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Fred Thompson

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Chimps on Parade.

Well, my original intention was to blog about the RNC speeches here at home in much the same fashion as I did in Denver last week. But, after slogging through last night’s ridiculousness on C-SPAN…sorry, y’all. These posts will have to be abbreviated, because I just can’t take these fools at all seriously.

For one, it’s abundantly clear that the cheering Republican faithful in Minnesota have, by sheer force of denial, somehow crossed over into a bizarro alternate universe, one where Dubya wasn’t the worst president this country has ever seen and Sarah Palin is the reincarnated hybrid of Queen Elizabeth and Joan of Arc. (No wonder they couldn’t fill the seats: It takes a not-insignificant amount of crazy to think thus these days.)

For another, the strenuous doublethink required to buy into last night’s program — Dubya is wonderful, but change is necessary, for example — is just beyond my capacity to embrace contradiction…pending more reeducation at the nearest Ministry of Love, of course.

For yet another, it’s hard to take the Gustav-related preambles to every speech at face value, given that — when the writing was on the wall three years ago — the Republicans’ grotesque incompetence and indifference to hurricane prep was on full display, much to the continued woe of New Orleans.

Finally, there was so much kneejerk demonizing of “the angry left” and their tax-and-spend, America-hating ways, particularly by Law & Order actor turned laconic buffoon Fred Thompson, that I just don’t feel much inclination to extend the olive branch to these jokers. It’d be nice to say that we just view the world differently and can agree to disagree, patriots on both sides of the issue yadda yadda yadda. But, given last night’s performances, these fellows are either unfathomably stupid or just venal, corrupt, and propagandistic liars. To be honest, i’d bet the BOTH line.

At any rate, the main events of the evening started out decently enough with an introduction by First Lady Laura Bush, who’s consistently been one of the only grace notes in the conservative governance of the past eight years. But, then her husband popped up, and the night took a significant downturn. [Transcript.] “Fellow citizens,” our president chimp-smirked as usual, “if the Hanoi Hilton could not break John McCain’s resolve to do what is best for his country, you can be sure the angry left never will.” Of course, John McCain’s habitual tendency to fold like an accordion whenever right-wing pressure is applied was in full evidence just this past weekend, when the stark-raving Rovians forced Palin on him. So this, like most Dubyaic pronouncements, should be taken with a few grains of salt.

Next up was Sen. Fred Thompson, who absolutely epitomized, in my friend Dr. Vendre‘s inimitable phrasing, the central “get off my damn lawn, you crazy kids” nature of the Republicans’ appeal this year. [Transcript.] Now, despite his cranky old neighbor act, this was considered a good speech by the media powers-that-be, mainly because Fred managed to wallow in P-O-Wisms for twenty minutes and close by calling Obama a godless babykiller. So, Mission Accomplished, I suppose.

Finally, the GOP wound up and unveiled the Zellout 2.0: “Holy Joe” Lieberman, to tell us that “eloquence is no substitute for a record ” and, that — basically — John McCain is the honorable maverick the nation needs and Barack Obama a brie-eating surrender monkey. [Transcript.] Now, I suppose this might’ve played if “Joementum” was an actual honest-to-goodness phenomenon among Democrats. But given that our party has pretty much always been underwhelmed with the guy, and now even his own state of Connecticut has soured on him, he may as well have dropped the bipartisan act and put that all-but-official “R” next to his name. (Today’s nonpartisan Fact Checker already has his number: “If Obama voted against funding the troops, so did Lieberman.“)

So…to sum up: Country First, a Lifetime of Service, POW POW POW, Liberals hate America, 9/11, 9/11. 9/11. Add several brazen untruths, a smattering of smears, and some healthy dollops of sheer idiocy, and then simmer until Gov. Palin shows up. All in a day’s work for the sad and embarrassing conservative wingnuttery that passes for today’s irreparably broken Republican party.

End of a Non-Starter.

Today I have withdrawn my candidacy for President of the United States. I hope that my country and my party have benefited from our having made this effort.” Uh, to be honest, not really…Fred Thompson’s officially out of the 2008 race. Can Rudy Giuliani be far behind?

Manchester Divided.

So, the debates.

