Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Brooks on Thompson

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.

Discussions - 4 Comments

"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.



Ah. Spoken like a true progressive. You can always count on Brooks.

I actually kind of agree with Dan that our friend David hasn't really identified the weakness of Fred--which is lack of energy and real accomplishment. I really think he's as smart as Newt, and in both cases the problem may be less termperament than character. Keep in mind I'm still open to the possibility that Fred will catch on, and all the leading candidates have their promise and their flaws.

Re: Gingrich -- he has some family values problems, along with a few financial scandals in his closet. Gore arguably has the financial scandals (though they're not government-related and Whitewater-thin) but his family values remain rock-solid.

Like Andrew Sullivan, David Brooks is a left-wing radical who uses "conservatism" as a Trojan horse to promote left-wing ideas.

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