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Showtime in Simi Valley

"Let us rebuke '08 president candidate Bill Richardson for flunking an important history test . . . When asked to name a Supreme Court justice whom he would regard as a model for future nominees, Richardson invoked Byron 'Whizzer' White. Many liberals didn't like that answer, because it turns out that Whizzer dissented on Roe v. Wade, arguing against legal abortion.

"Flash forward to the weekend, when Richardson showed up at the annual California Democratic convention. He was asked by reporters about Whizzer, and he replied: 'White was in the 60s. Wasn't Roe v. Wade in the 80s?'

"There are a few problems with that answer. First, it was clear that Richardson didn't even know how his ideal high court judge had voted in one of the most important legal rulings of the 20th century. And, second, he didn't even know when that ruling was handed down. (It was 1973, not "the '80s.) I argued a few weeks ago that it was no big deal when candidates flunked the price of a gallon milk. I'd argue here that it's a bigger deal when a candidate flunks basic contemporary history."

With Fred Thompson getting all this good press without actually running, Washington Monthly's Kevin Drum is puzzled:

"Thompson is a guy whose political record in the Senate was a big zero; whose only real claim to fame is being a character actor on TV and in films; who has done nothing to distinguish himself this year except deliver a few vaguely Reaganesque pastiches in a nice baritone; who is apparently not Christian enough for James Dobson's taste; who has no known issues that he really cares deeply about; and whose most famous quality is his laziness.

"That sure doesn't sound like the resume of a guy who's going to rescue the Republican Party to me. The fact that so many people are talking him up seems like it says more about the suicidally desperate state of the GOP than it does about the actual presidential prospects of Fred Thompson."

At Right Wing News, John Hawkins, who advises Duncan Hunter, says: "Look at it from Fred Thompson's perspective. He has a reputation as a guy who doesn't particularly enjoy campaigning and let's face it: he has a pretty good life. He has a successful career as an actor, lots of money, and probably a good bit of leisure time to spend in a nice house with his attractive wife.

"So, yes, he's dipping his toes in the water to see what it feels like and, yes, the water feels warm and inviting, but running for president is anything but a glamorous, exciting job, especially for someone like Fred Thompson.

"Running for president means that you spend six to eighteen months with every 15 minutes of your 6 day a week, 12 hour plus schedule per day mapped out by staffers. It means thousands of calls to friends and admirers to ask them for money. It means constant travel. It means you need to enjoy plunging into a crowd and shaking hands for 20 minutes, talking to people at a rural mall, and sitting around in a diner in Iowa eating mashed potatoes and signing autographs. Meanwhile, during those 18 months or so, the press and your political enemies will be combing through your background and every word you say looking for a way to utterly destroy your reputation. Then, even after all that, only one candidate out of what, about 20 on both sides, is going to win the election?"

I thought I'd seen every possible issue in a presidential campaign, but Greg Sargent finds a new one:

"Trust me, you've never heard anything quite like Rudy Giuliani's rant about ferrets. It's much, much worse than you all can imagine . . . in Vanity Fair's profile of Rudy Giuliani . . . Rudy is quoted unloading on a ferret owner on his radio show as Mayor in the 1990s. VF quotes a few lines of Rudy's startling rant, then moves on.

"But the sheer demented nature of Rudy's diatribe is only appreciable if you read the whole thing from beginning to end. How do I know this? I was listening to Rudy on the radio on that day in 1999 when he went off on the ferret owner.


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