Who the heck is Fred Thompson?

Fred Thompson is officially in the running for President in 2008. When you talk to people about who the Republicans will end up selecting, they frequently say that Fred Thompson will step in at the last moment and snatch up the nomination. Apparently, Fred Thompson has stepped in. This leaves one pressing question. Who the heck is Fred Thompson?

Many know Fred Thompson as the guy who plays the guy on Law and Order. Apparently he was also a Tennessee senator a few years back. A few years before that, he was part of the Watergate commission.

Here’s a brief bio for anybody who doesn’t want to read the full story. Thompson was the all-American kid. He played football, goofed off in class, and knocked up and married the local beauty queen, all when he was sixteen. He went to college, dropped out for financial reasons, took three jobs, and returned to college hoping to be a high-school gym teacher. He changed his mind (and major) and went to Vanderbilt Law School. Eventually he represented the Republicans on the Watergate committee. He got into Hollywood with his brilliant portrayal of… himself. Perhaps due in part to the stress of Hollywood, he ended up divorced. Eventually he got back into politics (as a favor to a friend) and won a Senate seat. He got sick of politics and didn’t run for reelection. Somewhere in there he married his second wife, who apparently really wants to be a first lady. Now he’s running for President.

Fred Thompson has a distinguished—or at least distinctive—appearance. What do you get when you cross Rudy Giuliani with Don Corleone?

Fred Thompson!

On the other hand, if height is really the most accurate predictor of who will win an election, Thompson is 6’6”. He has sort of a Final Boss appearance to him. He looks like he’d be comfortable commanding thugs—and if you somehow got past all the thugs he’d take you on himself, probably by throwing cruise missiles or something.

He’s also serious about staying in Iraq. His quote on the issue: “Right now, we need to make every effort to make sure that we don’t get run out of there with our tails between our legs.”

Thompson supported the war in Iraq. He thinks mistakes have been made since we went in, but he doesn’t think we should leave.

If you’re an environmentalist, you probably won’t be a big Thompson supporter. Fred Thompson, in a recent radio address, recently mocked the liberal shout that “all the science is in” on Global Warming. On one hand, there’s no harm in a bit of additional research. It may be that the global warming is a natural thing—and at least he’s past the stage of denying it. On the other hand, no scientist ever denied that the planet has gone through various warming and cooling phases. In the past these have led to mass extinctions. Whether or not the primary contributor to global warming is SUVs, the consequences of global warming are still potentially disastrous. Even Bush has grudgingly recognized a need to address climate change if we don’t want to go the way of the trilobite. Thompson’s radio address was meant to be humorous—and it was, so I won’t take it as a policy statement, but I do hope that any future Presidential candidate can offer positive leadership on climate change rather than pandering to global warming deniers.

On illegal immigration, Thompson has the typical conservative stance. He’s at least willing to admit the problem is a difficult one—but cutting down those who are attempting to solve it without offering an alternative is hardly productive.

On the typical social issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and the rest, Thompson seems to hold a solid Republican line. However, if you look through some of his radio addresses, he doesn’t bank on the social issues in the same way as some on the right do (Say, Brownback, Tancredo, Santorum).

The typical criticism of Thompson is that he is lazy. This may or may not be true. If Thompson doesn’t like kissing babies or pretending to be interested in butter cows, that may not be a disadvantage. He can focus on the gruffness and leave the smarminess to Mitt Romney.

Finally, Richard Nixon gave Thompson a stellar recommendation: “Oh, sh*t, that kid?”

Conclusions? Fred Thompson is essentially a Ronald Regan conservative. He likes freedom, free markets, and state’s rights. To conservatives who are vaguely creeped out by the neo-imperialistic model of the Bush presidency or by the moralistic-nut-jobbery of the religious right, Fred Thompson offers an attractive third option. He’s waited a long time to get into the race—and at this point, the Republicans aren’t really happy about any of their options. Within the next week or so, his campaign will probably either sizzle or fizzle. While a few supporters think he might be the next Ronald Regan, most of his support comes from the “Anybody But Giuliani, Romney, or McCain” group. As Thompson steps into the spotlight, we’ll see if that bulk of supporters becomes “Anybody But Giuliani, Romney, McCain, or Thompson”.