going on for months and is aimed at the major pleasure zones of the Republican brain. In a series of pointed columns, commentaries and podcasts, Mr. Thompson has been talking about things conservatives actually talk about. Shouldn't homeowners have the right to own a gun? Isn't it bad that colleges don't teach military history? How about that Sarkozy--good news, isn't it? Did you see Tenet on Russert? His book sounds shallow, tell-all-y.
These comments and opinions are being read and forwarded in Internet Nation. They are revealing and interesting, but they're not heavy, not homework. They have an air of "This is the sound of a candidate thinking."
OK, she lost me with that last one. This is not the sound of a candidate thinking. This is the sound of a candidate pandering.
But, of course, that means it just might work.
Here's some of that Thompson commentary on military history in college:
If you went to college in the sixties, like I did, you might not know how much higher education has changed since then. Universities today are different places. At Vanderbilt, where I got my law degree, I hear you can take courses in third wave feminism or colonial governmentality.
Your guess is as good as mine.
On the other hand, some of the courses that we took for granted aren't around at all. One area of study that's almost disappeared from universities today is military history -- the history of warfare.
Er, Fred? In the spring semester at Vanderbilt this year, you can take the following Military Science courses: Basic Leadership, American Military History: Principles of War, Leadership & Ethics, and Officership. The History Department is offering Sea Power in History and the History of World War II -- and I suspect the undergraduate seminar on the U.S. Occupation of Japan has a few lessons regarding what America's military is tasked with these days. And while we're on this subject, did you take a lot of military history as an undergrad? Or do you just think it's good for other people?
Fred's not thinking. Fred's just looking for clever, smart-seeming ways to press wingnut hot buttons by attacking easy targets, a number of which are made of straw.
As for Peggy, she's wrong about this, too:
Is he anything beyond a standard Republican conservative? Will he have anything beyond a Mideast policy that consists of win in Iraq, support the surge, and oppose any timetable? ... On domestic issues, can Mr. Thompson go beyond standard conservative thought?
... He'll have to show he's not just a rote, pro forma conservative--a dumb conservative....
No, he won't. He won't need to do any of that to get traction with Republicans -- or with the mainstream press. All he'll have to do is show that he's not Hitlery or Obambi or the Breck Girl or Ozone Man -- and that he might have enough mojo to win.
I think he does have mojo. My only question about him is whether his gee-whiz-aw-shucks Reagan imitation is really enough to get him through the GOP primaries in a post-9/11 world. Right now, it seems, Republicans want X-Treme Reagan -- a Reagan who can turn into Jack Bauer. (Please note: I'm talking about affect, not effectiveness. The base wants someone who talks tough. Being able to do something tough with any effectiveness is not necessary -- see Bush's poll numbers among Republicans.)
Can Thompson make voters think he's nice, nasty, and a winner? I wonder. Giuliani seems to have a lot of people believing all that about him, and McCain and Romney are working on it. Thompson might overdo the Reagan and fail to give the voters enough overt nastiness. That would doom his campaign.
But the pandering will help him get close.