Mark Steyn sees a definite upside to Fred Thompson's "laid-back" attitude:
...Contemporary politics is all about phony energy, about running around slamming doors for the sake of it — or, more to the point, opening them and tossing through a huge sack of taxpayer dollars. South of the border, presidential candidate and actor Fred Thompson is currently under fire for being too "laid-back." His debate performances are said to be "undercaffeinated." A barely discernible pause at the start of one answer was reported by the play-by-play pundits as a "senior moment."
Touted by his promoters as the new Reagan, Thompson has apparently inherited all the old Reagan's flaws. He, too, was famously lethargic, and said to doze off during afternoon briefings: in long cabinet meetings, he was prone to be prone within 10 minutes, etc. President Reagan never denied it: "They say hard work never killed anyone," he remarked, "but I figure, why take the chance?" He did, though, confess during a particularly fraught government crisis to "burning the midday oil." Ronald Reagan succeeded a chief executive who was the very definition of "phony energy," and whose failed presidency remains a monument to the folly of confusing perpetual activity with energy. In contrast to Jimmy Carter, Reagan came to office with the most fully formed political philosophy of any recent president. He had thought profoundly about the role of government and its relationship to individual liberty, and, crucially, had formed his views while doing other stuff.
Steyn helpfully points out, if after the fact, that Mitt Romney should have taken advantage of a senior moment himself:
So what I look for in a candidate is, first, an absence of phony energy and, second, signs of real energy. I can live with a Fred Thompson "senior moment" compared to most of the alternatives. In that same debate, the more damaging answer came from Mitt Romney in response to an arcane hypothetical about whether bombing Iran required congressional approval. "You sit down with your attorneys," began the former governor. "We're going to let the lawyers sort out what we needed to do and what we didn't need to do." There was no pause. Romney just rushed in to fill the dead air with all the frantic energy of an old-school disc jockey whose traffic jingle has jammed. And, as a consequence, a war-on-terror hawk came over like a Kerryesque legalistic ass-coverer. A "senior moment" to collect his thoughts might have helped.
Bill Clinton had plenty of phony energy, maybe it's a Democrat(ic) thing:
As for phony energy, consider Bill Clinton. Back in 1998, when he was fending off the first few months of the Monica business, President Clinton used to say that much as he'd like to resign, hand over to Al Gore and sit on the beach all day, he had no choice but to accept the burdens of office and "get back to working for the American people." There wasn't a single morning, he assured the public, that he didn't wake up thinking about how he could make life better for the American people. I'm a foreigner, so it's hardly my place to tell the American people that the best response to this is: "oh, bugger off, you neo-monarchical narcissist." The founding principle of the republic is that the American people are perfectly capable of making life better for themselves, and all you wannabe-king types need to do is get out of the way.
Get out of the way. Try telling that to Hillary Clinton.
One of the critical questions for Republicans, at least this one, is which candidate can beat Hillary. Do we have a conservative candidate, a true conservative, who can defeat her? Maybe we do. I agree with Mark Steyn, I can live with Thompson's so-called "senior moment", especially compared to the alternatives. Fred Thompson is the real deal in this race. Mitt Romney is a fine candidate but when it comes to conservative credentials Thompson himself says it best: "I was a proud conservative yesterday, I remain one today, and I will be one tomorrow".
There is no perfect candidate and there's nothing wrong with our party having a "Big Tent", not everyone is going to agree on everything. But we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater because we fear losing to Hillary. In 1980 Ronald Reagan carried 44 states with 489 electoral votes, beating Jimmy Carter in a landslide. The landslide was even more impressive in 1984 when he defeated Walter Mondale.
The upcoming primary process won’t be easy for any of the contestants. Smart and capable, New York’s Rudy Giuliani has a head start in the polls and fund raising. Sen. John McCain is a genuine American hero and a patriot. Gov. Mitt Romney is articulate and passionate about his politics.
But Fred Thompson can win.
I agree. What a difference a day makes.