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Never Campaign With Children or Animals

The Thompson family does TV.

I've been paroled from the Achenblog for at least one day to weigh in on what happened in this, the 975th week of the 2008 Presidential Campaign. Although the big news was that Hillary Clinton has already won the election, according to the national news media, and may any day start picking her cabinet and negotiating international treaties, I'd like to focus on the mystery that is the Fred Thompson campaign.

Thompson is running a strong second in the national polls, and has single-handedly restored to common usage the word "laconic." He mulled a presidential run back in the spring, then ambled into the race about a month ago, and may soon get around to saying why he should be president. This is a man who cannot be rushed.

Critics say he's been confused about his own Senate record and has flip-flopped on key issues, but if that standard gets imposed we'll quickly run out of presidential candidates. The other day he mentioned our current relations with the Soviet Union. Well, close enough. His aides will surely brief him before he has to have a summit with what's-his-name, that Brezhnev fellow.

More problematic is his style on the stump, which, to hear reporters tell it, has the tendency to stupefy the audience. He's as vague as the day is long. He has to cue his listeners that it would be an appropriate time to clap. But some folks may find him a calming, reassuring presence. They may get the sense that, no matter what crisis might erupt, Thompson won't get too riled about it, and it'll still soon be nap time.

The unflappable nature of Thompson was on display on Wednesday night when he and his wife, Jeri, sat for an interview with Sean Hannity. The first segment began with each parent holding a child. Jeri held the little one, Samuel, who quickly disappeared off-camera, but Fred kept 4-year-old Hayden parked on his left leg for six minutes, even as the little angel did everything in her diabolical power to distract the viewer.

She puffed her cheeks. She waved her hands. She counted. She hummed. She sang. She scratched her nose. She bit on her blouse. She scuffed her palms together as if washing her hands of a problem. To her credit, she didn't squirm: She was, in fact, a very well behaved young lady, but like much of America she had not the slightest interest in whatever the candidate was saying.

Children can be excellent political props. Usually they are lined up in front of the politician, or perhaps on risers behind, serving as a kind of bunting. The stagecraft in the Hannity interview was presumably intended by the Thompson campaign to humanize the candidate and soften the image of his wife, who has been the target of accusations that she's more ambitious than he is. Message: I couldn't get a sitter! What professional Mom wouldn't relate?

As for whether she's too involved behind the scenes of the campaign, she said, "I have two kids under 4. I think most people in America understand how much time and effort that takes."

He did not address the child at any point as he went through his talking points. At one point he gave her a disk-like object that she chewed on. She also used it to cover her face. Finally she mounted it on her head like a hat.

The presidential candidate, meanwhile, said ... well, who knows what he said. The kid stole the show. Surely viewers were shouting at the TV screen, "Hand her to the nanny!"

For the interview's second segment, the little girl was gone, but the theme of kids remained: "If I didn't feel like I could be a good father and a good president at the same time, I wouldn't do it," Thompson said. "I want them to know that their daddy always tried to do what was right."

Whatever that might be. Details to come.

--Joel Achenbach

By Washington Post editors  |  October 5, 2007; 6:47 AM ET
Categories:  A_Blog , Joel's Two Cents  
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RE: Mymanjones, who wrote: "Fred was very instrumental in the Nixon resignation. That is legal and political experience you could not purchase. He was hand picked for the job and did it well. The things they said Nixon said about him are not in the Nixon tapes at all. Just folderol made up by who knows?"

A small reality check: although Thompson was one of the Republican counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee, Thompson is reported to have been shuttling back and forth to the Nixon White House "sharing" details of the Senate case against Nixon. Mr. Nixon only had positive things to say about Thompson. Also note that Tennessee Sen. Howard Baker ("what did the President know and when did he know it")felt Thompson was a bit too laid back, and reluctant to deliver the smoking gun against the Nixon White House.

As an actor, Fred Thompson was a pretty good lobbyist, and as politician he makes a great actor.

Posted by: jade7243 | October 8, 2007 3:26 PM | Report abuse

There is no memory like your own. Your mind has the magic touch to keep you in balance on a bicycle for example, however you cannot write a memo for someone else to be in balance. Someone else can ignore the written word and ask you directly, but you still cannot tell them how to ride a bicycle.

