I was going to write something about Fred Thompson being compared as the next Ronald Reagan and how faulty that comparison is. However, Richard Cohen at the Washington Post has been there, and done that.
Watching the video from Fred Thompson's appearance on Jay Leno last night, something else impressed me about Thompson. The man is so much more measured and thoughtful than any of the current Republican nominees. In response to Leno's question about Iran, Thompson responds:
Iran's a difficult problem, and, you have to have all of the facts before you make a final decision about it. We've got a lot of friends among the Iranian people. The Iranian economy is in bad shape. If we handle it right, and use our intelligence services and our propaganda possibilities correctly, part of that problem might take care of itself, so let's not get ahead of ourselves on that.
While I may disagree with the ways in which he would "use our intelligence services and our propoganda possibilities," this is an incredibly measured response that really looks at the issue itself and doesn't buy into the cheap one-liner. Compare this to Mitt Romney's ignorance about basic facts on Iraq, Rudi Giuliani's revisionist 9/11, and even John McCain, who is by all accounts the foremost of all the candidates on foreign policy is making light of bombing Iran. Of course Thompson has the benefit of not actually being in the race and not having to demean himself by hand-raising straw polls, as he points out, but the amazingly stark contrast between his position and all of the other Republican candidates (except Ron Paul), is noticeable.
What I find interesting is that there is a similar movement afoot in the Democratic party to get Al Gore to run. On their website, the folks at Draft Gore call Al Gore "The Conscience of the Democratic Party" in no small part because he is eloquent and intelligent and, except for his concern about global warming, is not really an activist-type politician. I discussed this more in relation to Eugene Robinson's column.
I don't think that Thompson and Gore are the same and are, in fact, less alike than Thompson is from Reagan; but, what I do think is that Cohen, or even Robinson, glaze over the underlying sense from the strength of these two candidates. People are tired of politics, not for politics' sake — Al Gore has certainly been talking about politics little "p" and big "P" the past couple of years, but the deeply partisan "horse-race" politics reported by CNN, FoxNews, MSNBC, NYT, etc. The left wants President Bartlet and the right wants D.A. Arthur Branch. Why? Because these are the consummate thoughtful, intelligent decision-makers who put the country and law in front of themselves; I mean, Aaron Spelling and Dick Wolf created the characters precisely because that is what people want in their elected leaders — and is also precisely why they are fictional.
What is not so fictional, however, is the mess that our country is in. We have a disaster in Iraq, a dismal world opinion, a global climate problem, millions of uninsured citizens, personal and national debt problems and a failing infrastructure that is going to need serious investment in the next twenty years. Al Gore to the left and Fred Thompson to the right have created themselves (both, I should say through the use of Hollywood), to be the characters that we all create in our minds and recreate (through those Hollywood images) to put their face on those characters so that we imagine them as type-cast for the role of President. I'm not exactly sure what this postmodern mirror means in terms of real politics, policies or the health of our country, but looking at the field I can honestly say that we could do a lot worse than Al Gore and Fred Thompson as the race in 2008.