November 2015 Archives

Tulsa Mayor Dewey F. Bartlett Jr. has announced his intention to run for a third term. Federal lobbyist and City Councilor G. T. Bynum IV has announced his intention to run against Bartlett.

My one-word take:


Tulsa needs better choices. (I won't say "deserves better"; as Mencken wrote, "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.")

If these are our choices, I'll be sitting this election out, as I did in 2013. Neither candidate is a conservative. G. T. Bynum has been a leading proponent of leftist social policies at City Hall; Bartlett has offered no resistance to those policies. Both men are besotted with the expensively foolish idea that "water in the river" is the key to Tulsa's future prosperity. Bartlett endorsed the explicit corporate welfare of Vision2 Proposition 1; both endorsed Proposition 2, which was a bad financial deal for the City of Tulsa.

Neither have been advocates for sound urban design and land-use policy. Bartlett has promoted the idea of converting 12 acres of park land on the river to a massive parking lot surrounding a big-box store; when the Council voted on the Comprehensive Plan changes to enable the development, Bynum recused himself. Both are residents of Tulsa's Money Belt, the tiny ultra-wealthy section of town with an insular mindset that has been home to almost every mayor of Tulsa.

Bynum deserves credit for a couple of positive fiscal changes, such as the enactment of a city rainy day fund, but, as much as I dislike Bartlett's performance as mayor, Bartlett may be marginally preferable on the principles of harm minimization and "Stick to the devil you know." While Bartlett will go along with leftist social policies, he is not likely to initiate them; Bynum will likely feel obliged to make Tulsa "more progressive" in hopes of attracting young professionals. Bartlett is near the end of his political career and unlikely to pursue higher office. Bynum is young and ambitious and more likely to use the Mayor's office as a springboard to higher office, where his advocacy for leftist social policies and useless and expensive public works projects can cause considerably more damage.

2016 is looking to be the year of the outsider in presidential politics. Perhaps it could be the year of the outsider in local politics as well.

Last Tuesday night, Rosaria Butterfield, Ph.D., gave a talk on sexual identity to a standing-room-only crowd in the Great Room at the University of Tulsa's Allen Chapman Activities Center. Butterfield's visit was sponsored by several evangelical Christian groups on campus: Reformed University Fellowship, Baptist Collegiate Ministries, Chi Alpha, and the TU Wesley Foundation, which are connected with the Presbyterian Church in America, the Southern Baptist Convention, Assemblies of God, and United Methodist denominations, respectively.

(MORE: Here is an audio recording (MP3, 47MB, 1 hr 53 min) of Rosaria Butterfield's talk and the first half-hour or so of the Q&A that followed. Please excuse the sound of my pen and pages turning; I thoughtlessly had my recorder clipped to my notepad. I either ran out of battery or memory before the Q&A concluded.)

Prior to Butterfield's talk, an aggregation styling themselves "The Students of United Campus Ministry, Pride at TU, the Society for Gender Equality, HeadStrong, and Earth Matters" issued an open letter objecting to the event. The University of Tulsa Collegian published the open letter (PDF), along with a list of signatories and a response from the groups sponsoring the event.

United Campus Ministry is sponsored by local congregations affiliated with the PCUSA, Disciples of Christ, United Church of Christ, and Unitarian Universalist denominations.

Here is an excerpt with the gist of the protest letter:

The students of United Campus Ministry, the Society for Gender Equality, HeadStrong, Earth Matters, and Pride at TU want to state publicly that we are outraged that several ministries from the university will be hosting Rosaria Champagne Butterfield on November 17th.

Mrs. Butterfield speaks openly not only about her conversion to Christianity, but also her conversion from lesbianism to straightness.

Mrs. Butterfield believes that being gay or transgender is fundamentally opposed to being Christian.

Inviting someone to speak about orientation as a spiritual or psychological weakness actively creates a hostile environment for all LGBTQ+ students.

