On the face of it, this Hartford (Conn.) Courant editorial about Fred Thompson's long-awaited entry into the presidential race seems fair. Or is it?
Initially, the editorial tries to give Thompson the benefit of the doubt when it comes to some of the more popular charges against him:
He has some baggage, too. He carries a reputation, deserved or not, of being a bit lazy. (So did Ronald Reagan, and it didn't hurt him.) And back when Mr. Thompson was minority counsel on the Senate Watergate Committee investigating the Nixon White House, the paranoid occupant of the Oval Office was said to have considered Mr. Thompson none too bright. (Critics said the same thing about Mr. Reagan, but that didn't hurt him either, and besides, it wasn't true.)
When I first read this, I was surprised. I thought, "Hey, they're trying to give Thompson a chance." But look at it a second time: the paper says Reagan's "laziness" and perceived stupidity didn't hurt him. Does that mean that Thompson is lazy and seems stupid but it won't hurt him? If so, why? Because he's a television star? Or because Republicans don't know any better? Your guess is as good as mine.
The editorial goes on to say that Thompson "has as much substance as any of the other candidates (although not as much practical experience as some)." I may swoon! But the following gives a better view of how the paper probably feels about Thompson and the Republicans:
He's a standard-issue, Southern-fried conservative who wants, among other things, to abolish abortion rights, squash gay rights, lower taxes and continue the war in Iraq.
He seems a solid fit with the Republican base, and with his Reaganesque persona seems as good a bet for the party's nomination as anyone. The question is whether that agenda sells in a general election.
"Standard-issue, Southern-fried conservative" brings to mind rednecks and pickup trucks, doesn't it?
I realize that newspaper editorials are all about printing the opinion of the editorial staff on the top news stories of the day. But it's one thing to question a candidate's views and policies -- it's another to use negative stereotypes and innuendo regarding the candidate's willingness to work hard and his mental acuity.