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Fred Thompson's life stories help him set priorities
The News & Observer ^ | December 2, 2007 | Margaret Taley

Posted on 12/02/2007 3:24:22 AM PST by 2ndDivisionVet

WASHINGTON - Fatherhood and ambition. In Fred Thompson's life, they rise and fall together, a recurring couplet in the nostalgic story of a Tennessee fella who's guided more by life's surprises and others' expectations than he is by any master plan.

Consider:

* The small-town jock called "Freddie" and "Moose," who, at 17, upon getting his high school girlfriend pregnant, married her, heeded her politically connected family and made something of himself.

* The divorced U.S. senator, lawyer, lobbyist and actor who dropped out of politics when one of his three grown children died from a prescription drug overdose.

* The unlikely 65-year-old comeback kid, now remarried with a 4-year-old daughter and a 1-year-old son, who's running for the Republican nomination for president.

On the campaign trail, Thompson treats criticism that he doesn't have enough fire in the belly with a father-knows-best attitude.

"I've had the worst thing that can happen to a father, and the best thing that can happen to a father," Thompson told retirees this fall in South Carolina, in the drawl that's central to his persona. "I think you come out from the other end of that with a sense of what's important and not important."

Wanting a stable world for his second family helped nudge him to audition for a part that would be less fun than TV shoots, but more consequential.

Setting the stage

Thompson was born in Alabama and raised in Tennessee by parents whose formal education ended with junior high school. He graduated from Memphis State University and the Vanderbilt University law school while working and raising children.

He read Barry Goldwater's "The Conscience of a Conservative," started a Young Republicans group and worked on a congressional campaign, as a federal prosecutor and for the re-election of Tennessee Republican Sen. Howard Baker Jr.

Baker became a powerful mentor. He gave the young Thompson, whom Richard Nixon once called "dumb as hell," a job as chief Republican counsel on the committee investigating Watergate.

Thompson got national exposure, a book deal and an anti-corruption reputation that drew clients, including state parole official Marie Ragghianti, to his new law practice.

Ragghianti exposed a cash-for-clemency scheme under Tennessee Gov. Ray Blanton, lost her job and hired Thompson to clear her name.

"He's personable and straightforward, and he was just what I needed at a very dark hour in my life," Ragghianti said in an interview.

There was a book about the case, then a movie with Sissy Spacek -- "Marie" -- in which Thompson played himself. That launched his career as an actor even as he kept a hand in on Capitol Hill.

Celebrity eased Thompson's election to an open Senate seat; he replaced Tennessee's Al Gore, who became Bill Clinton's vice president.

Recovery, renewal

Serving from 1994 through 2002, Thompson got mixed reviews. He was a reliable Republican vote, but critics said he lacked the appetite for the long hours and tedium and didn't leave much of a legacy.

In the final year of Thompson's Senate career, his daughter Betsy, who had bipolar disorder, died from what was deemed an accidental overdose of painkillers.

"That basically took all the proverbial wind out of his sail," said Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., who attended the funeral in 2002 and began pushing last year for Thompson to run for president. "It took his heart right out of his body."

Thompson went back to acting, and making money, as fictional District Attorney Arthur Branch on TV's "Law & Order." He also gave up the single life, marrying Jeri, whom he'd met years earlier while grocery shopping. Then they had children.

About this time, Thompson was diagnosed with a non-fatal lymphoma, which required chemotherapy.

But he had a new appetite for GOP politics. He helped manage Chief Justice John Roberts' confirmation to the Supreme Court in 2005, was chairman of the State Department's International Security Advisory Board and championed President Bush's commutation of White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's prison sentence in the CIA leak case.

When retiring Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee said last year that he wouldn't seek the presidency, Wamp pressed Thompson to get in.

Thompson wasn't interested, Wamp said. But Baker intervened, and Jeri encouraged him. No other Republican had an easy lock on the nomination.

Wamp thinks that Thompson's image and message are selling points, and so is his personal experience of "raising a second family in a different generation than the first."