Many of the students who are concerned about this speaker's presence on our campus identify as both Christian and LGBTQ+, and we believe that by hosting Mrs. Butterfield, these campus ministries are trying to silence our voices and invalidate our identities....

Any discussion or promotion of such practices, or suggestion that sexual orientation is not immutable is discrimination and a threat....

We will not allow our community to be harassed without responding. We will not accept hate speech on our campus without condemnation. We will not allow our loving community to be hurt by this woman's supposed wisdom. We will not be broken by your hate.

The letter follows the typical pattern of campus hostility to free speech, casting the discussion of ideas in terms of safety: "hostile environment," "a threat," "oppression," "hate speech," "safe place," "harassed." The aggressor poses as victim: They claim that that their voices are being silenced, while it is they who are attempting to silence the voices of Rosaria Butterfield and the campus organizations who invited her.

It should be noted that the night of the speech itself went surprisingly well, to the credit of the university. Protesters lined up at the top of both staircases leading to the Great Hall, holding signs but remaining silent, and not obstructing people going to the talk. (I'm not sure if that was their decision or at the insistence of campus police.) During the talk, the protesters stood along the walls to the right of and behind the audience, so they heard the speech. During the Q&A following Butterfield's talk, most if not all of the questions were from protesters and most of those seemed to be sincere inquiries, not gotcha questions. It seemed as if Butterfield's telling of her story disarmed them. When questioners started asking follow-ups (holding up a long line behind them) or making statements following the answer, Butterfield gently requested that they stick to one question and follow the ground rules.

For the record, here is the list of signatories of the open-letter, the supporters of shut-uppery at TU. (If you signed this letter and later come to regret your hostility to the free expression of ideas, contact me at the email address in the sidebar, and I'll be glad to note that you've withdrawn your support.) Alumni donors to TU should note that a couple of the signatories are departments funded by the university.

The Women's and Gender Studies Department
The University of Tulsa Institute of Trauma, Adversity and Injustice
The Student Alliance for Violence Education
Lisa Wilson
Evan Taylor, East Side Chrisitian Church
Rev. Nancy J. Eggen
Rabbi Micah Citrin
Ekklesia at Missouri State University
Rev. Robert Martin
Fr. Dewayne Messenger
Rabbi Karen Citrin
Rev. Chris Moore
Rev. Fred Turner
Rev. Susanna Weslie
Kelley Friedberg
Phill Melton
Sara N. Beam
Rev. Geoffrey Brewster
SA President Whitney House
Pride and HeadStrong President Tara Grigson
President of Society for Gender Equality Gracie Weiderhaft
Whitney Cipolla
Dr. Melinda McGarrah Sharp
United Ministry Executive Director Jennie Wachowski
Oklahomans for Equality
Lamont Lindstrom
Dr. Maralee Waidner
Mana Tahaie
ABC Vice President Kyla Sloan
Sheridan Turner
Bridget Branham
Nicole Nascenzi
Lauren Jackson
Karl G. Siewert
Isaac Sanders
James Johnson
Rosie A. Lynch
Jack Kent Cooke
Cameron Cross
Samantha Overstreet
Sonja Worthy
Cody Jackson Brown
Tina Daniels
Scott Gove
Mary Wafer-Johnston
Brynn Jellison
Zane Cawthon
Morgen Cavanah
Elizabeth Cohen
Brittany Bell
Justin DaMetz
Bronte Pearson
Alyssa Adamson
Megan Senol
Melissa Miller
Casey Mattin
Alex Wade
Sara Douglas
Charissa Schaefer
Emily Landry
Seton Lazalier
Michelle Hunter
Mariah Rubino
Nicole Flippo
Ashley Bailey
Will Schoenhals
Sierra Dyer
Ken Leep-Sills
Sharon Bishop-Baldwin
Lauren Keithley
Toby Jenkins
Don Satterthwaite
Josh Harris
Lucille Hengen
Hayley Harris
Anna Facci
Misti Yerton
Diane Bucchianeri
Abigail Obana
Robin larson
Jessica Pongonis
Stephanie Greif
Megan Curtis
Scott Arnold
Jordan Dunn Hoyt
Mark Archer
Giselle Willis
Sarah Hicks
Carly Putnam
Conor Fellin
Ronni Joe Killion
Julia Evans
Lisa Dodwell
Madison Reid
Ashley Knapp
Brian Hasse
Lauren Delucchi
Chris Madaj
Shiloh Tune
Judith E. Nole
Justin Turner
Prof. Amy Schachle
Alicia Ruskey
Deanna Tirrell
Casey Copeland
Shannon Martin
David Burch
Aiden Smith
Sean C. Conner
Laura Banks
Phillip Jennings
Grace Heaberlin
Daniela Rosales
Karyn E. Fox
Paul Meuser
Stephen Place
Laci Lynn
Sean Patrick Rooney
James Scholl
Tyler Carter
Julie Austin
Kaitlyn Marie Counter
Carlos Martos
Benjamin Buchanan
Adela M. Sanchez