Of course, every big show has an opening act, and the undercard tonight was the Republicans. I realize I’ve been slipping on the GOP coverage around these parts of late, and I apologize…I promise to catch up once the Dem side quiets down (As a show of good faith: hey, look! Romney won Cheney country.) Still, part of the reason I’ve been losing interest in the GOP’s internecine disputes this cycle is because — even notwithstanding the moldering albatross that is Dubya — their candidates are all so lousy, and everyone knows it. (The Iowa attendance numbers, where the Dems outnumbered Republicans 2-1, tell most of the story.) Still, my main impressions of the GOP side tonight were thus:

  • Nobody likes Mitt Romney. At various points Huckabee, McCain, Thompson, and Giuliani were all cracking wise about his flip-flopping and such, and he’s not even the frontrunner anymore. (McCain’s up six.) I guess the rationale is a poor Romney showing in New Hampshire might knock him out early. That, and he’s been throwing his money around in negative ads. Either way, Romney was the primary punching bag for the majority of the debate.
  • Fred Thompson seemed older, more slothful, and less presidential than I remember him. His lazy contributions basically involved making fun of Ron Paul every so often. No wonder he hasn’t been catching fire.
  • Speaking of Ron Paul, he had the gleam of a true believer about him (the vaguely Gandalfian looks help), and it’d have been nice to see his brand of old-school, Robert Taft conservatism get a fairer hearing from his opponents, just so its more frightening aspects could be exposed. (Paul’s libertarianism sounds refreshingly anti-imperialistic on the foreign policy side. But on the domestic front, it’d mean the Gilded Age all over again.) Still, I can see why he’s drawing so many disgruntled young Republicans to his standard. And at least he’s trafficking in the realm of ideas.
  • Perhaps the trail is getting to him, but John McCain seemed like he was on autopilot all night. Still, as George Stephanopoulos noted in the post-game, he spent the night touting his conservative bona fides rather than his maverick cred, which will hopefully pay dividends for Obama among undecided independents.
  • Rudy Giuliani stayed in typical 9/11 9/11 9/11 form, with the aid of Ron Paul’s speaking of uncomfortable truths about our overseas involvements. Still, it seemed clear he’s just biding his time until Florida. He barely went after frontrunner (and his most obvious rival) John McCain at all.
  • I actually thought Mike Huckabee displayed some impressive kung-fu, for the most part. I still think he’s fundamentally unelectable (From his son’s Frist-like murdering of a stray dog to the horrible Wayne Dumond case to the AIDS quarantines, Gov. Huckaboom’s closet has more skeletons than Undercity.) Still, given his evangelical backing, his aw shucks delivery, and his wilier-than-you’d-first-expect responses, I could see him causing serious problems for his GOP competitors, and he gave the best answer to WMUR announcer Scott Spradling’s Obama question.
  • Speaking of which — yes, in case you missed it, the Republican field was asked how they’d run against Senator Obama should he be the Democratic nominee. (Remember the earlier claims that Clinton was being treated unfairly in the Russert debate? Well, Obama got the exact same frontrunner treatment from Gibson and Spradling tonight in both debates, and, by and large, he handled it fine.) Anyway, in case you’re wondering, Huckabee and Paul praised the Obama phenomenon, Romney tried to claim the mantle of change for himself, McCain touted his own experience, Thompson muttered some stale two-decade old tripe about “liberals,” and Giuliani brought up…wait for it, wait for it…national security. (Obama’s later response to all this: “I was going back and forth between the Republicans and football…[But] you know, we’ve seen this movie before. We know the Republican playbook.“) The point being, none of these guys seemed to have anything close to an answer yet for the Obama phenomenon. (All they wanted to do was voice their tried-and-tested soundbites about Hillarycare.) Which brings us to:

    The Democrats. First off, I should say — and I’m sure it’s obvious by now anyway, judging by the content here the past few days — that I watched the debate not only as an Obama partisan but as someone profoundly irritated by Sen. Clinton for her lowball maneuvers of recent days. So, grab that shaker of salt and let’s proceed…

  • I thought Barack Obama did a solid job overall, and was strongest in the first half of the debate. He seemed knowledgable, thoughtful, decisive, and, most importantly, electable. He showed an ability to discuss specifics about the issues on the table, kept his larger narrative about hope and change intact, and made no serious blunders that would impede his post-Iowa momentum, which is all he really had to do. Obama scored his best response to Senator Clinton’s blunderbuss offense early on, when he calmly explained the differences between their two health plans and put the lie to her flip-flopping charges coolly and succinctly. For the most part, though, and as the evening progressed, he exercised his frontrunner privilege and stayed above the fray. Of course, he was aided in this strategy by… (Cue “Aunt Jackie“: “If that’s your man, then tag him in….“)
  • John Edwards, who performed just as well as he usually does. Clearly, the Edwards team made the tactical decision to try and knock out Clinton now and get it to a race between he and Obama. Thus: “‘Any time you speak out powerfully for change, the forces of status quo attack. He [Obama] believes deeply in change, and I believe deeply in change. And any time you’re fighting for that, I mean, I didn’t hear these kinds of attacks from Senator Clinton when she was ahead.‘” (The NYT is casting this as “Two Rivals Go After Defiant Clinton,” but that’s not in fact correct. Clinton went after Obama, expecting help from Edwards, who instead returned fire at Clinton. At that point, Clinton boiled over and Obama — recognizing Edwards would be an ally for the night rather than an adversary — magnanimously withdrew from the field. He didn’t “go after” anybody, and, as the frontrunner, why should he?)

