But He’s So Charismatic

23:24 Mon 10 Sep 2007
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It probably wasn’t a good idea to start the day with this piece on Fred Thompson trying to pass himself off as a “regular guy”.

It’s so telling, and pathetic, that the Republicans are looking to someone who played someone with gravitas and character on television for their Presidential election hopes. I don’t know what Thompson’s chances of taking the nomination are, but they’re significantly greater than zero. Yes, in part this is due to the terrible field this year, but there’s another, more depressing, reason: so many Americans are still willing to believe in television personas as indicative of real personality. Further, they’re willing to believe things like “He’s everybody’s dad. He’s everybody’s grandpa. He just is a likable person.” They put this assessment ahead of, say, an examination of policies—which is a good thing, really, as Thompson appears to be avoiding policy statements as much as possible. How do his supporters respond to that? Like this: “It really doesn’t matter what issue is at hand as long as he has the fundamentals and the principles to make the right decision”.

In other words, character is what’s important. And because he “looks presidential”, and can apparently pass himself off as someone who’s like “everyone’s grandfather”, he’s clearly qualified to be President.

I shouldn’t be surprised by this. It’s worked in this country for years. It’s also quite possible that it won’t work this time, that the political environment has changed enough. But that it works enough with anyone for Thompson to even be considered a serious contender is nonetheless still quite painful and sad. It makes me want to shake his supporters out of the stupor that my heart believes they must be in, but I don’t think that really works.

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