Thursday, July 19, 2007

TNR on Thompson's Masculine Mystique

The New Republic has a cover story about Fred Thompson in this week’s upcoming issue. They say that Thompson’s secret weapon isn’t the Scots-Irish connection, but instead his “masculine mystique.” Naturally, they give Fred the Leader short shrift and Fred the Actor kudos:

To watch Thompson work a crowd like this is to glimpse the primordial roots of the Fred Fever currently gripping the GOP. Part of the appeal is obvious: A well-known actor, Thompson carries with him an inherent star quality that cannot be overestimated in our celebrity-obsessed culture. Moreover, after years of portraying a particular type of folksy authority figure, Thompson gives voters the sense that they already know who he is and what sort of leader he would be. Conversely, as a still relatively unknown political commodity, the candidate has a touch of the blank-slate phenomenon working for him, allowing savior-hungry Republicans to project onto him whichever personal and ideological traits they most desire. Underlying all of this, however, is an even more primal allure: In any given situation, Fred Thompson fundamentally seems like more of a man than anyone else around him.

If there's one thing conservatives are obsessed with these days, it's manliness. Saddled with a president they once cheered as a kick-ass cowboy but have come to scorn as weak on everything from immigration to government spending, Republicans are desperate for a competent, confident champion to make them feel good about themselves again. As Rudy Giuliani recently told a crowd of Delaware supporters,
"What we're lacking is strong, aggressive, bold leadership like we had with Ronald Reagan."

Enter Fred Thompson. More than anyone in the field--more than Giuliani, more than John McCain, and certainly more than the altogether-too-well-coiffed Mitt Romney--Thompson exudes old-school masculinity.
Along with the burly build, he has the rumbling baritone, the low-key self-assurance, and the sense of gravitas honed by years as a character actor playing Important Men.
In Thompson's presence (live or on-screen), one is viscerally, intimately reassured that he can handle any crisis that arises, be it a renegade Russian sub or a botched rape case.

Here is TNR’s conclusion:

[T]he lure of [Fred's] manly charms should not be underestimated. As Bob Davis, a former Thompson staffer now chairing the Tennessee Republican Party, puts it, "When you put your children to bed at night, and you're laying your head down on your pillow, this is a guy people would trust to protect their backside no matter what happened."

This is an especially potent lure with the Republican Party feeling so lost and fragile. Just last month, former Thompson sweetie Lorrie Morgan predicted to the Sunday Times of London that Thompson will prove irresistible to women voters: "He's majestic. He's a soft, safe place to be, and that could be Fred's ticket. Women love a soft place to lay and a strong pair of hands to hold us." Team Thompson is betting that, these days, the same may be said of the entire GOP.

Ed. note: There's a bit of Michelle Cottle's backhand in her compliments, but I think she's probably on to something. I was particularly struck by Lorrie Morgan's comments.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Fred's Senate Archives Get MSM Scrutiny

CBS is looking at Fred Thompson’s Senatorial papers housed at UT. Yet another sign of the scrutiny the candidate will face. And yet another reason AppalachianPresident needs to work hard to get out all the positive aspects of Fred Thompson’s rural roots and connections.

LA Times Story on Fred's Alleged Ties to Abortion Lobby Disputed by Prominent Christian Leaders

It appears that the MSM attack on Fred Thompson has just made him stronger. Now he's got Gary Bauer taking up for him. Futher, as Rathergate proved, when conservative candidates get fired upon by the liberal media, it only makes them stronger in conservative voters' eyes.

See story here:

Could Fred's Scots-Irish Connections Be His Secret Weapon?

I’m sure this topic will get lots of play as time goes on; particularly if Fred is in the Republican nominee. It appears the name Thompson could be either English or Scottish. The preponderance of evidence found on a quick Google search indicates it’s a Scottish name. On the other hand, Bradley, his mother’s maiden name, appears to be English.

Regardless of the specific origins of his ancestors, Thompson was raised in a state where one in five citizens could trace their origins to Scots-Irish settlers coming from Virginia. In the rugged areas like the Appalachian Mountains and the foothills where Fred was raised, the ratio is likely higher.

