Thompson Is Not Dumb, He's Disinterested; So Beware
It's interesting that a seasoned Washington journalist like Roger Simon would bite on the Fred Thompson as the bumbling politician who surprises the capitol establishment meme. But he did in a column yesterday for Politico.com.
Thompson has been portrayed as disinterested, unprepared and downright dumb. Saturday Night Live even lampooned him saying, "I want to be your president...kind of." (Watch it here)
Is this a media creation by the Thompson campaign? Who is Fred Thompson? Is he dithering country fool who campaigned in Florida without knowing the issues and wore a baseball cap that read "Cocks", a reference the mascot of the University of South Carolina that could be easily misunderstood to anybody outside of the Southeastern Conference or the eloquent lawyer who made a name for himself during the Watergate hearings?
The lowering of the bar for Thompson is a purely political ploy by his campaign. His candidacy is an entire media creation from the beginning. Nobody knows him as a presidential candidate. What does he stand for? What is his record? His "character" is needed for conservatives because a true righty is not accounted for among the candidates.
Why would Thompson put himself before the electorate wholeheartedly when he already ranks second in the polls without doing a thing? Voters know Rudy Giuliani. They have an idea what Mitt Romney is trying to be and John McCain's appeal lies somewhere in the middle of the political spectrum.
To buy into Thompson's ploy is dangerous because of the precedent set by George W. Bush.
Bush the younger brilliantly played up the political dope persona against the erudite Al Gore. At the turn of the last century, Bush correctly read a growing perception that Gore was the smarty-pants kid everyone hated in school and surprised voters by actually showing up to the debates and even uttering simple sentences.
I think people are wise to this tactic in 2007 and they also see the tragedy of their decision to give him the White House. I also don't think the entire storyline is contrived by the Thompson campaign only because of this one reason: lowering the bar of expectations is wise for a weak candidate, but the perception that the candidate's heart is not in winning the office is political poison.