The Weekly Standard’s Andrew Ferguson has a must read column on why Fred Thompson’s campaign failed…and why it shouldn’t have failed. Here’s a delicious sample of Ferguson’s thinking:

The man or woman who seeks out such a life and enjoys its discomforts is not normal. Not crazy necessarily, but not normal, and probably, when the chips are down, not to be trusted, especially when the purpose of it all is to acquire power over other people (also called, in the delicate language of contemporary politics, “public service” or “getting things done on behalf of the American people”). The case is made, in defense of the contemporary campaign, that this is an efficient if unlovely way to choose leaders: It winnows out those who lack the stamina and discipline necessary to lead a rich, large, powerful, and complicated country. By this argument, Thompson failed because he deserved to.

But the 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.

Fred Thompson probably feels terrible at the moment, but he should be honored to be in Ford’s company.

Frankly, I was upset that Fred didn’t garner more votes than he did. I’m more upset with the way the media gave his campaign less attention than they’d give a leper. Most of all, I’m upset with right-of-center commentators who talked endlessly about the latest poll, the candidates’ cash on hand and other horserace-related topics while ignoring the candidates’ qualifications.

To this day, I’m still convinced that Fred Thompson was the most over-qualified presidential candidate since Reagan. To this day, I’m upset that conservatives, who say that the GOP has to be the party of ideas, ignored Fred like he was the Invisible Man.

After the 2006 midterm elections, analysts said that it was an “ideology-free campaign.” I said that the GOP had to return to being the party of ideas. That’s what I’ve devoted the last 14 months to. On issue after issue, I’ll bet that Fred would’ve drawn a sharp, compelling contrast between the Democrats’ position and the GOP’s position.

Conversely, the least-qualified candidate was Mike Huckabee. Simply put, his smartalecky answers were seen as amusing, which garnered him some attention. Frankly, I’ve never even thought of the Huckster as a second tier candidate, much less a first tier candidate.

One theory I have about why Fred didn’t do as well as some thought he would is because the GOP focused on being a big tent party that it forgot to be a principled big tent party. The GOP got so enamored with the majority that they tossed aside the principles that brought the GOP to the doorstep of being the majority party for a generation.

Another theory I have about the GOP’s rejection of Fred Thompson is their not understanding what the pillars of conservatism is built with. At its core, the three essential pillars of Reaganite conservatism were liberty, liberty and liberty. Fred understood that we needed a strong national defense strategy to keep us a free nation. Fred understood that we needed to keep taxes and spending low to give individuals economic liberty. Fred understands that Americans cherish personal freedom, which is why small l libertarianism is part of the Reaganite-Goldwater model.

Views like these might have earned another candidate a reputation for “straight talk”, maybe even the title of “maverick.” But Thompson was more subversive than that; he was an existential maverick, and his campaign was an implicit rebuke to the system in its entirety. He was a man out of his time. With its reduced metabolism and procedural modesty, his campaign still might have served as an illustration of what politics once was like and, if we have the audacity to hope, might be again. After all, by the standards of a century ago, Thompson was a whirligig.

The best thing that could happen to the GOP is for the next generation of GOP leaders to be Fred Thompson intellectual heavyweights. That’ll take lots of work because intellects like Fred don’t come along everyday. Let’s illustrate that by playing a little word association with the candidates.

The first word I think of when I hear McCain’s name is panderer. (The second is stubborn.) The first word I think of when I hear Huckabee’s name is socialist. The first word I think of when I hear Ron Paul’s name is either Neptune or Pluto. The first word I think of when I hear Mitt’s name is flip-flopper. The first word I think of when I hear Fred’s name is gravitas. The first word I think of when I hear Giuliani’s name is 9/11.

That should’ve been the big indicator as to who was best equipped to be the GOP nominee. Unfortunately, the first states allowed open voting, meaning that liberals could pick candidates as unqualified as Mike Huckabee and as liberal as John McCain.

It’s time we started picking serious candidates that would’ve tied the Hillary Clintons and Barack Obamas of the world in knots. That’s what Fred gave us. Which of the last debates, from the ‘Schoolmarm’ debate in Iowa to the ABC debate in New Hampshire to the FNC debate in South Carolina wasn’t Fred the smartest man on the stage? That string of impressive debates was nothing less than an intellectual drubbing by Fred.

While the other candidates each settled into their niches, Fred owned the stage. National security credentials? Check. Fiscal conservative? Yep. Federalist? Definitely. Immigration hardliner? Without a doubt.

The most-repeated ‘criticism’ of Fred was his……style. We were insulted by people who said that Fred didn’t have a fire in his belly. PHHHFTTT!!!! Give me a brilliant man who’s thought through the important issues of the day over a politician with fire in their belly anytime. That isn’t a difficult decision.

Finally, my hope is that we’ll take Fred Thompson, and like-minded politicians, seriously the next time around.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

6 Responses to “Three Cheers For Fred Thompson”

  • Dave Thul says:

    Now that Fred’s out, who do think is next best? McCain’s out for me, as well as Huckabee. Guiliani’s probably done unless he storms Florida, so that leaves me with Romney.
    All in all, I’d say my excitement in this race just dropped by half with Fred’s exit.

  • Gary Gross says:

    I’ll probably support Mitt but they’re all vastly inferior candidates than Fred. There’s a reason why he mopped the floor with their backsides in the last 4 debates. It’s because he was the vastly superior candidate.

  • spacemonkey says:

    I am through holding my nose.

    I’m still voting Fred Thompson, Primary and General.

  • Tracy says:

    You missed a few crucial details. Having Iowa and New Hampshire set the tone for the entire process just doesn’t work anymore. Huckabee is proof that a small agricultural state and a smaller state so stupid that their quarter icon no longer exists are not working anymore. We need a larger state early with closed primaries.

    Our selection process virtually quarantees that we get crap each time.

  • Leo Pusateri says:

    IMO, the whole primary system is a sham, and needs to be re-worked on a national basis.

    With the ability of both parties to gerry-rig the others’ primary elections, the outcomes have absolutely nothing to do with the will of the rank and file of the respective parties.

    I heard yesterday that McCain was counting on the support of democrats and independents. He knows he can’t win via the rank and file of the Republican party.

    The rank and file, via the primary process, is effectively disenfranchised.

  • Sam says:

    Leo,
    While the primary system is not perfect, neither is your suggestion of a state nominating convention.

    In MN, many remember the strong arm twisting of the local state legislators over their constituents on the floor, to ensure that their man and colleague Tim Pawlenty would win.
    This was over the objections and pleas of many who felt that Tim would not hold true to conservative values and instead tend toward finding a moderate compromise.

    The legislators won and MN conservatives lost.

    Fred’s problem was not the primary system, if you notice he never polled above the votes he got in any state with Republicans.

    I think maybe the problem lies more in the media for nomination.
    The focus on polls and the sham debates. I would rather see a real discussion of three issues, then these hour long poll shows “Who wants to win the war” – show of hands, “Who want to lower taxes” – show of hands.

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