Fred Thompson had a chance — several chances — to make a great entrance into the race. He failed. Instead, he made merely a fair-to-middling entrance. His Leno appearance started well, but he has a serious problem with filibustering without good reason. His answers ramble way too much and go on way too long.
His TV commercial and his announcement speech both suffered from serious Bobble-Head-Doll-itis. My gosh, I almost got seasick watching his head jiggle all over the place. And while his substance in all three appearances (Leno, commercial, web speech) was solid, sober, and thoughtful, it also was a rather themeless pudding. It desperately needs better organization, better pacing — and far less monotone. His voice is just terrific for short answers and for one-minute radio commentaries. But over the course of longer answers or of longer speeches, it becomes almost soporific. He DOES keep hitting good points throughout, from a philosophically reassuring position, and a viewer gets the overall impression that he is a man of common-sense and good judgment. But there’s also something a little grating about the overall effect — the monotone, the bobble-head, the huge circles under his eyes, the occasional jowliness that approaches a hang-dog look.
I like him. He has tremendous potential. I think he has the raw material to win the election, and I think his issue stances and thoughtfulness would serve him well in office. I think he’s basically a good man. But he still has yet to prove that he can actually run an organization. His record in the Senate was one of decent voting but only modest accomplishments. I remember being disappointed by his performance in the Senate. Meanwhile, his staff turnover has gone beyond initial growing pains into a serious indicator of something not-quite-right — at the very least, of a callousness about the lives of individuals who would otherwise serve him. If President G.W. Bush can be accused of being TOO loyal to his inner circle, Thompson can rightly be accused of the opposite fault: It’s-all-about-Fred-itis. If people aren’t mere cogs to him — AND if organizational/executive ability is something that he actually possesses — then Thompson needs to show that he knows how to attract AND KEEP good people, and that he knows what he is looking for in the first place so that he doesn’t hire good people who he then kicks out the door merely because he didn’t know what he was looking for.
I think he is a good addition to the race. He might be a good nominee, perhaps the one with the best chance to beat Hillary. He might be a good president. But so far he remains an example of only-partially-tapped potential. And his announcement speech wasn’t flat-out bad, but it was definitely a let-down.