Wamp said he remembers when the first President Bush "didn't know the price of a gallon of milk," referring to a much-hyped 1992 campaign incident when Bush was reportedly surprised by grocery store scanners, and his critics seized on that to charge that he was out of touch with ordinary Americans.

Thompson, on the other hand, has a campaign bus with a diaper-changing table.


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Extended News; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections; US: Alabama; US: Tennessee
KEYWORDS: 2008; campaigns; election; electionpresident; elections; fred; fredthompson; gop; hollywood; howardbaker; jerithompson; johnroberts; law; rayblanton; republicans; richardnixon; sc2008; scotus; senate; southernstartegy; talkradio; thompson; watergate; zachwamp

1 posted on 12/02/2007 3:24:25 AM PST by 2ndDivisionVet
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
" ... Thompson, whom Richard Nixon once called "dumb as hell," ..."


Works for me.

Probably just smart enough to put eight years in the WH and set the enemy Democrat Party back 25 years.

2 posted on 12/02/2007 4:17:46 AM PST by G.Mason (And what is intelligence if not the craft of out-thinking our adversaries?)
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To: G.Mason

” ... Thompson, whom Richard Nixon once called “dumb as hell,” ...”

Yeah, we slow-talkin’, southern drawlers get called that a lot. ;)


3 posted on 12/02/2007 4:36:56 AM PST by rightazrain ("Once we have a war there is only one thing to do. It must be won. " -- Ernest Hemingway)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Fred is the GOP candidate,as Rush pointed out,the closest to a true conservative.
Plus,he has “the voice.” Would you vote for Tiny Tim or James Earl Jones to go up against Sister Mary Elephant? Reagan the Great also had “the voice” and could read “Dick and Jane at the Seashore” and make it sound like the Gettysburg Address.FDR was ugly as HRC yet the crypto-commie’s speaches were gripping and convinced most Americans that Big Government was a good thing.
History has proven that looks count but looks without good diction count little while even poor looks but with great diction counts a lot.JFK and RR both had good looks and great diction but none like them are running in 2008.Fred is the only candidate HRC would refuse to debate because it would indeed sound like James Earl Jones versus Sister Mary Elephant and Bill’s “dominance over dignity” female version of a cuckold knows it.”The Voice” is best described as “firm,correct and heavily laden with either testosterone or estrogen,”depending,of course,on one’s sex.For instance Maggie Thatcher and Golda Meir have and had the female “voice” along with the appropriate ideology and look at their astonishing legacies.Now remember,the hormone factor in “the voice” equation doesn’t necessarilly mean “sexiness”(though it couldn’t hurt-see JFK),it means that only,without doubt and in clear and traditional understanding,REAL men and women can be taken seriously by the masses both sentient and liberal.
So we have a conservative with “the voice” trailing the GOP pack while a socialist with “the cackle” is leading her’s.
What’s wrong with this picture?
Obviously,like Animal Farm,many in the New Media seek the same perks as the Old Media they endeaver to overthrow had.
Frankly,I wonder if Reagan The Great would have done worse in 1980 if the liberal mainstream media did NOT then have a monopoly.


4 posted on 12/02/2007 4:38:43 AM PST by Happy Rain
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To: G.Mason

” ... Thompson, whom Richard Nixon once called “dumb as hell,” ...”

Yeah, we slow-talkin’, southern drawlers get called that a lot. ;)


5 posted on 12/02/2007 4:40:35 AM PST by rightazrain ("Once we have a war there is only one thing to do. It must be won. " -- Ernest Hemingway)
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To: rightazrain

I wonder why? You only needed to say it once! LOL


6 posted on 12/02/2007 4:47:42 AM PST by Coldwater Creek
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To: rightazrain

I’z on of them Slow Talking Lanky southerners. Born, raised in the mountains of NC.
I have lived up north, NJ for 37 years. When I hear a recording of myself I still laugh at my own “drawl”.

Many of my competitors mistook my drawl as “dumb” also.

They truly regretted that!


7 posted on 12/02/2007 5:18:00 AM PST by primatreat (Alzheimer's whispers are getting louder. I will not let the door open till this is over .)
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To: Happy Rain

I agree with you about “the voice”. Fred’s got it, along with the best ideas of the campaign and the second most consistent conservativism (a bow to Duncan Hunter) of all the candidates.