    At any rate, Edwards’ decision to go after Clinton rather than Obama may seem like “ganging up,” but I can see the sense of it. For one, it’s clear to all now that Obama’s tapped in to a yearning for change that transcends the usual political categories, and, Edwards has decided he might be able to win the populism versus progressivism discussion between two “change” candidates if Clinton’s out of the picture. (It’d be a fascinating debate.) For another, I’ve been reading a lot of online coverage about the election post-Iowa, and it seems pretty clear that Edwards supporters are livid that he’s still considered the forgotten man in the race. Given that he bested Clinton in Iowa and is still being treated as an also-ran, he has a legitimate axe to grind with her.

  • Bill Richardson was there too.

  • Her back to the wall, Hillary Clinton was more combative than we’ve seen in any previous debate, calling Obama a flip-flopper right out of the box and not letting up much thereafter. (Obama’s jujitsu was solid, though, and he deftly deflected most of her attacks with specifics and a smile, until Edwards took over the fight. His only misstep may have been not playing along nicely enough with Clinton’s “I’m just a girl” act, although given everything Clinton’s been throwing at him in recent days, I’d say it’s a forgivable sin.)

    The Senator’s attack-mode, to my admittedly jaundiced eye, was unseemly. For one, this was the first time I can remember Clinton playing the “first woman president” card so flagrantly, and it reeked of desperation. (To his credit, Obama didn’t feel the need to return the wallowing in identity politics.) For another, her anger blazed through at certain moments, particularly after Edwards showed he wasn’t going to be her friend tonight, and I doubt it played very well to New Hampshire’s undecided. (But again, I’m not a good judge of this sort of thing by now. Lines like “We don’t need to be raising the false hopes of our country about what can be delivered” just drive me to distraction.)

    Speaking of which, one of the more intriguing volleys between Clinton and Obama happened late in the game, when Clinton once again tried to push the “false prophet” angle against Obama. Said Clinton: “So you know, words are not actions. And as beautifully presented and passionately felt as they are, they are not action. What we’ve got to do is translate talk into action and feeling into reality.” Obama’s response: “There have been periods of time in our history where a president inspired the American people to do better. And I think we’re in one of those moments right now. I think the American people are hungry for something different and can be mobilized around big changes; not incremental changes, not small changes…The truth is actually words do inspire. Words do help people get involved. Don’t discount that power, because when the American people are determined that something is going to happen, then it happens. And if they are disaffected and cynical and fearful and told that it can’t be done, then it doesn’t. I’m running for president because I want to tell them, yes, we can. And that’s why I think they’re responding in such large numbers.” That sums up a good deal of Obama’s oratorical appeal, and explains why Clinton, no matter what she says to the contrary, could never be the candidate of change. She just doesn’t get it. As I said in my progressivism post of a few weeks ago: Without vision, the people perish. America’s left is plumb sick of the poll-driven, over-triangulated brand of GOP-lite policy wonk Clinton represents. Put aside the V-Chips and school uniforms: We are looking to dream big again.

  • Data from Des Moines | Clinton on the Warpath?

    Another new poll, by way of the Des Moines Register, puts Obama slightly in the Iowa lead at 28%, to Clinton’s 25% and Edwards’ 23%. (All candidates are within the margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.) Also, it seems Obama may well have cut deeply into Clinton’s impressive support among Iowa women: “In the new poll, Obama leads with support from 31 percent of women likely attend the caucuses, compared to 26 percent for Clinton. In October, Clinton was the preferred candidate of 34 percent of women caucusgoers, compared to 21 percent for Obama” Still, Clinton maintains her generational ace in the hole: “Clinton is the top choice among caucusgoers 55 years old and older. The largest share of Democratic caucusgoers — exactly half — are in this age group.” Meanwhile, on the GOP side, Mike Huckabee leads Mitt Romney 29%-24%, with no one else even close. “That’s a gain of 17 percentage points since the last Iowa Poll was taken in early October, when Huckabee trailed both Romney and Fred Thompson.” We have a ways to go yet, but it’s looking like we’ve got ourselves a barnburner on both sides of the aisle, and I’m obviously pleased as punch that Obama is not only in the running but leading the pack. Onward and upward.

