Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Fred Thompson for President? No Sam Waterston for President, Fred Thompson for Best Friend

I thought immediately of that old joke from 1966 when I read that Fred Thompson was running for President. The joke in 1966 was directed against Ronald Reagan and went, "Ronald Reagan for governor? No. Jimmy Stewart for governor, Ronald Reagan for best friend." Even Reagan himself told his conservative backers initially that he didn't know that he would make a good governor because he had never played a governor. Eventually, as Reagan played governor and president, the "joke" turned out to be a pretty grisly one against the American people and the people of the world.

Ronald Reagan was a movie and television actor who became a politician railing against the "political establishment. Fred Thompson was a staff lawyer for the Republicans during the Watergate conspiracy hearings and after a stint as an actor a Senator from Tennessee which was probably a stepping stone to his president gig, where he plays a Southern DA of New York City on the long running "agit prop" (which is what the old anti-left cultural critics would call it because it is based on people making speeches at each other, although not often from a progressive perspective) TV series, Law and Order, which has also had in the contemporary corporate tradition, a number of spinoffs and is called by contemporary critics a "franchise."

Fred Thompson replaced the actress Dianne Wiest who in turn replaced the actor Steven Hill as the New York DA in the series. Steven Hill was in the 1960s replaced by Peter Graves on the Mission Impossible Series and Peter Graves was the brother of James Arness, the star of Gunsmoke, the longest running television series in U.S. history, which Law and Order is now challenging for longevity.

There are important questions that Fred Thompson must answer if one is to take his presidential candidacy seriously. First, why isn't Sam Waterston, the major male lead on Law and Order and a fine actor who has portrayed Abraham Lincoln on television running? Also, since Dennis Weaver, who played Chester on Gunsmoke and later played McCloud, a Western law man working with the NYPD in a 1970s TV series and was also a much better actor than Thompson, what about him. What about Robert Blake, also a much better actor with a much better resume than Thompson who was recently acquitted of murder charges. And finally, what about Steven Hill? Is he always to play second fiddle (I personally thought that he was at least as good an actor as Peter Graves and a much better one than Thompson.

Thompson doesn't look like a president. He looks a little like a scowling Dixiecrat Joe McCarthy and the Republicans are filled with Joe McCarthys in a year when the "liberal candidate" seems to to the bullying authoritarian former Mayor of NY (in a sad reality) Rudy You Know Who. Wouldn't it make more sense if Thompson rand for Mayor of New York, given his present position (which is what, in reality, if there is any reality in all of this).

Thompson is running as a rightwinger which among Republicans is like carrying coal to New Castle. Thompson is running against the immigration bill and has attacked left film-maker Michael Moore's coming documentary, Sicko, about the disaster that is the U.S. health care system, even though Thompson hasn't seen it, and of course, globally,most people know that the system is a disaster and the film is probably the least controversial that Moore has ever made.

So Fred Thompson is running for President and that is really pretty silly. Let me conclude this blog piece by saying something positive about Fred Thompson. He would probably be an improvement over the present President. But, one might also say that about Herbert Hoover, Chester A. Arthur, and even Franklin Pierce.

In any case, the line between fiction and reality in U.S. politics was blurred along time ago. Thompson's campaign is yet another example of Karl Marx famous dictum about history repeating itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.

At least Thompson won't be playing Karl Marx in a made for television movie.

--Norman Markowitz

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