This past Friday former Tennessee Senator Fred Dalton Thompson informally announced that he is seriously considering a run for the White House in '08. This, after most polls show him in double digits even though he has not officially thrown his hat into the rather lackluster ring, he is expected to do so on July 4th. So rather than wait until July I figured it was time to write something about him now. First things first, a little background on the man.
Born in Sheffield, AL on August 19, 1942, he actually grew up in Lawrenceburg, TN and married his first wife when he was only 17. He received his bachelors in philosophy and political science from Memphis State University and his J.D. from Vanderbilt Law School in 1967.
Now I may get a bit detailed here due to the fact that Democrats like to refer to him as merely an actor. He's been much more than that. From 1969 to 1972 he worked as assistant US attorney in TN and then as Senator Howard Baker's campaign manager for re-election in '72. And while Hillary Clinton was working hard on the Democrat side to impeach President Nixon, Fred Thompson was working as co-chief council to the Senate Watergate Committee. He was responsible for Senator Baker asking "what did the President know and when did he know it?" Thompson himself asked the famous question: "Mr Butterfield, are you aware of any listening devices in the Oval Office of the President?"
In 1977 Thompson helped run Tennessee Governor Ray Blanton out of office early for allegedly selling pardons toward the end of his term. When a movie called Marie was made about the incident Thompson played himself, which launched his movie career. It has been a career of acting rolls in 24 movies and two TV series, most notably In the Line of Fire and Hunt for Red October, and playing District Attorney Arthur Branch on NBC's Law & Order.
In 1994 he won election to the Senate (seat vacated by Al Gore who became VP), and then won re-election by a landslide in 1996 to a six-year term. During his Senate years, he served as Chairman of the Committee on Governmental Affairs and presided over the China-gate hearings, which investigated whether or not Chinese authorities bribed US politicians with illegal campaign contributions in exchange for Most Favored Nation Trading Status and possibly classified missile technology information. During the hearings Thompson's motions were often obstructed by Democratic Senators John Glenn (most notably), Carl Levin, and Robert Torricelli. The fact that most of those witnesses subpoenaed by Thompson's committee either fled the country or plead the fifth amendment, coupled with a lack of cooperation from either side of the aisle to take the hearings to their proper conclusion (possibly resulting in the discovery of startling and damaging revelations about those in question) forced Senator Thompson to abruptly end the investigations.
Also during his Senate years it should be noted that he introduced/authored virtually no legislation whatsoever, and had a reputation for complaining about long hours in the Senate. Some votes of note were in favor of McCain-Feingold (which he has since declared hasn't lived up to its expectations) as well as votes on the Articles of Impeachment of President Clinton--against the charge of perjury but for the charge of Obstruction of Justice. His complete Senate voting record can be found here.
After stating post 9-11 "now is not the time to leave," he decided against re-election in '02, some say because he simply got bored. A far more likely reason was the untimely death of his daughter Elizabeth from an overdose of prescription drugs on January 30th 2002.
He is currently in his second marriage to a woman 20 years his junior with whom he has fathered two children, since having fathered two other children from his previous marriage. His first wife has promised to campaign for him should he actually run for President.
He is a member of the Church of Christ, which is historically linked to the Restoration Movement of Barton Stone and Alexander Campbell. This movement sought to return to predenominational, original Christianity without extra creeds being added by church hierarchies found in other religions. This church bases its doctrine primarily on the Holy Bible, with nearly all emphasis put on the New Testament. While the Old Testament is honored, the Church of Christ doesn't feel bound to it legally due to the New Covenant with Christ.
His stand on the issues today are virtually identical to his senate voting record. He is pro-life on abortion, against gun control, in favor of prohibiting same sex marriage, in favor of the military surge in Iraq, supports the war on terror, supports extending President Bush's tax cuts,... You can follow Thompson on his opinions daily here in his blog at ABC Radio's website.
The American Conservative Union gave Thompson a lifetime rating of 86 out of 100. Let's face it. He is every conservative's dream when it comes to issues, including appointing prospective Supreme Court justices. President Bush turned to Fred Thompson when he needed someone to guide his nomination of John Roberts for Supreme Court Justice through the Senate; and he did so successfully. He's like Reagan in his ability to communicate with people, a plain talker, but that is so far only when scripted. His ad-libbing needs some brushing up, if a recent speech using note cards is any indication.
Is he entering too late? By today's standards he might be. A lot of money has already been raised by other candidates on a level never before seen. Some candidates brought barrels of money into the race with them. But if the Steven Forbes or Ross Perot campaigns are any indication, money doesn't buy opinions--it only buys attention. Fred Thompson will be running a different kind of campaign, one that utilizes other less costly advantages to get his message out. He has face recognition already from his movies and more recent TV work. But more importantly he has been substituting for Paul Harvey on the radio and reaching a huge and informed audience of registered voters. No one can accuse Paul Harvey of not having a powerful microphone, which he has been loaning to Thompson. There is also the afore mentioned Fred Thompson blog. Expect the internet to be utilized often through You-tube and other means. Speaking of which...that was a pretty good smack-down he did on Michael Moore.
Democrats may accuse him of being a do-nothing Senator; but certainly no worse than former Senator "No-Show" John Edwards, a contender for his party's nomination. So other than Thompson's weak record in the Senate (which could foretell a do-nothing Presidency, which could also make him a do-no-harm President), there appears to be nothing damaging about him which could torpedo a successful run for the White House, except perhaps his history of cancer---but that is in remission; or his divorce---but not only does his ex-wife still like him, she plans to campaign for him. All he really needs to do is beat Giuliani in the likability factor and he could get the nomination.