The Scots-Irish were the poorest of the poor whites who settled that rugged country. They faced a hard life on these rugged frontiers where mass agriculture and the protection and comforts of town life were seldom seen. They had to eke a life out of the soil and face down hostile natives all the while. But history had prepared them for this kind of challenge. Prior to 1607 the Scots-Irish were simply Scots. They lived in the border regions between Scotland and England and were subject to raids by soldiers from both sides. As often happens in frontier areas, the borderlands became a wild country plagued by crime and violence. This forced the Scots to become self sufficient and to develop their own form of justice.

In 1607, shortly after becoming King of a united Scotland and England, King James VI (the 1st in Scotland) was having trouble with the rebellious Irish who didn’t appreciate being ruled over by the English. James decided to create a buffer zone between the Irish and the British. His tool: the wily border Scots who were cajoled into leaving their borderland homes in return for plum properties in North Ireland. Of course the price tag for those properties was fighting. But the Scots (now Scots-Irish) were used to that.

Around the end of the 17th century, after building the provinces of Ulster Ireland into a viable community, the Scots-Irish grew tired of being used as muscle by the English and being treated as second class citizens to boot. So they voted with their feet (again) and this time moved to America where they fled inland to remote communities- partly out of poverty (rugged areas plagued by Indians were cheaper) and partly out of a desire to get away from those damned uppity English.

In short order this rugged people had imprinted their culture on a wide swath of southern states. Men like Andrew Jackson, Davy Crockett, and Sam Houston (all three of whom spent their formative years in central and eastern TN) became national political leaders and symbols of a rugged and democratic America. By the 19th and 20th centuries, these southern states had become the seed beds that populated the western states.

So what does all this have to do with the Presidential election? Simple, the Scots-Irish today constitute approximately 30 million Americans. That’s one tenth of the U.S. population. According to Jim Webb (a terrific story teller despite being a jerk as a Senator, IMHO):

The Scots-Irish comprised a large percentage of Reagan Democrats, and contributed heavily to the "red state" votes that gave Mr. Bush the presidency in 2000. The areas with the highest Scots-Irish populations include New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, northern Florida, Mississippi, Arkansas, northern Louisiana, Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, southern Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, and parts of California, particularly Bakersfield. The "factory belt," especially around Detroit, also has a strong Scots-Irish mix.

In October 2004 Webb called the Scots-Irish George W. Bush’s “Secret Weapon” in the Presidential election. Their relevance has probably not diminished over the past three years; particularly in a GOP primary. And unlike Bush, a Connecticut Yankee in blue jeans and sporting a drawl, Thompson won’t have to fake it. Fred's true blue; probably by ancestry, definitely by culture.

In Senate, Fred Worked to Protect, Promote Great Smoky Mountains

If you've never been to the Smokies, take the family and go sometime. It's beautiful. Make sure you take the winding road that leads from Pigeon Forge, TN to Cherokee, NC. There you'll see God's bounty in its finest majesty.

Today we picked up our first contributor, Tommy Olliver of East TN. Tommy's a member of the research team at and provides this article written by Fred while he was in the Senate in 2001:


Tennessee is fortunate to be the home of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, often referred to as the crown jewel of the national park system. The Smokies cover over half a million acres and host an astounding variety of plant and animal species. The natural beauty of these mountains and the abundance of recreational opportunities also make the Smokies the nation's most visited national park. Each year the Smokies welcome more visitors than the Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Parks combined.

As a result, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is arguably the nation's most threatened national park. Due to the high number of visitors it receives each year, the Smokies are suffering from extraordinary wear and tear. In addition, air quality problems have landed it on the National Parks Conservation Association's list of the ten most endangered parks in the country for each of the past three years. Most shocking to me is that, according to park officials, air quality in the Smokies is so poor during the summer months that hiking on backcountry trails is more hazardous to your health than walking along the streets of Manhattan.

As chairman of the Great Smoky Mountains Congressional Caucus, I have made addressing the needs of the Smokies a top priority. Too often, the budget debate in Washington focuses on short term needs rather than on long term infrastructure deficiencies such as the neglect of our national park system. I believe the federal government has a fundamental responsibility to ensure the protection of our national parks for future generations to enjoy.

Traffic congestion is contributing to the air quality problems in the Smokies, detracting from the enjoyment of those who visit, and threatening public access. Accordingly, I have cosponsored the Transit in Parks Act, legislation designed to help the Smokies and surrounding communities deal with growing regional transportation problems threatening the park's future. The legislation would create a federal transit program, administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation, and provide $65 million each year for the next six years to develop alternative transportation systems such as light rail, alternative fuel buses, and bicycle and pedestrian pathways. It encourages national parks to work with states and local communities to address these problems and provides federal funding to help implement meaningful solutions.