In 2014, the British Broadcasting Corporation re-created five missing episodes of the groundbreaking and ever-popular radio sitcom Hancock's Half Hour, in honor of the 60th anniversary of the show. Of the 102 episodes broadcast over six series from 1954 to 1959, 20 episodes are missing from the archives. In response to popular acclaim, five additional episodes of The Missing Hancocks were recorded this past spring and will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 each week beginning this Monday, November 23, 2015.

The uncanny ability of this cast, led by Kevin McNally as Tony Hancock and Robin Sebastian as Kenneth Williams, to recreate the voices and personalities of the original actors, is on display in this clip:

The episodes will premiere each Monday at 11:30 am British Standard Time (5:30 am Tulsa time), but will be available for online streaming for about a month after the broadcast. The first episode is already online and is linked below:

1. How Hancock Won the War, 2015/11/23

2. The Red Planet, 2015/11/30

3. The Marriage Bureau, 2015/12/07

4. A Visit to Russia, 2015/12/14

5. The Trial of Father Christmas, 2015/12/21

MORE: Four further episodes were recreated on stage by the same cast at the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe, and we can hope that these will be the one next to be recorded and broadcast: The Winter Holiday, New Year's Resolutions, Prime Minister Hancock, and The Three Sons.

UPDATE 2015/11/10: Congratulations to David McLain, who has won the SD 34 GOP primary, with 42% of the vote to John Feary's 39%, a margin of 70 votes out of 2,137 cast. Because there is no runoff, McLain advances to face the Democrat nominee, J. J. Dossett, in the January 12, 2016, special general election. McLain won by holding Feary under 50% on his home field, dominating in his own home base in Skiatook, and sweeping Tulsa precincts, which Feary seems to have ignored. Feary only managed 46% and a 132-vote margin in Owasso. Feary also edged McLain in Collinsville precincts, 40%-36%, 11-vote margin. McLain won Skiatook 82% to 13%, 85-vote margin, and won 60% of the vote in the Tulsa precincts over Feary's 25%, by a 120-vote margin. A bare majority of the 30 Rogers County voters went for Mark Williams. McLain won absentees and early voters by 5 and won Sperry precincts by a single vote.

Congratulations also go to taxpayers in the Northeast Tech Center district, who voted by a 3 to 1 margin against an increase in the property tax rate for funding buildings and against making the levy permanent. What we used to call vo-tech schools have been on a building spree of late. While these schools perform a valuable function, they typically have a permanent levy which produces far more revenue than they need to accomplish their mission, and so they put the money into big, shiny new buildings. If anything, vo-tech schools ought to cut millage so voters can choose to allocated it to other taxing entities more in need of revenue. Or better yet, let's have a College Re-Alignment and Closure commission (CRAC) to reduce duplication among Oklahoma's taxpayer-funded post-secondary institutions.

