Thompson's fine, but what's wrong with the other guys?


WASHINGTON -- There's a vacuum in the GOP, we keep hearing, and Republicans aren't quite satisfied with their presidential choices.

Apparently, neither a veteran senator-war hero, nor a Harvard MBA/JD corporate governor, nor even a law-and-order, 9/11 mayor is good enough for the Red Staters. There's just something missing.

And what, one wonders, might that be? Exactly what would fill the alleged GOP void?

Just Fred.

Thompson, that is. The actor who doesn't act, Mr. Thompson is tall and big; he talks straight, drives a truck and is "wunna-us." A bootstrap American with take-it-or-leave-it charisma, he's got smarts and the kind of steely gaze you'd like to see aimed at al-Qaida.

His resume has all the right bullet points: lawyer, chief minority counsel for the Senate Watergate Committee, a U.S. senator who ran hearings on campaign finance controversies while chairman of the Senate government affairs committee from 1997 to 2001.

When Mr. Thompson spoke recently to the Orange County (Calif.) Lincoln Club's annual dinner, he came across as sincere, honest and straightforward - all the traits Americans crave in a candidate. The former Tennessee senator is polling in the top three among Republican candidates even though he's not officially running for president.

But is Mr. Thompson really the GOP savior? And more to the point, does the GOP really need one?

The truth is, the Republican Party has one of its strongest lineups ever. Yet one would think from polls showing that a third of Republicans are dissatisfied with their choices that they were stuck with a roster of has-beens and also-rans.

The top three among those who have declared their candidacies - Rudolph W. Giuliani, John McCain and Mitt Romney - are nobody's leftovers. Or anyone's audience. They're all leading men who belong to the thinly populated genre of sui generis - one of a kind.

Mr. Giuliani, America's mayor, was on Sept. 11, 2001, what Franklin D. Roosevelt was on Dec. 7, 1941. Before 9/11, Mr. Giuliani transformed one of the most dangerous cities in America into one of the safest. He cleaned up Times Square and took on Wall Street, the Teamsters and organized crime.

Still, he's not quite hot enough?

Mr. McCain is as true a war hero as they come, having been a POW for five years in North Vietnam's infamous Hanoi Hilton. When he was offered an early release because of his family's influence, he declined, opting to stay with his fellow American prisoners.

As a U.S. senator, he's led a variety of charges - for campaign finance and immigration reform - that have confirmed his status as a maverick but also earned him the nickname of "RINO," Republican in name only. He supports the war in Iraq even though it hurts him politically.

But, well, he's just a little too hot.

Finally, Mr. Romney comes straight from central casting and the Reagan playbook. If government should be run like a business, as Mr. Reagan said, then Mr. Romney is without peer.

During his single term as governor of Massachusetts he lowered taxes and reduced unemployment. His first year, he closed the state's $3 billion budget deficit, filed a balanced budget each year thereafter, and ended 2005 with close to a $1 billion surplus. He also created a market-based reform to provide health insurance for every citizen without raising taxes.

But, there's just something about Mitt. He's beyond just right. He's too right - too good-looking, too rich, too successful.

What Republicans have isn't a vacuum but an embarrassment of riches. What they need isn't a savior, but a good VP from the South. "Just Fred" may be just the ticket.

Kathleen Parker's syndicated column appears Mondays and Fridays in The Sun. Her e-mail is

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.