I am pleased that the Senate Appropriations Committee recently approved $4.7 million to construct a new science research center and laboratory in the park. This facility is part of a national effort to better understand and preserve natural resources and biologically diverse ecosystems, as well as to provide researchers and students with new opportunities to learn more about conservation efforts and threats to our national parks. In addition, $375,000 has been approved by the committee for restoration and repair of 77 pioneer log cabins and more than 100 historic structures throughout the park.

I am hopeful the full Senate will move quickly to approve this funding. We have also requested $300,000 in federal funds to be used in ongoing efforts to monitor ground-level ozone and other air pollutants in the Smokies as part of the East Tennessee Ozone Study.The popularity of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has placed a significant burden on its infrastructure and services. However, I am confident that we are taking important steps toward preserving this national treasure for our children, grandchildren, and the generations to come.

A footnote:

Tommy Oliver, who provided us this article, was born, raised, and lives in Southeast Tennessee. He attended UT Chattanooga, majoring in political science. He spent seven years as an after-school counselor for elementary school children and spent time working in politics on a local level. He is a regular contributor to, and also numerous Thompson related blogs and is a member of the research team at, the original site and forum of the Draft Fred Thompson committee, which encouraged Thompson to join the campaign.

Anonymous Comments Now Allowed

A bit of housekeeping... my apologies, but when I set this blog up I didn't realize that anonymous comments were disabled. I've remedied that now. Feel free to comment. As long as it's not dastardly over the top, it'll stay there.

Should Fred Thompson Rebut John Edwards' Poverty Tour Comments?

This week John Edwards is touring Appalachia to shine a light on the need to “end poverty.” His plan involves lots of government, a deadline decades away, and laudable but unachievable goals. I nominate Fred Thompson to offer the conservative rebuttal. He’s tough, smart and, most importantly, has lived in rural, poverty stricken areas. Further, Thompson's served areas in his state that are very similiar to the rural ones Edwards will visit. Thompson could offer a way whereby poverty could be reduced by less government, not more.

Georgia, Sweet Georgia Where Fred's Concerned

Fred Thompson takes the lead in Georgia according to the latest polls.

The results:


Looks like Fred's southern rural roots are paying off.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Will Fred's Rural, Appalachian Roots be a Factor in the Presidential Campaign?

Have an opinion? Then take our poll, located on the right hand side of the screen following the welcome message.

Fred Burnishes His Cultural Conservative Image

On the heels of a prominent evangelical’s claim: “at this moment in time it is Fred Thompson's race to lose,” comes this Newsweek story on Fred’s ability to reach out to the right.

A portion:

U.S. News has learned that [Fred has hired a pair of prominent religious, conservative activists who are] arranging more meetings between Thompson and conservative Christian leaders and have launched a rapid-response operation to fend off attacks on Thompson's conservative credentials… in March… James Dobson told U.S. News he doubted Thompson was really a Christian. But Dobson and Thompson have since talked, with Dobson rumored to be reassessing Thompson. And prominent social conservative Paul Weyrich, who met recently with Thompson and evangelical activists, said the former senator "was in agreement with us on almost everything."

For Thompson, the timing couldn't be better. McCain's campaign is reeling from staff departures and cutbacks, and Giuliani faces fierce opposition from Christian right leaders. So Thompson's team is betting that the GOP primaries will turn into what one adviser calls a "Thompson-Romney duel," since Romney is the one top-tier Republican lobbying hard for evangelical support. "If he gets strong support from evangelicals, Thompson could reshape the race," says the Pew Forum for Religion and Public Life's John Green.

What role do Fred's rural roots and the values he grew up with in Lawrenceburg, TN, have in this debate? The area where Thompson grew up is as rock ribbed conservative on cultural issues as any in the nation. Thompson was raised in a community where God, country, family were key priorities. Fred would be in a very distinct minority if he had somehow been immersed in those values only to lose them once he hit the big-time.

Tennessean on Fred's Weaknesses

The Tennessean ran a story today detailing areas of Fred’s biography that are likely to face greater scrutiny during the campaign. No big surprises here. Among the so-called “soft spots”:

“Senate Record is Slim”

“Clients are Questionable”

“Lobbying Raises Issue”

“He’s a Beltway Insider”

All these accusations punctuate the need for Thompson to go back to his rural roots and to use them to define what kind of person he was raised to be. Character and likeability still count the most in Presidential elections.