Tomorrow (November 10, 2015) is a special primary election to fill the Oklahoma State Senate District 34 seat in the wake of Rick Brinkley's resignation. Senate District 34 (click for PDF map) includes all of Tulsa County north of 66th Street North (including the Tulsa County portions of Skiatook, Sperry, Owasso, Collinsville), the City of Tulsa northeast of Pine and Yale, northeast of the Admiral Twin, and northeast of 89th East Ave and 21st Street, and a small, mostly uninhabited section of Rogers County north of the Port Road.

There is a Democrat in the race, but because District 34 is heavily Republican (a Republican has held the seat since the 1994 election), and because in this special election there is no runoff, the winner of tomorrow's GOP primary will almost certainly become a state senator. Although I don't live in District 34, I grew up there, and I join conservative activists and elected officials like State Rep. Chuck Strohm, State Sen. Nathan Dahm, and County Assessor Ken Yazel in urging District 34 Republicans to vote for David McLain.


David McLain is a Skiatook resident, a veteran of the U. S. Navy, and owns a small business in the construction industry. David and Aleen, his wife of 26 years, have three grown children and two grandchildren. McLain has been endorsed by the Oklahoma Conservative PAC, the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association, and the leaders of ROPE, the grassroots group that defeated Common Core. McLain supports the right to life, the sanctity of marriage, parental choice in education, lower taxes, and less-intrusive government.

Here's what public officials have written in endorsing McLain (legislative ratings are from the Oklahoma Constitution newspaper):

State Sen. Nathan Dahm (R-Tulsa, conservative rating 100): "David McLain is a man of good character and faith. He has shown throughout his life to be a servant of the people and I know we can count on that same heart of servitude from David if elected. David's understanding of the principles of liberty is a trait that I believe will serve the people of SD34 well. Currently, I call David my friend, but I hope to also call him my colleague."

Rep. Chuck Strohm (R-Jenks, conservative rating 100): "It is an honor to endorse David McLain for the Oklahoma Senate. David has integrity, and he understands the fact that the principles which gave us the US Constitution are based in the Judeo-Christian belief system. He will join me in standing against Federal and Judicial overreach as we fight to preserve the values that we are seeing deteriorate before our eyes. Please vote for David McLain on November 10th and help elect a true Conservative as your next state Senator."

Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel (R): "I believe David McLain is the right man to represent the people of SD 34. As a fellow veteran, I know David has a deep understanding of the Constitution and will take his oath of office seriously. As a fellow conservative, I know that we will be able to trust that David will represent our Republican values well. David McLain is the right man for the job!"

We are at an interesting point in Oklahoma politics. The state is so overwhelmingly Republican that the special interests who had traditionally given to Democrats have discovered that the only avenue to influence legislation is to invest in Republican primary candidates. These special interests want to defeat fair-deal, grassroots Republicans, who want to make government smaller, but they find that they can work with wheeler-dealer Republicans, who are happy to have bigger government and higher taxes, as long as their allies can be the beneficiaries of those higher taxes.

With Republicans in solid control of every executive office, the State House, and the State Senate -- 40 seats out of 48 -- the real battle in Oklahoma politics is over what kind of Republicans will run state government.

I should stipulate at this point that both wheeler-dealer and fair-dealer Republicans are generally united in support of pro-life issues and Second Amendment rights. But wheeler-dealers have put the brakes on reform of taxation, schools, and the judiciary. They tend to like special tax credits for targeted beneficiaries. When the State Chamber says jump, the wheeler-dealers ask "How high?"

A look at endorsements and funding indicates that McLain's chief opponent in the race, John Feary, is aligned with the wheeler-dealers. Feary has the financial backing of leading Obama fundraiser George Kaiser and some of Kaiser's close associates, as well as many statewide political action committees and lobbyists.

Feary has been endorsed by the State Chamber of Commerce. Conservatives have learned that "chambers of commerce" at every level -- federal, state, and metro -- often support cronyism and oppose reforms that empower individuals, families, and entrepreneurs. The State Chamber has targeted solid conservative legislators for defeat, supporting primary opponents and sometimes even Democrats, as they try to reassert control over the legislature. Chambers often block conservatives on social and cultural issues, preferring profits to principle.

