Not the first time we’ve heard this spin from the ‘Heads and it won’t be the last, since it pulls off the neat trick of not only presenting Fred as a dignified descendant of the Founding Fathers but placing the blame for his failure squarely on an electorate that caters to tireless pandering cretins like Hillary Clinton. It’s not his fault he failed, it’s yours — although where that leaves, say, Mitt Romney, I’m not quite sure.
The traditional restraint of old-time presidential candidates wasn’t arrogance or sanctimoniousness, the twin accusations that wised-up politicos made against Thompson during the campaign. There was a philosophical component to it too: By not seeming overeager–no matter how eager they were–candidates paid tribute to the democratic idea that political power is best sought, taken on, and used reluctantly. It was also a matter of seemliness, and Thompson, alone among recent candidates, felt its pull. In his stump speech he often mentioned George Washington, once a staple of political rhetoric for his willingness to walk away from the power that was thrust upon him. Today Washington’s restraint seems nothing more than an archaism. And by extolling it Thompson sounded merely odd…
[T]he opposite case is easier to make–that the modern campaign excludes anyone who lacks the narcissism, cold-bloodedness, and unreflective nature that the process requires and rewards. In his memoir -Greenspan remarks that of the seven presidents he has known well, the only one who was “close to normal” was Jerry Ford. And, as Greenspan points out, Ford was never elected.
Exit question: Mitt Romney, abnormality?
Update: The Wizard, himself no stranger to the workings of early 20th-century campaigns, weighs in: “Fred Thompson thought he could announce nearly half a year after his Republican competitors and succeed with a 21st-century version of William McKinley’s front-porch campaign — based on personality and lack of enthusiasm for all the other candidates. But you can’t waltz in late, work less than anyone and expect to light a prairie fire. People want to see you sweat and bleed for the most important job in the world. Getting in late means too few workers, talkers, phoners, askers, walkers and raisers to turn your personality and agenda, no matter how attractive, into victory.”