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Oh sh*t, That Kid? Desperation, the GOP, and the (Folksy) Second Coming of... Fred?

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Message David Michael Green

Ah, to be young and Republican in 2007. What could be worse, eh?

First of all, anybody this side of Abraham Lincoln who was ever young and Republican has got some serious problems right there, just to start with. I mean, what’s up with that?

Whatever the explanation, surely this sorrowful club is shrinking. Nowadays, unless you’re filthy rich and possess all the compassion of an accountant in a concentration camp, to be a Republican is getting to be a lonely and sorrowful cross to bear.

And not least if you look out across the horizon and survey the chumps running for the GOP presidential nomination. What a bunch of poseurs! It’s really been getting a little bit dicey there, lately. I mean, with all the lies and hypocrisy of Giuliani, McCain and Romney. And then there’s their bad qualities to consider! Who do these guys think they’re kidding, parading around like real regressives? Between the three of them, they’ve been wobbly on just about every issue that matters to the radical right.

Thank goodness that Fred Thompson came riding to the rescue this week. Finally there is hope for a party which otherwise gives all appearances of heading for a political train-wreck of once-per-century proportions. At this rate, pretty soon the Republicans will be losing votes to the Whigs.

What a perfect choice Thompson is for the GOP. He’s got everything Republicans require in a president. First of all, he’s an actor, which is what Saint Reagan was. In fact, Ronnie once wondered aloud, "Could you do that job if you hadn't been an actor?" (Answer: No, Ron, not with the junk politics you were peddling. Of course, you could’ve always told the truth, for which skill at acting – which is, after all, precisely the process of creating illusion – would have been far less necessary.) Anyhow, given the popularity of the party’s substantive policies these days, Thompson’s acting skills should be invaluable in helping the diehard extra-chromosome set to pretend they’ve just had a run of bad luck lately – you know, Iraq, Katrina, North Korea, the debt, global warming, Social Security, Abramoff, DeLay, Foley, Vitter, Stevens, Craig, Gonzales, Rove and all the other scandals (okay, make that a run of really bad luck) – and that all is ultimately well in GOPville, nowadays the Disneyland of political parties, complete with the Mad Tea Party ride.

And, besides, it looks like this election will be quite similar to the one in 1980, when Reagan won big-time. Similar, except that part about people not caring whether the next president is smart and engaged, or not. And also the part about people badly wanting to oust the Democrat in the White House. And the part about people wanting to turn sharply to the right. Yeah, for sure – except for those small details there’s a lot of resemblance, so it would seem that this is a good year for an actor like Thompson.

Second, like the same former president, Thompson is "folksy". Really, really folksy. He likes to describe himself as just a country lawyer from Tennessee. Maybe he’ll rent that red pickup truck again he used to get elected to the Senate in 1994. Never mind his eight years in the Senate. He’s a Washington "outsider". Like Reagan! Only different.

Thompson also generally neglects telling you about how he earned over a million bucks as a Washington lobbyist. Since he’s an "outsider", presumably he was making his calls from, er, Maryland or Virginia. But, no matter. It was a folksy kind of lobbying, anyhow, and that’s the main thing. Especially when he successfully helped to persuade Congress to deregulate savings and loan institutions in the early 80s. That turned out well, eh?! Or how about the lobbying work he did to help prevent a London-based reinsurance company from getting stuck with asbestos claims? Very down home. Very Tennessee, Jed.

His kids have now become lobbyists, too! Of course, they would never trade on their father’s name or influence in their work. It’s all just a coincidence that they followed that career path. And, besides, whenever they’re busy not trading on their Poppa Bear’s name as they do their lobbying work, they make sure to do it in a really folksy way.

Thompson’s third major qualification is that he’s apparently not the sharpest knife in the drawer – kinda like You Know Who – another hugely popular president amongst GOP voters. Ol’ Richard Nixon put it a bit more bluntly, as was his wont. When H.R. Haldeman told Nixon that Thompson had been appointed as Republican counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee, Tricky Dick responded by saying, "Oh sh*t, that kid?". Nixon went on to further describe that kid as "dumb as hell". But isn’t that one of the main requirements to be a Republican nominee for president, nowadays? Heck, isn’t that one of the main requirements just to be a Republican?

As it happens, Thompson more than came through for Nixon, which amply demonstrates his bona fides per the fourth important criterion crucial to a GOP president: He’s clearly willing to destroy anything necessary, including the Constitution and even the country itself, if that would help the party. During Watergate, he was taking instructions from the White House – you know, the very folks under investigation – as to how to question witnesses like John Dean.

Better still, he was also acting as would a prosecutor who was tipping off a defendant during that scandal. One of the more famous moments from those electric months occurred when Thompson asked White House aide Alexander Butterfield, "Are you aware of the installation of any listening devices in the Oval Office of the president?" Butterfield’s shocking affirmative response, of course, marked the beginning of the end of Nixon. But Thompson was not at all surprised to hear the answer, as it had already been pried out of Butterfield three days earlier, in a closed-door deposition. Not that Folksy Freddy was in the room at the time, of course. No, he was found in a hotel bar with a reporter when a Republican investigator breathlessly tracked him down to break the big news of Butterfield’s revelation. So what did he do? Just what you’d expect a great American patriot and supporter of the rule of law to do in a moment of national emergency and constitutional crisis. Er, at least a great patriot who also happened to be an even greater party loyalist (let’s keep our priorities straight here, people). He phoned J. Fred Buzhardt, Nixon’s lawyer, to inform him that the Watergate committee knew of his client’s tapes and that they’d better ditch the damn smoking gun. Like, pronto.

No wonder J. Fred concluded that Kid Fred fully understood the proper pecking order of his allegiances in the Watergate matter. Regarding the Dean testimony, Buzhardt told Nixon: "I found Thompson most cooperative, feeling more Republican every day. Uh, perfectly prepared to assist in really doing a cross-examination." Buzhardt later added that Thompson was "willing to go, you know, pretty much the distance now. And he said he realized his responsibility was going to have be as a Republican increasingly". Perfect qualifications, eh?! I mean, what’s the point of having a Republican president if he’s not willing to shred the Constitution whenever doing so would benefit the GOP?

But wait, there’s more! A fifth Thompson qualification is that he has spectacularly bad politics, definitely a sine qua non for Republicans. He loves tax cuts for the wealthy and free trade, thinks that global warming is a hoax, wants to overturn Roe, is big on the Iraq war, beats up on immigrants, and makes the NRA happy at every turn. What more could we ask of the guy? He even said he would have pardoned Scooter Libby right away, had Bush not beaten him to it. Now, those are some serious credentials!

But perhaps most importantly of all, Thompson will happily mouth any bullshit for public consumption imaginable to get himself elected, just like any upstanding Republican certainly would. You know, read his lips! Check out this cold dish of bloody red meat he threw down to wild applause at the Young Republicans national convention a month ago: "I'm getting tired of having to apologize for the United States of America around the world. I'm tired of other people's perceptions that we need to apologize." Damn straight, Fredo! You tell ‘em! Never mind that nobody has actually called for the US to make any such apology. Never mind that we’ve killed a million people in Iraq now, and turned four million more into refugees. (That’s only one-fifth of the country’s population so far, anyhow. Per the Republican rule of thumb, no apology should ever be even contemplated until you’ve destroyed the lives of at least half of any country you invade.) Never mind that we five percent of the world’s population create twenty-five percent of its greenhouse gases, while scuttling every international effort to deal with the problem. What ever would we have to apologize for?

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David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York.  He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles (, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. His website is (more...)
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