Nor did Fred burn any rubber to get to the Republican debate in New Hampshire. In fact, he never showed up at all. So you'd have to mark him down as laconic southerner, an ol' Tennessee boy fixing to run at his own pace and no faster -- that is, until you see his announcement ad. Watching this message, produced in-house by the Fred08 campaign, is to wonder, "Did he overdose on Red Bull? Is the teleprompter operator a cokehead? Am I stuck on fast forward?" Thompson speeds through the copy like the Russian conductor speeds through Tchaikovsky in "Bye Bye Birdie."
"On the next president's watch," the former senator begins, posed next to the American flag, "our country will make decisions that will affect our lives and our families far into the future. We can't allow ourselves to become a weaker, less prosperous and more divided nation." He blurts out all of this in 9.5 seconds.
You try it. It can be done, but only by forsaking certain public-speaking techniques -- such as expression and pauses. Meantime, the man's head is bobbing forcefully up and down, piston-like, as if to power the verbiage. But it becomes impossible to focus on the words themselves. Instead you fixate on the delivery and think, "This guy's an actor?" His slogan is "Security. Unity. Prosperity." Maybe he should add, "Rapidity."
In fairness, the candidate does slow down for the second half of the message: "Today, as before, the fate of millions across the world depends on the unity and resolve of the American people. I talk about this tomorrow on Fred08.com; I invite you to take a look and join us." But by then it's too late. He's failed to connect.
Between Thompson's conservative philosophy and his Hollywood résumé, he has been compared to Ronald Reagan. But, at least in this opening salvo, Fred is no Great Communicator. He's just another fast-talking politician.