Last year, Feary ran a very negative campaign against Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel. Yazel has been the taxpayers' best friend at the County Courthouse, and because Yazel has opposed foolish sales tax increases and has called the public's attention to the wasteful allocation of our taxes, he was targeted for defeat by the local wheeler-dealers, who backed Feary. Feary lost in a landslide.

Feary, a City of Owasso employee, was also a vocal defender of City Manager Rodney Ray, who left Owasso under an ethical cloud. Rodney Ray was charged with and ultimately pled "no contest" to passing a bad check and making a false police report (he claimed the bad check had been stolen). Other OSCN entries for Rodney Ray suggest a pattern of financial irresponsibility over several years.

At that time, Feary wrote me defending Ray's performance as City Manager: "I would ask that you keep JB [sic] mind that Mr. Ray is not an elected official and his personal finances and family situations are not the business nor should they be if concern to J.B. Alexander and his group of cronies. The Owasso City Council makes the decisions and sets policy so Mr. Ray's private matters are not indicative or reflective of his job performance."

This election is to replace a state senator who pled guilty to crimes connected with embezzlement from his employer. Does it make sense to replace him with someone who regards the financial misdeeds of the CEO of Oklahoma's fastest growing city as merely private matters, and who regards concerned citizens as a "group of cronies"?

David McLain's financial support has come mainly from small donations; I recognize many of his donors as solid conservative activists. The only PAC to give money to McLain is the Oklahoma Conservative PAC.

There are two other candidates on the Republican primary ballot, Mark Williams and Chuck Daugherty, who do not appear to be running an active campaign. Because there is no runoff election, conservatives need to unite behind one candidate. If the conservative majority splits its votes, the candidate backed by Obama fundraiser George Kaiser will win.

We don't need another state senator who will owe his election to special interest groups, lobbyists, and big Democrat donors. We need a solid conservative who will carry out the conservative reform agenda in Oklahoma City. I urge District 34 Republicans to get to the polls tomorrow and support David McLain for State Senate.

Fred Thompson, RIP

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Tribute image posted on Facebook by National Review

I was sad to hear of the passing, on Sunday, of actor, lawyer, and former U. S. Senator Fred Thompson, who was felled by lymphoma at the age of 73. My condolences to his family and friends, with my thanks for supporting him in his service to our country.

Writing for Commentary, John Podhoretz tells Fred Thompson's story through the lens of his research into a 1993 profile of Thompson, who was then preparing to leave acting and run for Senate. It is worth reading in full. Many other blogs have quoted the passage about Thompson's regrets over his prosecution of moonshiners while serving as an assistant U. S. Attorney. I was impressed by his account of Thompson's self-education in political philosophy and how it served him well as he entered electoral politics many years later:

I asked him what it was that had made him a Republican. He said that when he was working at nights behind a motel desk, he needed to stay awake, and he began to read National Review. Eventually that led him to William F. Buckley Jr.'s oeuvre, and to Hayek, and to Whittaker Chambers's Witness, and to Richard Weaver's Ideas Have Consequences, and to other works that helped him develop a philosophy about the centrality of the individual and the dangers of an overreaching state -- the same overreaching state he would serve in prosecuting those moonshiners a few years later....

But it was philosophical conservatism that had captured his attention in his college and law-school years. His election in 1994 as part of the Gingrich Revolution was not only due to his attractiveness, his resume, and his literal star power, but because he was intellectually in tune with the changes being wrought to the GOP. The very qualities that made him a memorable performer and a good senator--that combination of amiability and steel--did not really include the consuming ambition to rise to the top.

