July 07, 2007
Dumb but Friendly, and Did I Say Six-Five?

How bad do your prospects have to look before you can get excited about Ted Nugent’s friend Fred Thompson?

Chants of “Fred” and “Run, Fred, Run,” greeted the actor and former GOP senator from Tennessee from many among the 350 people at the Young Republicans National Convention. The crowd interrupted his nine-minute speech with wild applause and mobbed him when he left.


Kevin Fickert, a 22-year-old college student in Los Angeles who originally is from Massachusetts, said he liked Romney’s leadership as governor but thinks Thompson has more appeal. “Thompson has this star power about him that I really like,” Fickert said.

Hey, I’ve seen that guy on TV! Oh yeah, he’s, like, an actor, or President. Or something.

Why is it that only crappy actors make it in politics? Or perhaps I’m drawing an unwarranted line from Reagan through Schwarzenegger to Thompson. What kind of childhood generates this immense need for the overwhelming father figure? I thought it was about competition.

Thompson’s pro-abortion lobbying effort, directed at Bush I, appears to have caused barely a ripple among his supporters.

“Whatever choice do we have? Mitt Romney has been on both sides of the issue,” said Paul Boyd, 26, of Memphis, Tenn. “Rudy Giuliani is 100 percent pro-choice. John McCain, at least for the first four years of the Bush term, was against whatever the president was for. Everybody has their flaws.”

Good point (but who says, “Whatever choice…?”). Aim low, keep your expectations within reason, or failing that at least the realm of possibility. And you can see what he means when you read that

[Romney] said he would like to use the country’s leading marketing minds to help sell the idea of American values in the Middle East.

“People will give up half a day’s salary to get a Coca-Cola in some parts of the world. We market Coke well. We market McDonald’s well. We market our rap music, our movies, our jeans,” Romney said. “We market everything America sells brilliantly, but when it comes to marketing ourselves and what we stand for, we don’t do a very good job of it.”

Damn, marketing, of course! Why didn’t I think of that? That’s what we haven’t been doing enough of! If people will give up half a day’s salary for a bottle of sugar water, we can surely get away with torturing them and stealing their oil. We just have to market it appropriately, with a certain amount of local sensitivity and some happenin’ colors.

So you can see why Republicans are turning to the man Nixon called “dumb as hell“. (“But he’s friendly,” Nixon allowed.)

Thompson had his supporters. His mentor, for example, Howard Baker, defended him in no uncertain terms: “He’s tough. He’s six feet five inches, a big mean fella”. What he thought that would buy Thompson as re: his career remains uncertain at this point. A starring role, perhaps.

What does appear certain from the established record is that Thompson was keeping the Nixon White House informed of certain key events.

Publicly, Baker and Thompson presented themselves as dedicated to uncovering the truth. But Baker had secret meetings and conversations with Nixon and his top aides, while Thompson worked cooperatively with the White House and accepted coaching from Nixon’s lawyer, J. Fred Buzhardt, the tapes and transcripts show.

Thompson made his place in history on Monday, July 16, 1973, by asking former White House aide Alexander Butterfield, “…are you aware of the installation of any listening devices in the Oval Office of the president?” Butterfield said, yes, as a matter of fact I am, setting in motion the final act of the Nixon drama, as the tapes proved to be his downfall. Thus, no doubt, Cheney’s passion for secrecy.

But though this was news to the public, it was not to the committee. Thompson was allowed to ask the critical question because he was the lead counsel for the Republicans, whose leader was Baker, and the information had been obtained by a Republican interrogator (which probably didn’t mean the same thing in those days that it would now).

This was a, perhaps the, turning point in the Watergate investigation. Republicans had rallied around their wartime President, a simple, cloth-coated patriot with a dog, who would never stoop to burglarizing an opponent’s office. In fact Baker’s famous “What did the President know and when did he know it?” was, according to historian Stanley Kutler, originally an attempt to show that the evidence hinged on the word of a single person, John Dean, a disgruntled employee if there ever was one, against that of the President of the United States, Leader of the Free World and Political Ass-Kicker Extraordinaire. (I mean, dude, he was friends with J. Edgar; you don’t fuck with those people.)

Unfortunately for Baker et. al., it turned not to be the case. Butterfield revealed the existence of the tapes, and it reached the point where only a Nobel Prize-winning spinner could deal with today’s headlines alone, leaving aside last week’s. It became necessary to look like you supported basic justice, even for Nixon’s moles inside the Watergate committee.

Thompson called Buzhardt over the weekend [before the Monday question] to tip off the White House that the committee knew about the tapes.

“Legalisms aside, it was inconceivable to me that the White House could withhold the tapes once their existence was made known. I believed it would be in everyone’s interest if the White House realized, before making any public statements, the probable position of both the majority and the minority of the Watergate committee,” Thompson wrote in his book.

Scott Armstrong, a Democratic investigator for the committee who was part of the Butterfield questioning, said he was outraged by Thompson’s tip-off.

“When the prosecutor discovers the smoking gun, he’s going to be shocked to find that the deputy prosecutor called the defendant and said, ‘You’d better get rid of that gun,’” Armstrong said in an interview.

Law and Order, that’s what it’s all about. Or is it image, I can’t remember…


Posted by Chuck Dupree at July 07, 2007 08:20 PM
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I heard the same thing about those marketing guys when I was in business school. The accounting and the economics professors had a certain disdain for the professors in the marketing field, but I look around me, and I see how all the neighbors up the street are buying things they don't need; how they micro-target certain people in certain communities; how they've applied marketing to ideas; and how they've run political campaigns (and how politicians have shunned them and lost), and I'm amazed. Although what those guys do isn't science, they get my respect simply because their results are effective-far more effective than they could possibly be if they were stupid or dumb. It's not foreign policy, but I wouldn't call it dumb.

Posted by: Buck on July 8, 2007 6:06 AM

We just have to market it appropriately, with a certain amount of local sensitivity and some happenin’ colors.

Wasn't that Sasquatch Karen Hughes' job?
Who could be better at selling America to the world than a cloistered fundamentalist Xtian former TV reporter from Texas whose experience was babysitting Emperor BoyClown and his gullible minions? The rest of the world proved to be not as shallow and stupid as Texas Rethugs.

Time for some Gen-X marketing:
"America -- it's X-TREME!!!"
(video clip of snowboaders, deafening grunge music in background)

Posted by: Mike G on July 8, 2007 12:26 PM
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