    Update: “Now the fun part starts“? Sensing the obvious danger to her candidacy in Obama’s Iowa lead, Hillary Clinton announces she’s going negative, and illustrates thus by insinuating Obama has character issues. “‘I want a long term relationship,’ she said. ‘I don’t want to just have a one night stand with all of you.'”

    Reality Sets In.

    “Trying to encourage his studio to hurry up so an interview could start, Carl Cameron of Fox News said into his microphone: ‘The next president of the United States has a schedule to keep.’ Standing beside him, a deadpan Mr Thompson interjected: ‘And so do I.'” As his late entrance bid continues to fizzle, even Fred Thompson has doubts about his campaign these days. Well, there’s always Law & Order.

    Post-Bush, it’s a toss-up.

    There’ s no mandate for Rudy or Romney just yet…In keeping with the strong support for none of the above discovered earlier this year, a new poll finds the Republican nomination is more up for grabs than it’s been in almost thirty years. “Not since 1979 has the leading Republican candidate had less than 40 percent support in national polls in the November heading into an election year.

    Right Said Fred?

    “I’m running for president of the United States.” Really? No kidding. While his Republican rivals debated in New Hampshire, former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson at long last officially entered the presidential race on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Given both his fumbling entry thus far and his pro-choice past, it’s hard to believe the conservative Republican base will find him any more palatable than Giuliani or Romney. That being said, could television gravitas translate into the real thing? Admittedly, there are a lot of Law & Order aficionados in this country, so he’s probably good for a lot of votes there (although, to be honest, not as many as Chris Noth might’ve pulled.)

    Mama said you’d be the chosen one.

    Making the rounds today, Hillary (and Bill) Clinton — enjoying a bounce in the polls (as is Fred Thompson on the GOP side) — hamhandedly riff on The Sopranos finale (with the aid of Johnny Sack) to announce the new Clinton campaign song, (ugh) Celine Dion’s “You and I.” Celine Dion? There’s yet another good reason to support Obama or Edwards in this primary contest.

    The Simi Valley Ten.

    Is this it? Is this all you can conjure, Republicans? Perhaps it was because I was feeling mighty under the weather when catching up with it on TiVo, but last Thursday’s GOP debate was more than a little underwhelming. Of the top tier, Mitt Romney probably acquitted himself the best: He seemed a bit blow-dried and canned, sure, but we were at the Reagan library, after all, and he didn’t do anything to hurt his standing as a front-runner with money to burn. Frankly, John McCain‘s act seemed stale to me: The “Gates of Hell” notwithstanding, he seemed to possess little-to-none of the from-the-gut, truth-to-power charisma that propelled him through 2000. (And his pained, convoluted stance on Iraq — everything got screwed up for years but now we’re hunky-dory — doesn’t make a lick of sense.) Rudy Giuliani proved once again that he’s a better candidate in theory than in practice, and I don’t see his half-hearted shrug over Roe V. Wade playing too well to the conservative cheap seats. (Let’s not forget, three of these ten folks — Brownback, Huckabee, Tancredo — wouldn’t even admit to believing in evolution.) Speaking of which, Mike Huckabee and Sam Brownback seemed like the two among the rest with the best shot to jump up a notch, particularly as either could conceivably become the favorite son of the Dobson wing of the party. Ron Paul’s ardent libertarianism was a surprising X-factor in the debate, and I thought it was kinda fun to have him around. (He also came across better, IMO, than the Dem’s official monkey wrench, Mike Gravel.) Jim Gilmore, Tommy Thompson, Tom Tancredo, Duncan Hunter? Meh. If I were Fred Thompson, I wouldn’t be dissuaded from a run by this lot. I mean, the GOP field already looks like one of those WaMu ads with the gang of disgruntled bankers (Indeed, an Obama-and-GOP Youtube remix seems inevitable) — why not add one more to the mix?

    Probably the most telling fact of the evening was the dog that didn’t bark: Dubya. Watching these ten prominent Republicans squirm and equivocate every time anyone mentioned the president and his current policies tells you everything you need to know about 2008 — After eight years of GOP mismanagement and corruption, the election is the Dems to lose.

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