I was impressed, too, at the easy way he wore stardom:

The thing about Thompson was, he continued to work as a lawyer throughout his career as an actor in The Hunt for Red October, No Way Out, Days of Thunder, Cape Fear, and other pictures. Among other things, he was one of the three trustees of the Teamsters pension fund, which had been seized by the government. So though he rose to the point where he was likely making close to half a million dollars per picture, he was not dependent on that work for his livelihood -- and there were things he did not wish to do.

That included cursing on the screen. He had a fight (I recall him saying it lasted several days) with the famously temperamental producer Joel Silver on the set of Die Hard 2 because the script called for him to use the F-word. His contract specifically said he would not use profanity. Silver didn't care and simply could not imagine Thompson would make trouble on this score. But unlike other Hollywood players, Thompson viewed acting as a lark, and was able to stand his ground.

Podhoretz noted the conflict between the demands of high-stakes politics and Thompson's temperament, a temperament better suited to observation than action:

Thompson was not suited to the task of running for the presidency, I think, because he had an essentially ironic view of the world and its workings. In the last years of his life became one of Twitter's best political tummlers, issuing forth perfectly crafted one-liners about the absurdities of the Age of Obama. On September 23, only five weeks before his untimely death yesterday at the age of 72, he offered this: "Obama at a school in Iowa: Students 'shouldn't silence' guest speakers who are 'too conservative.' Yes. That's what the IRS is for."

As longtime BatesLine readers will recall, I was an early and enthusiastic supporter of Thompson's 2008 run for president, as was much of the conservative blogosphere. Thompson was well-informed on the issues, well-grounded in principle, willing to speak politically-incorrect truths and not back down, but in a reassuring, avuncular manner and with a dry wit (which he continued to display after the campaign on his own radio show and his Twitter account).

Here he is from 2007, discussing amnesty and the border fence:

As blogger See-Dubya noted on the occasion of Paul Harvey's death:

One more thing: back when Fred Thompson was just flirting with running for President, one of the things that excited me the most about his candidacy was his ABC radio addresses he gave while sitting in for Paul Harvey. I thought that was a politically brilliant move that really showcased Fred's strengths-authentic, no-BS Heartland conservatism. I wasn't the only one-I kind of trace the groundswell of interest in Thompson back to his time broadcasting from Paul Harvey's chair, and likewise the deflation of the Thompson bubble to the time he left it.

Here in Oklahoma, Thompson managed to win the endorsement of Sen. Jim Inhofe, then-U. S. Rep. John Sullivan, local radio talk show hosts, and other prominent officials and activists.

Alas, Thompson's skills as a leader didn't match his skills as a communicator. Although he was accused of lacking "fire in the belly" (an accusation he ably rebutted), the real problem is that his campaign team was unable to organize and capitalize on the grassroots goodwill he enjoyed. His departure from the race brought forth numerous anecdotes about the disconnect between Fred 08 HQ and supporters. The Fred 08 letdown is why I feel compelled to look not only at policy positions but the fundraising skills and campaign logistics required to reach the finish line as I decide which of several good candidates will have my support for 2016. Perhaps a more ambitious, higher-strung Fred would have been better able to push and direct his campaign team, but would a more ambitious, higher-strung Fred still be Fred?

(No Fredhead was as enthusiastic as Jackie Broyles, fictional co-host of Red State Update. His response to Thompson's withdrawal involved gasoline and matches. The latest "Ole Timey Country Down Home Red State Update Podcast 'n' 'Em" remembers Fred Thompson by Dunlap reading some of his pithy recent tweets as Jackie laughs and sobs.)

After the campaign, Thompson began a syndicated radio talk show with his wife Jeri as his co-host. Many of his interviews with newsmakers are available on the Fred Thompson YouTube channel, which also has video from his 2008 campaign.

Chris Cilizza of the Washington Post reviews the career of "one of the most talented politicians of his generation":

Former senator Fred D. Thompson (R-Tenn.) died Sunday at 73. He will be remembered by most Americans as an actor who became a politician. But he also was one of the most gifted pols of his generation, possessing a natural ability that helped him win a Senate seat with ease but also led to his underwhelming 2008 bid for president....

