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Wrong Again, Sager

But he [Fred Thompson] has one advantage over the former governor: He didn’t just come to these positions over the last year or so, in a “Road to Des Moines” conversion. ~Ryan Sager

No one would be more thrilled than I to see Romney’s campaign abruptly collapse into a shambles, but Sager’s analysis, as usual, leaves a lot to be desired.  Let’s start with basic facts.  Fred Thompson ran as a pro-choice candidate in both of his runs for office.  Our man in Tennessee, A.C. Kleinheider, has the goods (via Evangelicals for Mitt).  If Thompson has had a Romney-like change of mind, it would have to have happened in the last five years, which would put him in basically the same spot Romney is in.  Perhaps he could claim that his conversion predated his campaign maneuvering, since he had not given much thought to a presidential run prior to this year, which is something that Romney cannot claim.  If Thompson were still pro-choice, then I really wouldn’t be able to understand the Fred Thompson buzz.  Have things reached such a point where the new definition of “the next Ronald Reagan” is “some second-rate actor”?

The biggest problem with all of this is the idea that Fred Thompson is some kind of political hot commodity who will blow away the weaker members of the field.  Politically speaking, he has about as much influence and clout as Joe Scarborough.  No offense to Scarborough, but if he were to run for President he would not be in any danger of overtaking the majority of the field.  Thompson may have a little more name recognition, or at least face recognition, than most of his lower-level competitors, but he has absolutely no rationale for his candidacy that could not be applied equally to one of the second-tier candidates.  As Kaus noted, quite correctly, Thompson doesn’t really bring anything to the table.  In terms of accomplishments and tenure in the Senate, Thompson is a sort of balding, male version of Hillary Clinton.  Comparatively, Tommy Thompson, whose candidacy induces snickers in all of us, probably should be taken much more seriously as an experienced, successful reformist governor from a political battleground region, but for reasons unknown he is relegated to that dark and dreary corner of the presidential field where he doesn’t even get mentioned in most discussions of the candidates.  Of course his candidacy is ridiculous, not least because he has been out of real political circulation for years, but then so is the would-be candidacy of Fred Thompson.

Sager does acknowledge some of Thompson’s flaws, and notes:

Third, while Mr. Thompson has an actor’s flair for talking plain and talking tough, it’s not entirely clear what qualifies him to lead a nation at war with worldwide Islamic fundamentalism.

That’s very true, but then it isn’t at all clear what qualifies Giuliani to do the very same thing, yet for some reason large numbers of people are convinced that he is qualified in some mysterious way.

Why would Ryan Sager, besides his habit of poor political analysis, buy into the Fred Thompson myth even a little bit?  My bet is that he would encourage anything that would help torpedo one of the declared social conservative candidates in the race.  Even though Romney is a fraud, he is a fraud pretending to be a social conservative, and Ryan Sager regards social-cons as the cause of Republican defeat and conservative woes generally, and so it is quite understandable that Sager would look to encourage anything that might help knock off one of the putative social conservative candidates currently in the race.

Query: does anyone know off-hand what Fred Thompson’s views on amnesty and immigration policy are?  He left the Senate just after Mr. Bush had already started floating an amnesty proposal, so he may not be on the record about it.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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