Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Will Fred Thompson Close the Gaffe Gap?

When he announces tomorrow, the former Senator/actor will start with a clean slate in the hoof-in-mouth department. His Republican opponents have had six months to say stupid things, and they have made the most of them.

Rudy Giuliani had to back off telling Barbara Walters that his wife would attend cabinet meetings and, more recently, his claim to have spent more time at 9/11 Ground Zero than the firefighters.

Mitt Romney has been so busy that Ana Marie Cox on her Time blog had to expand his Top Ten Gaffes to eleven, including the easily disproved claim to have been a hunter all his life, attributing a Castro slogan to Free-Cuba fighters in front of audience of them, misstating French marriage laws, and making an admiring statement about Hitler’s energy policy, among so many others.

If Newt Gingrich decides to run, the floodgates of flubs would overflow.

But Thompson has the potential to catch up. He will no doubt ace his Jay Leno interview this week, but when he has to start defending his positions and his resume, Thompson’s tendency to be casual about such subjects as invading Iran is sure to emerge.

There will be ample opportunities to botch answers about his lobbying for a pro-abortion group, deposed Haitian autocrat Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a company trying to limit payments to asbestos victims as well as corporations producing a taxpayer-financed $1.7 billion “hole in the ground” for an abandoned nuclear reactor in Tennessee.

His private life could be fertile ground as well. Thompson has made light of his avid “chasing” as a bachelor but some of the ladies may surface to provoke uncomfortable questions.

His campaign has intimated his young wife is a lawyer and experienced political operative, but a closer look at the facts suggests a simpler story line: They met at a Tennessee barbecue, and she followed him to Washington where he got her a job. She did work in a law office but not as a lawyer.

Fred Thompson’s long teaser non-campaign has raised high expectations, but starting next week, he will only be the tallest of the Republican pygmies trying to play Ronald Reagan and make voters forget George Bush.

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