An old western gunfighter could draw and fire before his mind had thought about it. Instinct saved his life. We are not computers. You cannot purchase or add on another person's memory to yours, and you certainly can never gain their instinct which exists because of many years of memorable experiences. This is an excellent illustration of why Fred Thompson must be our President.

When Fred was becoming a teen ager Russia exploded the largest bomb in the world, beating a United States held record. A young boy, as Fred was then, would be interested in the world's largest bomb and remember it. Additionally, through the years he may have seen interactions between Iran and Russia for their mutual benefit.

So now, given those memories, he might be wearing his holster a little lower. Call it instinct. Now he can't say these thoughts to every one, so you just don't know that he is thinking and shaping the Iranian situation right now. Age, memory and instinct. What valuable tools for our leader!

Fred was very instrumental in the Nixon resignation. That is legal and political experience you could not purchase. He was hand picked for the job and did it well. The things they said Nixon said about him are not in the Nixon tapes at all. Just folderol made up by who knows?

Fred has worked Capital Hill for years. Who else running for President has such a feel for the pulse of the inner workings of Congress?

The leaders of the world know this man better than anyone in the campaign. He won't have to leave his turf after the inauguration to see them. They will come calling.

The charge that he is lazy has already been aired and broken to pieces. When Fred gets on a mission, he stays up nights until he reaches satisfaction. Many who have worked with him have come forward in Fred's defense.

The man can be as hard as yesterday's biscuits but he can find humor in any situation. Executives and ordinary folks love him. He is going to be the the best world-wide diplomats this planet has ever seen.

He is home spun and diamond bright. Fall for that dumb charge and you will come home with one cheek of your ass missing.

A candidate does not take God to the Presidency, God takes him.

Posted by: mymanjones | October 7, 2007 9:47 AM | Report abuse

I see his granddaughter and great-grandkids in the picture but where is his wife?

Posted by: bartm | October 6, 2007 10:33 PM | Report abuse

This article, like most diatribes against Fred, and like most of the so-called comments that are posted, are nothing but foolishness. Just listen to yourselves: "he's too old -- he's too stupid -- he's lazy -- he doesn't know what he's talking about -- etc, etc, etc. You and others like you are the ones who said the same things about Reagan, who turned out to be pretty darned good. Unlike Hillary and Barack, and Edwards and others on the wrong side of every issue, Fred knows exactly what he is talking about. He refuses to pander to every little piss-ant that comes along begging for some sort of freebie. He will almost certainly become the Republican nominee and , if he does, he will almost certainly defeat the Dumocrat nominee (presumably Hillary, at this point). Then, of course, I suppose we'll have to listen to more of your whining about how the election was stolen and how you're going to unleash all of your lawyer attack dogs to prove it! I'm actually looking forward to your whining after the election, because that will be the first step in guaranteeing that you will lose the election in 2012, also.

Posted by: al36 | October 6, 2007 7:23 PM | Report abuse

Wow. Another hatchet piece on Thompson. The left is REALLY nervous about this guy apparently.
No, Frishoo, if anything the Left is really nervous that this guy WON'T get the nomination. With Fred Thompson as the GOP candidate, Hillary could wipe the floor with him -- wattles and all!

I'm a conservative Republican and I can't figure out why this old, tired coot is even in the race.

Go home, Fred and enjoy your young family while you can!

Posted by: bethtopaz | October 6, 2007 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Hell, you may even see "ole" Fred doing a dog food commercial somewhere down the road. This guy will do almost anything for a buck. Even run for president. Why not? It pays fairly well.

Posted by: billyb-rs1 | October 6, 2007 9:10 AM | Report abuse

We sound like a nation of 3rd graders:

"FT looks like the 'Creature'..."
"McCain looks old as..."
"HRC has /no ankles/a broad beam..."
"Edwards/Romney has hair that..."
"Obama glitters..."
"RG has beady eyes..."
"His wife is an..."

Take these comments back to school, please.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | October 5, 2007 7:15 PM | Report abuse

one word...yuck.

Posted by: deartoni | October 5, 2007 5:31 PM | Report abuse

"By the way, did anyone ever notice how much Fred resembles The Creature from the Black Lagoon? Google it and see for yourself.

Posted by: adrienne_najjar"

That is the truth! All he needs is the little ear-fin thingies. Talk about separated at birth!

"Isn't that a diaphragm?

Posted by: ken_kolb"

Either that, or the lid for Fred's colostomy bag (I hear he uses the 'wide mouth' type).

