Sunday, July 08, 2007

Fred Thompson, Nixon flack

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Forget his one-note TV and movie persona -- you know, the same character he plays time and time again. Who is the real Fred Thompson, the man who has so many Republicans swooning with delight? The second coming of Ronald Reagan? A McCain-like maverick? A mainline conservative through and through, the Republican savior for '08? Er, maybe not. Let's peer back into the mists of time...

Fred Thompson gained an image as a tough-minded investigative counsel for the Senate Watergate committee. Yet President Nixon and his top aides viewed the fellow Republican as a willing, if not too bright, ally, according to White House tapes.

Thompson, now preparing a bid for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination, won fame in 1973 for asking a committee witness the bombshell question that revealed Nixon had installed hidden listening devices and taping equipment in the Oval Office.

Those tapes show Thompson played a behind-the-scenes role that was very different from his public image three decades ago. He comes across as a partisan willing to cooperate with the Nixon White House's effort to discredit the committee's star witness.

Ah, well then. He may have asked the right question, but he seems to have been something of a Nixon loyalist even late in the game -- which hardly speaks to solid character credentials.

For his part, Nixon thought Thompson was "dumb as hell". Thompson may have been a partisan loyalist looking to protect Nixon, but the White House obviously thought he wasn't up to the task. (And, as it turns out, they may have been right.)

Make sure to read this piece for exchanges between Nixon and his cronies, including this one:

"Oh shit, that kid," Nixon said when told by his chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman, of Thompson's appointment on Feb. 22, 1973.

"Well, we're stuck with him," Haldeman said.

If only that could be put into a campaign ad by one of his opponents. (Maybe Anthony Hopkins could play Nixon again.)

Nixon thought Thompson was "friendly". Awesome. Let more -- much more -- about the real Fred Thompson come out. It's time for the balloon to be burst.

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