The Man Without Qualities
John Dickerson, on the Chauncey Gardiner of the GOP:
Voters looking for a little proof that Thompson has stuck by [conservative] principles are shown a biographical video before each campaign event. It's on the underwhelming side, though. Thompson's campaign video says he voted for certain conservative pieces of legislation in the Senate. Usually the minimum bid for bragging rights is a bill that a senator either authored or at least co-sponsored. (Even Obama can claim that.) The campaign also makes much of not much in stressing the role Thompson played in shepherding Chief Justice John Roberts through his Senate confirmation battle. Introducing the conservative jurist to former colleagues required finesse and collegiality, but it was hardly a trial by fire. Thompson "was not picked for that job because of his conservative credentials," says one official who was involved in the nomination process. "He was picked because he was inoffensive to Democrat senators and looked good sitting behind Roberts."
Almost like ... an actor, you might say.
Getting specific about what he believes might get Thompson into trouble, so he's remaining vague. "Part of my efforts is not to get down in the weeds in a particular province in Iraq," he said. When I asked him about his plans for Social Security, he was even blurrier. Though he repeatedly blamed Washington politicians for not acknowledging the dire fiscal condition of entitlements, he said he wouldn't be talking about any of the hard trade-offs required to restructure Social Security or Medicare. "It's not necessary at this stage of the game to say exactly what you would insist upon or not insist upon; it would be counterproductive," he said. "You don't have to get down and say precisely the particular trade-offs. Everybody knows the potential array of things that are on the table. It is like most of the big problems in Washington. It's not a matter of lack of knowledge or picking the right mix. It's a matter of will."
And, of course, of being there when the strong wind blows.
I'm being hard on Thompson of late, as you may have noticed. I think it's more than justified, despite - or, really, because of - the fact that his substance-free Papa Bear schtick isn't exactly hurting him at the polls. At some point, one hopes, the unbearable lightness of his candidacy will catch up to him, but for now it's working like gangbusters. If you can get close to first place in the polls without saying anything even vaguely controversial, well, why would you say anything at all?