Open Letter to Fred Thompson - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Open Letter to Fred Thompson

You, sir, have a serious responsibility to fulfill. When there were a number of other conservatives considering whether they should try to fill the void in the Republican presidential field, you stepped forward and said you were the one. You said you had the fire in the belly. You sucked all the air out of the atmosphere on the right. In doing so, you pledged to run a different kind of campaign.

But if you are going to be the big man on the right, you can’t be lazy. Yet you have been so. You have a responsibility to bone up on basic local issues of national import. Any old moron should know, for instance, that you can’t go into Florida without having at least thought about what you would say if asked about Terri Schiavo or about the Everglades.

Moreover, what your campaign has offered so far has been a themeless pudding. Nobody in the race has done as good a job as you have of identifying basic, fundamental principles. I truly believe that you truly believe, on a theoretical level, the things I believe in: limited government domestically, federalism, a strong defense, time-honored standards of behavior, et cetera. But nobody in the race has done a worse job than you have at giving any idea of how you would put these principles into practice. Platitude follows upon platitude upon platitude, until you start to give the sense that you’re a creature that would look utterly ungainly if you tried to actually implement real policies — a platitudinous platypus, perhaps, unsure if you actually have the right equipment to swim in the rough political waters.

What catalyzes this letter is a campaign phone call I received last night. A bright young woman calling on behalf of your campaign in northern Virginia asked if I would mind listening to a message from you. Well, certainly. And then your voice came on. You said you wanted to return power to the people, to good old regular folks like me. You said it was time to take the power away from the politicians in Washington. You said we needed to return to a government of common sense. You said something about emphasizing our conservative values. And you thanked me for listening.

And that was it. There was as much substance as cotton candy, except that it was like stale, three-week-old cotton candy because the phrases were so pathetically hackneyed.

Well, senator, the overall effect was virtually an insult to my intelligence. A drunk Hollywood hack writing for a third-rate sitcom could have typed out those exact same words while in the midst of delirium tremens, as an intentional parody of what a hack conservative politician sounds like. Hacks know how to sound like hacks under almost any circumstance.

And this wasn’t some campaign volunteer reading a script. It was a recording you yourself produced. It was what you thought the ordinary voter would want to hear. But come on, senator: Do you really think the ordinary voter is that stupid? The things you said are the sorts of things a candidate says as part of verbal transitions to the real meat, the real substance, of his message. They are not the sorts of things that are substantive in themselves.

Look, the truth is that I would like to see your campaign catch fire. Conservatives all over the country are hoping you catch fire. But you can’t catch fire if you don’t even carry a match or any kindling. You come across as unprepared, soporific, and vague. And you are blowing an excellent chance to inspire a movement on behalf of making you president of the United States.

Stop coasting, sir. Start sharpening your language. Start working on your delivery of formal speeches: What works in one-minute radio commentaries and on radio talk shows does not work from behind a podium. What works from the back of a pickup truck does not work in front of people in suits eating dinner.

Can you still win this nomination? Definitely. But right now you are squandering not just your own presidential aspirations, but the faith that conservatives put in you this past spring when you assured us that you were “the one.” It’s called “running” for the presidency, sir, and right now all you’re doing is ambling. You can do better. And you better start soon.

Yours truly,

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