The buzz around Thompson was considerable in those first few years in Washington, as many Republicans viewed him as the second coming of Ronald Reagan, another actor-turned-politician. Thompson was regularly picked by his party's leaders to deliver their message du jour and was seen as someone who was simply biding his time until he ran for president....

I've always thought of Fred Thompson in basketball terms -- and not just because he was 6-foot-6. He was like a tremendously gifted hoops player who played the game because he was good at it. But he never really LOVED the game. He could take it or leave it. Just like when a supremely talented basketball player either doesn't live up to his supposed potential or walks away from the game at a young age, Thompson's unwillingness to take full advantage of the tremendous natural political gifts he was given was met with exasperation by both less-talented politicians and the staffers who tried to get the best out of him.

But that was Thompson. He always had those abilities, so they didn't seem as amazing to him. And if he was "wasting" them, well it was his life. "I can live, I will be happy either way, you decide," he once said on the campaign trail in Iowa. "I'm not even trying to say that I'm better than everybody else. ... I am just saying that what you see is what you get. I'm doing it my way -- just like I have done everything else in my life."

While Thompson had every right to live life as he chose, and it's understandable that anyone would prioritize family (particularly young chlidren) over public life, what's missing from Thompson's quote here and Cilizza's analysis is a sense of stewardship of one's gifts and abilities. I can't help but think that, had Thompson put in the work to develop in his areas of weakness, his strengths would have made him the man of the hour in 2008. His grasp of conservative principle was both intuitive through his small-town Tennessee upbringing and grounded in his extracurricular law-school reading. His commanding and reassuring presence, familiar through his work in Hollywood, might have been able to sell conservative policies to low-information voters in a way that John McCain and Mitt Romney never could.

As we honor Thompson for his significant contributions to the public good as prosecutor, corruption-busting attorney, senator, presidential candidate, and commentator, the sense of unrealized potential should challenge us all to examine our own gifts and opportunities and ask what we should be doing to amplify our impact on a nation that desperately needs conservative influence and leadership (even if they don't know it yet).


Cilizza links this ad from Thompson's 1994 campaign for Senate, which he says shows "Thompson at the height of his powers":

WSJ Editorial Board remembers Sen. Thompson's investigation of the Clinton campaign-finance scandals as "his finest role":

Younger readers who want to know what a second Clinton Presidency would be like could do worse than inspect the volumes of sleazy facts that Thompson and his investigators uncovered. There was Mr. Clinton's refusal to implement a Nafta trucking provision in return for Teamsters money; one-time Commerce official John Huang who midwifed illegal contributions from Lippo Group employees; fixer Harold Ickes's fantastic vanishing memory; the Lincoln Bedroom cash machine; Mr. Gore and the Buddhist Temple of money, and so much more.

Thompson's committee became the main source of public information about the scandal that played a crucial role in re-electing Bill Clinton because Mr. Clinton's Attorney General Janet Reno refused to appoint a special prosecutor and the Justice Department brought relatively few charges. Had the offenses been committed by Republicans, the press corps would have called for heads on pikes but the Clintons stonewalled their way to survival as usual.

Cilizza's colleague Justin William Moyer explains how a legal case Thompson took out of pity for a woman persecuted by the local political machine became his inadvertent ticket to Hollywood:

In 1976, Marie Ragghianti, a mother of three who put herself through Vanderbilt University, was appointed chairman of Tennessee's parole board by Gov. Ray Blanton (D). Yet she ran afoul of Blanton when, after learning the governor took cash in exchange for a convict's clemency, she started voting against his recommendations. In 1978, she was fired after what turned out to be a largely groundless investigation of her expense records. She was also put under state surveillance, set up for DUI charges and falsely alleged to have stolen credit cards.

So, Ragghianti went to see a Tennessee lawyer she had seen on TV during Watergate: Fred Thompson.

