Posted by Brad @ 12:25 am on May 31st 2007

The Achilles Heel of Fred Thompson

And why none of the current GOP frontrunners are in any position to exploit it.

On Iraq, Thompson voted to authorize the invasion in 2002 and now opposes setting a timetable to withdraw U.S. troops. Still, his fortunes aren’t as inextricably tied to the war as those of McCain, one of the war’s leading defenders.

In any case, Thompson argues that Republicans lost control of the House and Senate in November not because of the war but because of out-of-control spending and unrestrained partisanship. What’s surprising is that Democrats didn’t gain more ground, he says.

“It’s been kind of a pox on both your houses,” he says.

Now, I’m not one to minimize the importance of spending (though I will minimize “unrestrained partisanship”; has there been an election year in the history of American politics that this wasn’t a milquetoast answer for what Americans don’t like about current politicians?). But that’s a pretty damn interesting read of the 2006 election, which started with Joe Lieberman losing his party ID and the Republicans losing both houses of congress. Maybe a significant chunk of GOP voters stayed home over Big Government Republicanism, but I’m guessing most “centrist” voters didn’t pull the lever for Democrats in the hopes that they’d reign in spending.

Fred Thompson should do well when he enters the race, and he may well soak up some small government conservatives. But, ultimately, he doesn’t distinguish himself in any way from the Republican front-runners on Iraq and National Security, and none of THEM distinguish themselves from President Bush in any way once they hit the general election. What took the Republicans INTO the majority was national security and Iraq. What took them OUT of the majority were the same issues, or at least it’s pretty hard to argue that wasn’t a huge part of it.

And, for some insane reason, this remains unclear to all the Republican candidates save Paul, which is why they’re going to be very poorly set for the general race. And if this month in the race looks similar to, say, January 08, when voting begins, it might not even matter that much. But more Iraq battles are in the pipeline, set to break at just about the same time that Fred Thompson hopes to surge, and it’s hard to see how the landscape is going to MORE favorable at that time to a pro-surge pro-unending and vapid commitment, and when that happens and the country looks at the current candidates for their vision of the way forward…what’s the selling point for Fred? Say what you will about McCain or Giuliani, but at least they’ve got something of a vision (albeit terrible ones: McCain as constant True Believer, Giuliani as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld mighty morphed into one hideous, lumbering beast).

What about Fred?

2 Comments »

  1. Realistically, one would expect the Republican candidates to make their decisive breaks from the Bush strategy on Iraq AFTER securing the nomination. And mark my words, whichever one of them does get the nomination, they’ll make that move.

    I don’t know why they’d be expected to make the break now, though. There appears to be no real constituency for that within the Republican party. If there were, Paul wouldn’t be polling at zero percent.

    Comment by Rojas — 5/31/2007 @ 1:37 pm

  2. I think that goes without saying, that they make the switch after the primary is over. The problem is they’ll have a damn hard time doing it successfully. If both major candidates go anti-Bush war, the Republican candidate who spent an enormously long primary season being pro is going to have a hard time having any legitimacy.

    I don’t believe that there’s no constituency for the anti-war position within the Republican party, it’s just that nobody is playing to it. About 30% of REPUBLICANS can reasonably described as anti-war. That’s a big chunk for a field this crowded, particularly when every other candidate in the race is indistinguishable on their war stances. You’d be competing with Ron Paul and Ron Paul only, for 30% of the vote, and most candidates looking for a way ahead would have to like their chances in that fight.

    Btw, last New York poll has Ron Paul at 2% in that state now, ahead of every other minor candidate save, weirdly, Tommy Thompson (4%). Hell, only 5 points behind Mitt Romney.

    Comment by Brad — 5/31/2007 @ 3:50 pm

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