Social conservatives and hard-ass righties are all wetting themselves now that it appears that the old Tennessee walker, Fred Thompson, is in the Republican race for 2008.
The pundit class, and Republicans underwhelmed and saddened by the mighty herd of flawed GOP candidates, have been heaping honey on Fred: old fashioned values, Washington outsider, plain talker, (read southern accent) tough, no nonsense, culturally conservative, tall, plus- he's a 2nd rate actor- all qualities that play well in the Daddy Party.
Thompson is, by these lights, the new Ronald Reagan. He's the guy he plays on TV- the no-bullshit general; the straight-talking, values-driven prosecutor; the CIA chief; the wise, avuncular Senator; the U.S. President.
Our Rachel Maddow (KPTK m-f, 3-5p) talked to Salon.com columnist Glenn Greenwald Thursday who has written a long, good article which points out the reality of the Tennessee Republican citizen/saviour.
Greenwald explains the appeal:
For the authoritarians comprising the Republican base and the faux-masculine-power-worshipping media pundits, what is "appealing" about Giluliani is that he conveys: "You just wait until daddy gets home." Craving a stern "daddy" as a political leader is the root of the authoritarian mind. Yet these are the warped images that not only dominate their psyches, but their political "analysis" as well.
But is Thompson our (your) daddy, or does he only play one on TV? Greenwald writes: "This folksy, down-home, regular guy has spent his entire adult life as a lawyer and lobbyist in Washington, except when he was an actor in Hollywood.
Here's his official bio.
As you can see, as fellow tough-guy Republicans Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrish, he's never done military service, and avoided the Vietnam War, yet he reads such righteous ads like this so very convincingly.
But the illusion of manliness cliches, tough guy poses, and empty gestures of "cultural conservatism" are what the Republican base seeks, and media simpletons like Fineman, Halperin and Matthews eat it all up just as hungrily. That's how twice-and-thrice-divorced and draft-avoiding individuals like Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh become media symbols of the Christian "values voters" and "tough guy," "tough-on-defense" stalwarts.
Thompson is quite adamant about the sanctity of the one woman, one man marriage and has voted against gay rights bills including ones for gay marriage. But traditional marriage seems to be sacred only for others- his own marital history has been, well, non-traditional, to say the least.
Unlike, say, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards -- all of whom are still married to their first spouse -- Thompson divorced his wife (and the mother of his two children) after 25 years of marriage and then proceeded to marry a woman 25 years younger than he.
Values voters may not appreciate his 'tween marital sportin' life: according to The Washington Post's Lloyd Grove in 2002:
"Hollywood Fred," as the divorced Thompson was nicknamed because of his successful movie career, has been linked to a variety of women, including country singer Lorrie Morgan, pundit-pollster Kellyanne Fitzpatrick, Time magazine writer Margaret Carlson, Nathans restaurant owner Carol Joynt and Washington PR executive Sydney Ferguson.
During a question-and-answer session with House members on April 18, Thompson was asked about his colorful dating history from 1985 to 2002, while he was divorced.
"I was single for a long time, and, yep, I chased a lot of women," Thompson replied, chuckling, according to an attendee who took notes. "And a lot of women chased me. And those that chased me tended to catch me."
(For a party who loves to savage "Hollywood elites,"it's puzzling that the biggest GOP stars- Reagan, Schwarzenegger, now Thompson- have been actors with the recquisite divorces and Hollywood lig=festyles who played manly-man roles in the movies. (We'd mention George Murphy, and Ron Silver, but who'd know who we were talking about?) Democrats take all the heat about Hollywood, but R's actually put actor at the head of their party).
Fred Thompson is an unknown, really- especially to the conservatives who are rather desperately hearkening unto him right now.
We can pretty much discard the pre-campaign legends- there's simply no indication from his past that he's anything more than a Hollywood actor, Washington politician, and a lawyer/lobbyist with the moral compass you'd expect from someone with such a resumé.