Tennessean Story on Lack of Public Water References Fred's Home County

In 1994 Jim Cooper was running for Senate against Fred Thompson. Thompson, who’d never sought elected office at, had come out of right field to mount a powerful campaign against the four term Congressman. Thompson ran a campaign based largely on his down home demeanor. That irked Cooper who at one point lashed out at Thompson and called him a “Gucci-wearing, Lincoln-driving, Perrier-drinking, Grey Poupon-spreading millionaire Washington special-interest lobbyist.”

The charge never stuck, largely because anyone who’s ever been in the presence of Fred Thompson and witnessed the man’s powerful, folksy personality knows that the last thing you could accuse him of being is an elitist. A good ol' country boy who’s managed to enjoy some of the finer things in life? Sure. But not an elitist.

Of course Fred Thompson came by his folksiness honestly. Lawrence County, Tennessee, where Thompson was raised and initially practiced law, is about as country as you can get. Lawrence County is the sort of place where you’re as likely to find a trailer as a house. It’s the kind of community where front yards serve as good parking places any old day of the week. And a drive through the county on Highway 43 will reveal place names that sound like were plucked from a Jesse Stuart novel; names like Bigby, Stillhouse Hollow and Sandy Hook.

You can’t possibly travel through the charming, rural county without thinking of Abraham Lincoln’s reply when asked to describe his upbringing: Lincoln answered, simply, that it could be described in one sentence "the short and simple annals of the poor," a reference to a verse in a poem by english poet Thomas Gray entitled Elegy Written in a Country Courtyard.

I thought of the rural themes Thompson will be able to play in a Presidential campaign when I read this story in today’s Tennessean (the state’s Nashville paper). The story-- Lack of public water plagues rural Tennessee, Cost to connect all is $1.7B; some use risky sources—illustrates the fact that rural America still faces many challenges in terms of its infrastructure and economic development needs.

That Fred Thompson spent many of the most formative years of his life in communities such as these—Lawrence County counted among those communities with the most residents not on public water—can be used not only as a foil against those who would try to tag him as an elitist, it can also be used by Fred to make the case that he is the candidate best suited to address rural issues. And not only did Fred come from such a rural place, counties such as Lawrence constituted his base while he was in the Senate.

These are important themes that Fred should play on in the heartland. I believe they’ll have resonance. Who knows, the next time someone asks him about being a “Gucchi-wearing, Perrier-drinking…”, Fred will cut them off and remind them that there might be a pretty darned good reason to drink bottled water where he’s from.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Appalachian Alabama Deals with Issues of Roads, Economic Development

This press release highlights the fact that Appalachian Alabama, where Fred Thompson was born and initially attended college, faces the same challenges that plague the rest of the Appalachian region, namely economic development, infrastructure, and jobs.

The ARC press release touts the fact that Rep. Robert Alderholt (R-AL) was recently honored for his work in helping grow the Appalachian economy.

Here’s a snippet:

"Representative Robert Aderholt has been a strong proponent of economic development throughout Appalachian Alabama," said [one Guin, Alabama Mayor Phil Seagraves]. "He has led the charge in making the Corridor X highway a reality for northwest Alabama. He understands the importance of a modern highway infrastructure in spawning new businesses and creating jobs for our residents. His office is always responsive to the needs of his constituents. I am proud to call Robert Aderholt my congressman."

"All of Appalachia is indeed fortunate to have Representative Robert Aderholt in Congress," said [Robert Culver, the Director of the the Development District of Appalachia.] "He knows rural issues, he understands the importance of working together, [and] he believes that Appalachia's brightest days are still ahead.”

Congressman Alderholt’s district is located just south of Colbert County, Alabma where Fred Thompson was born.

What is Appalachia?

Since this blog presumes that Appalachia is a distinct region within America and that Thompson’s ties to this region are an important factor in who he is and how his campaign will fare, I thought it would be good to consider the question, “What is Appalachian America?” This wiki article contains a pretty thorough answer.

Hillbilly Deluxe: Could Fred Thompson be America’s First Appalachian President?

