Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Fred Thompson Hype Builds

It's starting to go mainstream--not just in major conservative venues like NRO or the Weekly Standard, but in major publications like the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.

I've said before, and will probably say again, that I'm undecided on Thompson. (At this point, the only person other than Thompson I could see myself voting for is McCain, who has in my mind clearly distanced himself from the rest of the currently declared GOP candidates.) Yes, everything looks and sounds good--but Thompson has been carefully controlling every aspect of the pre-campaign so far. The closest he's come to outside scrutiny at this point in time is his public spat with Michael Moore--hardly a thorough vetting.

More to the point, I can recall two other candidates in the last four presidential campaigns to garner this kind of early hype: Howard Dean in 2004, and Ross Perot in 1992. Both looked good, both started strong--and both eventually melted under the spotlight, self-destructing in spectacular fashion.

There is a difference--the Thompson hype, unlike that surrounding Dean or Perot, seems to be as much about the candidate's character as the candidate's policies--but the main point remains. There is no other venue that offers such intense, hostile, often blatantly unfair scrutiny as a presidential campaign. Nothing else comes even close--not acting careers, not races for lesser office, nothing.

I'm open to Fred Thompson making his case. But until he proves that he can take the heat--until he actually gets into the race, takes the opposition's best shots, and we see whether he's still standing afterward--I am not and will not be sold on him as a candidate.


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