So there are a few decisions in life that assume a supercessionary degree of importance. These decisions really demand you hit pause on most of your other cognitive activity so that you can devote any and all available reflective, logical, and decision-making resources to them…where to go to college is usually the first one that arises. Then maybe who to marry. After that, whether or not to have children. And some people, not a lot of us but some, are confronted with the question, “Should I run for President of the United States?”
Now, that’s a big one. Saying “Yes” means you’re giving yourself over to over a year of constant travel, asking for campaign contributions, being raked over the coals by your opponents and their henchmen, having people pry into your private life, and weathering the gale force winds of Hurricane Matthews. If it were me, I’d spend a lot of time deliberating, talking with my wife, children, confidants, pundits, elected officials, and anybody else whose opinion I respect. If I did run, I would have well-crafted positions at the ready at the time of my announcement, and I’d try and turn my personality up a little, politics being theater and all that. In other words, if I ran for President, it would appear to the press and the voting public that I’d done more than just sleep on it.
But I’m not Fred Thompson. Is it just me, or does it seem like Thompson treated the decision to run for President the same way he treats the decision of whether to buy the Cool Ranch or the Nacho Cheese Doritos? You know what I mean? Just kind of this nonchalant, shoulder-shrugging “Aw what the heck” kind of deal. Nobody in the mainstream media has come out and said it yet because I think they kind of like having him around, but let’s just all admit it (the admitting will be done in Thompson’s trademark “folksy” style): when it comes to this whole runnin’ fer President thing, Thompson needs to put this horse back in the barn.
Conservatives faced with the unhappy prospect of casting a vote for a pro-abortion New York City mayor or a Mormom were drooling all over a Thompson candidacy, deeming him Reagan: The Sequel. Well, they sure got their wish – and just like most sequels, Fred Thompson is a bloated, aimless, long-winded disappointment.
You’d think a guy whose candidacy came with so much breathless fanfare would really hit it hard coming out of the gate – shake a lot of hands, smile a lot, spend a lot of time nodding along at whatever a random Iowan has to say, maybe even shoot a TV spot where he’s tearing across Mount Rushmore on a Harley wearing one of those helmets with a bald eagle painted on it. Instead, he gave a speech this month in Nevada, Iowa where he literally had to ask the audience to please applaud when he was done. When a reporter asked if he would stick with any Bush Administration policies (memo to all candidates: say “no” to this question), he said “I would keep the good things and let go of the bad things.” He called Russia “the Soviet Union”!
Aside from revealing himself to be the 2008 model of the Gaffe-O-Matic, he has nothing in the way of substance. Take his “healthcare policy” on his official website (the “On The Issues” section):
Americans have the best healthcare in the world. Some, however, choose not be insured; others cannot afford it. Every American should be able to get health insurance coverage that is affordable, fully accessible, and portable. Coverage should meet their individual needs and put them in control. Those who propose a one-size-fits-all Washington-controlled program ignore the cost, inefficiency, and inadequate care that such a system offers. Access to affordable, portable health care can be made available for all Americans without imposing new mandates or raising taxes. Current government programs must also be streamlined and improved so that those who truly need help can get the health care they need. I am committed to a healthcare system that:
- Realigns programs and creates a system around individual consumers and patients by providing more information and more opportunities to choose affordable health care options that best meet their needs and those of their families.
- Improves the individual health of all Americans by shifting to a system that promotes cost-effective prevention, chronic-care management, and personal responsibility
- Modernizes delivery and administration of care by encouraging the widespread use of clinical best practices, medical information technology, and other innovations.
- Increases competition and consumer choice while streamlining regulations through free-market solutions that benefit individuals and reduce costs for employers.
- Promotes and speeds medical research and life-sciences innovation.
That’s a policy statement written by an intern who has to produce 500 words for the website, to hell with actual “content.” The only way the healthcare policy could be more vague is if Thompson just boiled it down to “Medicine is good. If you are sick, I want you to have it.”
I think my favorite section, though, is “Government Effectiveness,” which offers this pearl:
“Attracting and rewarding the best Americans to serve in government and ensuring they have the authority and resources needed to get the job done.”
Whoa, whoa whoa, Fred! Whoa! Information overload! Too many specifics! You’re going to make sure that people in government have authority AND resources?! I need to go lie down for a minute, because I am spent! (By way of contrast, check out Joe Biden’s section on healthcare. The guy, God bless him, has it broken down all the way to a section on “Uniform Billing and Claims.”)
That Thompson is still considered a factor in this race speaks more to the weakness of the rest of the field (looking at you, Duncan Hunter) than his promise as a candidate, obviously. But still – this is our highest office. It’s the Presidency. Best of the best, that’s who we want running. And somehow, we’ve got a seemingly uninterested “folksy type,” an apotheosis of average, being kept afloat by hopeful Republicans. A guy who says this about global warming:
“Some people think that our planet is suffering from a fever. Now scientists are telling us that Mars is experiencing its own planetary warming: Martian warming. It seems scientists have noticed recently that quite a few planets in our solar system seem to be heating up a bit, including Pluto. NASA says that the Martian South Pole’s ice cap has been shrinking for three summers in a row. Maybe Mars got its fever from earth. If so, I guess Jupiter’s caught the same cold, because it’s warming up too, like Pluto. This has led some people, not necessarily scientists, to wonder if Mars and Jupiter, non signatories to the Kyoto Treaty, are actually inhabited by alien SUV-driving industrialists who run their air-conditioning at 60 degrees and refuse to recycle. Silly, I know, but I wonder what all those planets, dwarf planets and moons in our solar system have in common. Hmmmm. Solar system. Hmmmm. Solar? I wonder. Nah, I guess we shouldn’t even be talking about this. The science is absolutely decided. There’s a consensus. Ask Galileo.”
Somebody in the media, anybody, please…TELL THIS GUY TO GO HOME!