Posted by: psyberdawg | October 5, 2007 4:15 PM | Report abuse

As a realist, I know a candidate must have a fire in their guts to get that job, and to do it well they need a power bloc to back up their beliefs. Fred does not have the fire. Hillary does. That's not an endorsement, just an impression.

Posted by: Jumper1 | October 5, 2007 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Hmmmm... let me see. Bill choose Hillary and Fred choose Jeri. Who do you think made the better choice? My vote goes to Fred, he's a much better decider. :o)

Posted by: ejohn40 | October 5, 2007 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Thompson was good on Law and Order. He is a good actor but he will not be Reagan. He looks bored, is bored, and would add nothing to the Presidency. Democrats should pray he stays in the race. Charles E. Hopfl

Posted by: hopflcd | October 5, 2007 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Next to his young wife and very young kids, he looks decrepit, although maybe after the last 8 years voters wouldn't mind having a guy who at least appears to have wisdom running the show.

But I think the real story here is the goofy GOP sycophants who take any negative description of a republican (even the relatively light-handed, amiable negativity in this piece) as a "hatchet job." Get a life, doofuses. Joel thinks they're ALL morons, not just the right wingers. And if you read what he writes without your agenda, you'd see that clearly.

Posted by: calamityjake | October 5, 2007 2:23 PM | Report abuse

The good news is your job is still safe because choeffel wrote that he "couldn't have put the state of the Thompson campaign better [himself]." Phew, that's a relief! Keep up meeting the choeffel standard, Joel!

Posted by: meyersp | October 5, 2007 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Isn't that a diaphragm?

Posted by: ken_kolb | October 5, 2007 1:50 PM | Report abuse

You are GREAT!! And soo on and funny.

I love you

Posted by: Angela | October 5, 2007 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Thompson's another empty-headed actor much like Reagan, the monster who initiated the current assault on the middle class. By the way, did anyone ever notice how much Fred resembles The Creature from the Black Lagoon? Google it and see for yourself.

Posted by: adrienne_najjar | October 5, 2007 1:39 PM | Report abuse

I wonder how he feels about corporate welfare. Does he believe in socialism for the corporations like all the other publicans do?

I had some warm fuzzy feelings for Thompson but finally realized that was Joe Don Baker the actor i was thinking of from various parts in movies from a decade or so ago. Those feelings are now not operable.

Posted by: Jumper1 | October 5, 2007 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Hilarious. Makes me want to actually watch him so I can see what he doesn't say.

Posted by: katevigg | October 5, 2007 1:11 PM | Report abuse

great2bavol's comments regarding geezer Fred are almost as comical as the brat on the knee. Lets see, love of family and morals that the left hates....em, would those be the same love of family and morals that wide stance larry craig exhibits, or roll around on the floor in a diaper like a baby senator vitter? Would the love of children that the left wing villifies be evidnced by the love w, the mistake showed when he vetoes medical insurance for children? That's some party you hang with vol, you should be so proud.

Posted by: pgiaquinto | October 5, 2007 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Wow. Another hatchet piece on Thompson. The left is REALLY nervous about this guy apparently. The fact that he is not a power hungry android like Hillary is what makes him appealing. He's real. If you put him up against Hillary in a debate he would flat out DESTROY her.

Just like 2000 and 2004 the liberal media and all you liberal lemmings think you have this election locked up. I love it. See you in 2012 when you'll be singing the same tune.

Posted by: Frishoo | October 5, 2007 12:36 PM | Report abuse

There is nothing about that Sean Hannity interview that didn't creep me out--the trophy wife with the plastered grin, the kids spawned when Thompson was at or near the eligible age for Social Security, the odd theater of trying to discuss his political views while his young daughter bounced and giggled and fingered his wattles.

And then to read the comments of knuckledragging republic party halfwits saying that, in essence, "Fred is the man!"

I pray for Thompson to get the republic party nomination for president. The only demographic that would vote for him would be the mortician and gravediggers' union.

Posted by: castanea | October 5, 2007 12:21 PM | Report abuse

GREAT piece. I submitted it to Digg and Stumble and blogged on it.

Posted by: cupples1 | October 5, 2007 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Geez is he looking old. It'd be better if he posed with some teenage grandkids or greatnieces or nephews. Those kids just make him look like an old-year-welcomes-baby-new-year cartoon.

