David Brooks clearly likes Fred Thompson, but wonders whether his back-to-Republican-basics message can be a winner in November, 2008 and, more importantly, whether,by itself, it’s adequate to the challenges we face.
If I were a political consultant I would tell my candidate to play up Thompson’s back-to-basics theme. This is a traumatized party, not in the mood for anything risky and new. But over the long run, back to basics is no solution because it doesn’t produce a positive agenda for today’s problems.
Fred Thompson’s political skills are as good as anybody now running, but his challenge is going to be building a concrete agenda on his anti-Washington message. It will be translating his Goldwater risorgimento philosophy into policies on energy, health care reform, Islamic extremism and education. For if there is one thing the last 30 years have taught us, it is that campaigns that are strictly anti-Washington do not command 50 percent of the vote because they don’t address the decentralized global challenges that now face us.
Perhaps, as my friend Daniel Casse notes, what the G.O.P. needs is Newt Gingrich’s brain lodged in Fred Thompson’s temperament.
Apropos of this last wisecrack, someone should ask the WaPo’s
Eugene Robinson why he isn’t in a hurry to endorse Gingrich for President. I’d bet he could outwonk Gore any day.