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If not Thompson, then how about ...

POSTED: October 2, 2007 5:04 a.m.
I have a sinking feeling Fred Thompson is not going to make the cut.
That is too bad. He looks just like a film director’s idea of Lyndon Johnson. Fred could star as a presidential candidate, maybe even a president.
I’m a real fan of Fred. He has given solid performances as a district attorney, a Watergate lawyer, a U.S. senator, a submarine commander, an FBI supervisor, a CIA director and two presidents, Andy Jackson and U. S. Grant —  always tough, never in doubt, stern but fair. And avuncular — that’s it! Fred is an exemplary avuncular type. He looks like Bert Lance.
The trouble is, Fred can’t ad lib. You could tell that last week when he decided to announce on Jay Leno that he is, finally, an official presidential candidate. Going on Leno was a cute idea, but it didn’t quite work. After the announcement, Fred appeared lost when he had to wing it without a script. He spewed out banalities and generalities and, at times, appeared just like the rest of us would be in a public forum: at a loss for words.
He may improve as the campaign season wears on. I hope so. He has some good-guy supporters in Georgia, and his accent is just right. Still, there’s something missing. He lacks fire.
If not Fred, where do the good-old boys turn for a candidate? Certainly not Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney or John McCain. They’re definitely not Bubba types. They’re either too weird or too old. How about Mike Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas and one-time preacher? Nah. He won’t do. Democrats might get by with a preacher on the ticket in 2008. Not Republicans. After what has happened in the last several years, Republicans would be booed off the stage, if they came up with a past pastor as a nominee.
Look at the record. At least 10 GOP congressmen are starring in real-life tabloid dramas involving moral turpitude, which means they may have spots of rot on their souls.
I know what you’re going to say: “Congressman William Jefferson, a Louisiana Democrat, has been caught with $90,000 in smarmy-smelling cash in his freezer. How about that, smart guy?” Oh, well, old Bill Jefferson never claimed to be a paragon of virtue. Besides, a fellow needs a safe place to stash his surplus greenbacks. Why not a freezer? It’s better than a sugar bowl.
Getting back to Fred’s lousy launch, where do we go if he won’t fly?
Newt Gingrich is the obvious alternative. A super-conservative, Newt is loaded with more fresh ideas than a Bob Barr who has seen the Libertarian light.
Gingrich, a former Georgia congressman who rose to speaker and grand leader of the Republican Revolution, is perfect to fill Fred’s shoes. Of course, Newt’s a little like Hillary. Nobody likes him. We could fix that with one those TV makeovers. Dye his hair black or even red to make him stand out in a crowd. Let him wear Hollywood shades most of the time to hide his squinty little eyes. Bring in a speech coach to teach him to talk Southern. Heck, if they can make Tom Cruise sound like Count von Stauffenberg, they can make Newt sound like Vince Dooley instead of an aging, pointy-headed Army brat from Pennsylvania, which is what he is.
In addition, Newt has already been vetted and the findings made public. We know that Newt is a liar, a philanderer and a hypocrite. That’s old news; it would be barely mentioned in a Newt-08 bid. Sure, Larry Flynt might bring it up again, but who reads Larry Flynt’s stuff? Most of us just look at the pictures.
Believe me, Newt would make a first-rate candidate. Having covered Newt for more than three decades, I admire him 64 percent of the time. I wrote one of the first newspaper editorials endorsing Newt for Congress against the late Democratic Congressman Jack Flynt, (no kin to Larry), who beat Newt first in 1974 then again in 1976 before retiring.
Gingrich hit the ground running when he was finally elected in 1978. He turned out to be a gadfly and a troublemaker for entrenched representatives of both parties.
His “kill-all Democrats” tactics are still cited today for contributing to the meanness of D.C. politics and ending much of the bipartisan collegiality that used to be the hallmark of both the House and Senate.
Gingrich ranks among the two or three brightest and fastest-talking politicians I have covered. As a candidate, he could provide some badly needed smarts to a Republican Party that seems to grow dumber and more out of touch by the day.

Contact Shipp at P.O. Box 2520, Kennesaw, GA 30156 or email: shipp1@bellsouth.net
 

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