The Fringe, Part 2
Presidential candidates you've never heard of.
Updated Friday, Oct. 19, 2007, at 6:30 PM
Romney's rebuttal is that he has changed. "I get tired of people that are holier-than-thou because they've been pro-life longer than I have," he said to Sam Brownback at a debate in August. But tonight he'll be facing a largely skeptical audience and will need all the endorsements he can get.
As for the Log Cabin Republicans, the group isn't planning to endorse a candidate in the primaries, they told me. Right now, they're just making sure voters know about Romney's past positions. "The only thing consistent is his ambition," one of them said.
Sleep talking: Fred Thompson doesn't know what he'd do as president, but he will know once God tells him. That's what he told the Values Voters Summit in Washington, D.C. today: "Someone asked me what I'd do in my first 100 days as president. I said I don't know what I would do in my first 100 days. But I know what I'd do in the first hour. I'd go into the Oval office, close the door, and pray to know what was right."
It says a lot about Thompson's candidacy that this line got more applause than all his promises of judicial restraint, vetoes for abortion legislation, and smaller government. No one I talked to after the speech raved about Thompson's policies. They were drawn to his style. A man from Tennessee (whose wife was a cheerleader for Thompson's high-school football team) told me he admired Fred's authenticity, because he sounds like he "means what he says." He's just a regular guy like you and me.
The problem is, regular guys like you and me would have no idea what we're doing as president of the United States. Onstage, Thompson does little to suggest he'd be any different. Whereas Mitt Romney sometimes seems androidlike, Thompson comes off as all too human. He punctuated his speech with "um," and his voice never rose out of its cordial, soporific cadence. He could have been sitting on a porch, not standing on a stage. The ballroom seemed to swallow him. The speech didn't really have any laugh lines, either, except a canned quip about not needing to "call his lawyers to know a good judge from a bad one." Coming on the snappy heels of Tom Tancredo, his speech sounded like a eulogy.
At the end, as Johnny Cash started to play over the speakers, a group of Fred supporters shook signs and chanted, "Go, Fred, go!" It quickly became clear the audience wasn't going to join them, and the chant faded away.
Obama, where art thou?: The big story on liberal blogs today has been Sen. Chris Dodd's decision to put a "hold" on the new surveillance bill, since it would grant immunity to telecom companies that helped the government spy on people without warrants. It started this morning when a blogger at MyDD called on Dodd to hold the bill—a procedural move that denies the party leadership the unanimous consent they need to bring a bill to the floor. In the afternoon, Dodd released a statement announcing his "hold" and promising "no telecom amnesty."
But it makes you wonder: Why ask Dodd? Why not Obama or Hillary or someone whose opposition would bring more attention to the issue? For one thing, Dodd had already promised to "do what I can to see to it that no telecommunications giant that was complicit in this Administration's assault on the Constitution is given a get-out-of-jail-free card."
Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.
Photographs of: Mark Klein courtesy of Dr. Klein; Jack Shepard courtesy of Dr. Shepard; Rudy Giuliani in the Republican presidential debate by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images; Bill Richardson baseball card courtesy the Richardson campaign; Duncan Hunter by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images. Photographs of Sam Brownback by: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images; Darren McCollester/Getty Images; Mandel Nagan/AFP/Getty Images; Scott Olson/Getty Images; Bill Pugliano/Getty Images; and Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images.