Thompson Redux

Fred Thompson does, of course, have some assets in his quest for the White House -- he's divorced, for example, like all good Republicans. And more to the point, he's a good television performer especially in the context of Senate hearings. He got his start in the public eye as minority counsel on the Watergate committee and his major role in the GOP caucus was to preside over the endless, pointless investigations of the Clinton administration and to show up on cable shows. He's pretty good at it. That said, presidential candidates don't actually spend much time on television in that way. He'll almost certainly have the best Meet The Press performance of everyone in the race, but his setpiece oratory is nothing to write home about.

More to the point, though, the generic conservative Republican the GOP wants to nominate is a generic conservative Republican governor. A 1990s-vintage generic conservative Republican Senator like Thompson is going to have a poisonous voting record, chock full of efforts to take grandma's health care away and dump toxic sewage into your backyard. It is absolutely, vitally crucial to the Republican Party's electoral prospects to obscure its basic slash-and-burn mentality, and that means people with a Gingrich-era voting record are no good. An unconventional Republican like John McCain might be able to wriggle away from his roll call votes and be defined by something else, but Thompson managed to be in the Senate for decent stretch of time without developing any signature issues or anything -- there's nothing to define him but his voting record.