Posted by: enkidu1 | October 5, 2007 12:16 PM | Report abuse

The media wags could gain a little reality check if they got outside the beltway once in a while.

They, and the 20% of the general populace that are dedicated Democrats, are put off by Thompson.

But at least 50% of the voting public is nauseated by Hillary.

Do the math.

Posted by: gitarre | October 5, 2007 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Fred looked like the Same Old Fred.

But that sexy daughter of his seated next to him looked just plain HOT!


Posted by: tbardancers | October 5, 2007 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Is that his kid or his running mate?

Posted by: dfc102 | October 5, 2007 11:54 AM | Report abuse

The uninformed would think the child id his grand daughter!

Posted by: MacDad | October 5, 2007 11:52 AM | Report abuse

I wish he would stick with the series "Law and Order" rather than try to be the next President. We've had enough of any of the "I'm the decider" bit to last for several election cycles.

Posted by: CoraCollins | October 5, 2007 11:03 AM | Report abuse

He looks like a president. People have seen him play a president in the movies. This is America. Meet your next president.

Posted by: plp1 | October 5, 2007 10:41 AM | Report abuse

"Fred Thompson is a lawyer, a lobbyist, and an actor. That's two more bad things than John Edwards-TWO!" Thank you which also points out "Fred Thompson-he smokes, he drinks, he s1uts it up. But there's some bad things about him too."

Can't seem to come up with an original thought this morning, but from what I've seen of FT he looks like Oakland. "There's no there, there."

Posted by: frostbitten | October 5, 2007 10:03 AM | Report abuse

You have to love the pitiful attacks from the hard left libs. Fred Thompson is a father and husband first and foremost and he is proud of that. I know that family and morals rarely matter to those on the left but for most of America, they do matter. It amazes me to watch a man critized for being a good husband and father. As a father, I have dealt with many situations with my children that have been complicated and I had to work through. Children pick the worst times to say and do the most embarassing things. I'll vote for Fred because he wasn't ashamed of his kids or tried to hide them.

Posted by: gr8t2beavol | October 5, 2007 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Fred who?

Posted by: kbertocci | October 5, 2007 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Thompson talks the talk but doesn't walk the walk. He wants to be Ron Paul but can't fully commit.

Posted by: pop_socket | October 5, 2007 9:08 AM | Report abuse

"If I didn't feel like I could be a good father and a good president at the same time, I wouldn't do it," Thompson said. Isn't the statement counted as a double negative my English teacher asked me not to do? How much younger is Thompson as compared to McCain? Both of them have an uphill fight, for presidency and for life.

Posted by: daiwanlan123 | October 5, 2007 8:36 AM | Report abuse

Pretty sure Fred's campaign is just a ploy to get a better percentage the next time he has to negotiate Law and Order residuals. Why is this guy the great conservative savior? Because Ronnie was an actor too? Gimme a break.

Posted by: yellojkt | October 5, 2007 8:25 AM | Report abuse

I'm just waiting for Fred to name Sam Waterson his Attorney General.


Posted by: Scottynuke | October 5, 2007 8:11 AM | Report abuse

I'd generally rather be boiled in oil than watch a Hannity show but I do wish I'd seen this one!

Posted by: Kim1 | October 5, 2007 8:10 AM | Report abuse

Great column, Joel.

His young family makes him look even older--not wiser, just older.

Posted by: trisha2154 | October 5, 2007 8:01 AM | Report abuse

Looking at that picture my first thought was, my, what a lovely three generation family portrait, but it would be wrong to mention that.

More to the point, from what my conservative coworkers tell me, they don't worry too much about his vim and vigor on the campaign trail. What attracts them is his ideological purity. It's sort of that "yellow dog Democrat" mentality turned on it's head.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | October 5, 2007 7:58 AM | Report abuse

From the reports in WaPo, it sounds as if FT is not taking this race very seriously. He certainly seemed able to handle the press or a crowd when he was Senator.

Does anyone really know what is going on?

I am reminded that it is a demonstrable fact that GWB could speak clearly in '94 but could not by '99. Speculation in TX included the range of notions from "he dumbed down on purpose" to "he suffered some neurological event".

Posted by: mark_in_austin | October 5, 2007 7:38 AM | Report abuse

Amen, Joel! I couldn't have put the state of the Thompson campaign better myself, and using the Hannity interview no less!

Posted by: choeffel | October 5, 2007 7:33 AM | Report abuse

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