8 posted on 12/02/2007 5:31:06 AM PST by samtheman
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To: rightazrain

I heard that!


9 posted on 12/02/2007 5:52:40 AM PST by G.Mason (And what is intelligence if not the craft of out-thinking our adversaries?)
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To: samtheman
Fred’s got it, along with the best ideas of the campaign and the second most consistent conservativism (a bow to Duncan Hunter) of all the candidates.

That is why we need THOMPSON-HUNTER 2008.

Time for those two to realise they can team up and win, BIG.

10 posted on 12/02/2007 5:54:02 AM PST by TLI ( ITINERIS IMPENDEO VALHALLA)
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To: samtheman

I apologize-I meant,like Rush,that Fred is the most conservative of the GOP “frontrunners.” Duncan Hunter is a great conservative but I regret,like with Newt Gingrich,that brilliance does not outweigh panache in today’s political world.
It’s always the same old tangle—the best of the unnoticed or the better of the noticed.Or a pragmatic half loaf versus no loaf at all or,in defeat,the loss of the loaf you already have.
Principle is a bitch.


11 posted on 12/02/2007 6:03:40 AM PST by Happy Rain
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To: primatreat

Thanks for the post....


12 posted on 12/02/2007 6:41:02 AM PST by captnorb
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To: Happy Rain

Remember: Thompson/Hunter winng team!


13 posted on 12/02/2007 6:42:00 AM PST by captnorb
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To: captnorb

Sounds good to me.But again I wonder,would the sunshine conservatives in the New Media allow it?
Lets face it,most of our pundits shine or suck depending on the thickness of their wallets.To them,patriotism is an arbitrary decision.


14 posted on 12/02/2007 7:06:27 AM PST by Happy Rain
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Thanks for posting this. Good background info on FRed.

I’m hoping that FRed will pick Duncan Hunter as his VP. What a combo!


15 posted on 12/02/2007 7:29:16 AM PST by upchuck (Hildabeaste as Prez... unimaginable, devastating misery! She will redefine "How bad can it get?")
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To: TLI

>>That is why we need THOMPSON-HUNTER 2008. Time for those two to realise they can team up and win, BIG.<<

Absolutely!!!


16 posted on 12/02/2007 8:13:10 AM PST by Mother Mary
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To: Coldwater Creek

“I wonder why? You only needed to say it once! LOL”

We like to take our time an’ say it a couple o’ different ways, jist in case y’all ain’t keepin’ up with us.


17 posted on 12/02/2007 8:28:31 AM PST by rightazrain ("Once we have a war there is only one thing to do. It must be won. " -- Ernest Hemingway)
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To: jellybean; Politicalmom; girlangler; KoRn; Shortstop7; Lunatic Fringe; Darnright; babygene; ...
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Fredipedia: The Definitive Fred Thompson Reference

WARNING: If you wish to join, be aware that this ping list is EXTREMELY active.

18 posted on 12/02/2007 8:33:07 AM PST by Politicalmom (Huckabee is the GOP's Jimmy Carter. Are you ready for the plundering of your pocketbook?)
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To: Politicalmom

Talk about a consistent conservative position — doing the right thing by his high school girlfriend.

While I don’t admire his teenage mistake that got him in that position, it’s not like I (or most of us) didn’t do (or try to do) that when I was 17.

He stepped up to the plate, which is highly unusual character for a boy that age.


19 posted on 12/02/2007 9:28:08 AM PST by TheThirdRuffian
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

An overall positive and somewhat objective article on Fred!

I am so shocked!


20 posted on 12/02/2007 9:52:27 AM PST by SoConPubbie
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To: upchuck

“I’m hoping that FRed will pick Duncan Hunter as his VP. What a combo!”

BUMP


21 posted on 12/02/2007 10:00:47 AM PST by stephenjohnbanker (Pray for, and support our troops(heroes) !! And vote out the RINO's!!)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

What you see is what you get.

Damn refreshing.


22 posted on 12/02/2007 12:24:39 PM PST by Names Ash Housewares
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