Fred, Fred, Fred: Thompson's Challenge Has a Name

Fred Thompson is weighing a run for president  --  with a name that doesn't get much respect.
Fred Thompson is weighing a run for president -- with a name that doesn't get much respect. (By Rick Gershon -- Getty Images)
By Monica Hesse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 12, 2007

In the swampy soup of hopefuls for the 2008 presidential election, there is a man with a funny name. (No, not that one.)

We're thinking of the one named Fred (Thompson).

Say it out loud. Do it. Fred. Fred. In the South, Fray-ud.


It has the tonal quality of something being dropped on the floor, something heavy and damp-ish.

Waterlogged paper towel.


The phonetics of the name seem integral to its image problem: On, a "Fred" is defined as "a person who does stupid, annoying, or idiotic things" (Fred Flintstone, Fred Mertz). The best-case descriptors a Fred can hope for are terms like well-intentioned, predictable, benign (Fred Rogers).

There has never before been a major presidential candidate named Fred. There were two Alfreds, in 1928 and 1936. But Alfred, being all British and Batman-y, is not the same.

Then, out of almost nowhere, came Thompson, who is transcending the notion of Fred.

Recent media accounts of the guy (who has not yet officially announced his candidacy) would have us believe that being a Fred means Law & Orderly sex-in-a-suit, a name exuding such flypaper pheromones that people find themselves helplessly drawn in. Chris Matthews dedicated three minutes of a recent "Hardball" to exploring Thompson's sex appeal. London's Sunday Times last month interviewed a bevy of his ex-girlfriends, all of whom have drunk the Fred-Aid: "He's majestic," said country singer/Fredophile Lorrie Morgan. "Women love a soft place to lay and a strong pair of hands to hold us."


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