Historically, Appalachian America has often had strong ties to the men who’ve occupied the Oval Office. Before John F. Kennedy could become President he had to prove his vote getting mettle in the predominately Protestant state of West Virginia. Thanks to a terrific get out the vote campaign fueled by Joe Kennedy’s cash, he crushed the opposition and went on to become President. Jack’s brother, Bobby, planned on using Appalachia as his springboard to the Presidency also when he chose the region to launch his war on poverty.

When Richard Nixon faced Watergate and eventual impeachment, it was East Tennesee’s Howard Baker, serving his second term as U.S. Senator and the Minority Leader at the time, who asked the famous question: “What did the President know and when did he know it?” Later, Baker would serve as Ronald Reagan’s Chief of Staff.

In 1992 when Bill Clinton needed a young, articulate running mate to cement the ticket’s image as one of “New Democrats”, the future President turned to a Senator with an impeccable political pedigree from Tennessee named Al Gore. While Gore himself had spent most of his life in the beltway, his father began his political career in Appalachian Tennesse as a school superintendent. Gore Sr.’s eventual Congressional seat was anchored in Appalachia as was Gore Jr.’s, many years later.

Despite these connections, the only President with an actual Appalachian pedigree was Andrew Johnson, who was from Greene County, TN. But Johnson was never elected to the office. He succeeded Lincoln following the President’s assassination.

To be sure, many candidates with Appalachian roots have tried and failed to be elected President. Baker, Gore and Johnson were all three candidates for the highest office in the land. Baker’s other protégé, Lamar Alexander of Knoxville, made a go of it in 1996 and 2000, but never moved very far. And way back in the 1830’s Davy Crockett, who was serving in Congress, was considered as a potential candidate against the imperial Andrew Jackson.

Despite their many efforts, Appalachian candidates have never grasped the big enchilada and won the Presidency. But now, Appalachia has another shot. The latest candidate is Fred Dalton Thompson. Thompson was born in Appalachian Alabama in Colbert County. Sometime before he began elementary school, his family moved approximately 40 miles north into the Appalachian foothills of Lawrence County, Tennessee, where he would attend elementary and high school before moving back to Colbert County to begin his college career at the Teacher’s College then known as Florence State College. Thompson would soon leave Appalachia, however, as transferred to Memphis State College to complete his undergraduate studies and attended law school at Vandy in Nashville.

Following law school, Thompson returned to Lawrenceburg where he practiced law for two years before becoming Assistant U.S. Attorney in Nashville, 80 miles northeast. As an AUSA, Thompson prosecuted cases that sound quintessentially Appalachian such as the illegal manufacture of distilled spirits from corn: i.e. moonshine. Then Thompson became involved in politics.

In 1972 Fred Thompson managed the reelection campaign of U.S. Senator Howard Baker, Jr. Baker’s father had served East Tennessee in Congress and Baker Jr. was raised there. The Appalachian region had been Republican country since the Civil War and was Baker’s base. Baker won that race and became the first Republican Senator from the South to be reelected since reconstruction. (In 1966, Baker was the first southern Senator elected since reconstruction.) And of course Thompson represented all of Tennessee as a U.S. Senator, including that large swath of East Tennessee that’s been colored red on electoral maps since the 1860’s.

Today, Fred Thompson’s inner circle contains more than it’s fare share of Appalachian folk. There’s Chattanooga Congressman Zach Wamp, Lamar Alexander’s Chief of Staff Tom Ingram, and of course Howard Baker himself.

Looking forward, what role could Thompson’s Appalachian roots and connections play in the Presidential race? Will it help him in West Virginia? If Bush had lost that state Al Gore would have been President. You can make the case that it was Gore’s reluctance to embrace his Appalachian roots and get right with that area’s voters on issues such as mining that were dear to them, cost him the race. What of Ohio? In 2004 Bush beat Kerry there by slightly more than 100,000 votes. That was after some 300,000 votes had been disqualified for technical reasons. 29 of 88 counties in Ohio are considered Appalachian.

Obviously there are many regions in America that will be important to this year’s Presidential election. The mid-west, particularly in states like Ohio, Minnesota, and Iowa; the Rocky mountain region that shows disturbing signs of trending purple; and the sunshine state of Florida, which ultimately decided the race in 2000. These regions could swing the election either way. But don’t forget Appalachia. Its role in shaping the man who many think will be the Republican nominee in 08 and potentially in electing that same man shouldn’t be ignored.