"I tried to talk her out of a lawsuit," Thompson wrote. "They could make her life miserable in ways that she could not understand." Another problem: "Marie had uttered the most terrifying words that a lawyer can ever hear: 'I am broke.'"

But Ragghianti's story tugged at his heartstrings.

"The more I thought about it, the more I knew she was right about one thing: What they had done to her was cruel and unfair," Thompson wrote. "... I never did like Blanton anyway. It would be fun to rattle his cage."

When Hollywood decided to make this David v. Goliath victory into a movie, and they couldn't find the right actor to play Fred, they asked Fred to play Fred, which turned into a career:

"When they needed some middle-aged guy who'd work cheap, they'd call me for a little part and I'd go out there two or three weeks and knock one out," he said in 1994.

Some said he was a natural -- or, at least, a natural for the parts he played.

"Literally, I don't think Fred ever acts," Tom Ingram, a longtime friend who worked on Thompson's Senate campaigns, said in 2007. "He played himself in 'Marie,' and he's been playing himself ever since."

WSJ quotes from Thompson's 2007 op-ed on the positive economic effect of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts:

In fact, Treasury statistics show that tax revenues have soared and the budget deficit has been shrinking faster than even the optimists projected. Since the first tax cuts were passed, when I was in the Senate, the budget deficit has been cut in half. . . .

Perhaps the most fascinating thing about this success story is where the increased revenues are coming from. Critics claimed that across-the-board tax cuts were some sort of gift to the rich but, on the contrary, the wealthy are paying a greater percentage of the national bill than ever before.

The richest 1% of Americans now pays 35% of all income taxes. The top 10% pay more taxes than the bottom 60%. ...

To face these challenges, and any others that we might encounter in a hazardous world, we need to maintain economic growth and healthy tax revenues. That is why we need to reject taxes that punish rather than reward success. Those who say they want a "more progressive" tax system should be asked one question:

Are you really interested in tax rates that benefit the economy and raise revenue--or are you interested in redistributing income for political reasons?

The Daily Signal has collected 31 of Fred Thompson's best quotes, including several of his recent Twitter aphorismata:

5. "After two years in Washington, I often long for the realism and sincerity of Hollywood," he said in a speech before the Commonwealth Club of California.

14. "Some of our folks went to Washington to drain the swamp and made partnership with the alligators instead."

23. "On ABC, Josh Earnest said that the economy is 'building momentum'. Well, Josh, things that are rapidly going downhill often do that."

29. "NYC reports it's struggling to keep booming population of stray cats under control. Tough one. Have they tried cat-free zone signs? "

Peter Suderman at Reason:

He went on to play numerous other roles in the following years, including a memorably grave Navy Admiral in The Hunt for Red October and a key supporting part as an air-traffic-control director forced to deal with a chaotic terrorist attack in 1990's Die Hard 2.

Neither of those roles were showy, and you can easily imagine lesser performers disappearing into the parts. But they played to Thompson's strengths; he projected authority, responsibility, and competency, even as everything went to hell around him. You could imagine Thompson--or at least the character he played--being in charge, and being good at it....

Thompson sought to capitalize on that same impression in his 2008 run for president, but he could never quite pull it off. In the debates, he never seemed quite well enough prepared, and the presidential persona he was obviously aiming for never quite stuck. At heart, Thompson was always a character actor, not a leading man.

At the same time, his unwillingness to dig too deep into the role was unexpectedly endearing. He wanted to be president, but he was not mad for the job or what it might bring. As George Mason Law Professor Ilya Somin said in a Facebook post last night, it may be that Thompson's "most admirable qualification for the presidency was that he clearly did not want the office nearly as much as most other candidates, and largely lacked their obvious lust for power."

Like all politicians, he was an actor playing a part. But unlike so many, he didn't let it consume him.

Andrew McCarthy, National Review:

He was one of the great gentlemen it has been my privilege to know. Fred would have been a great president because - and today's candidates could take a lesson from this - he cared more about America than about being president. He was not the best candidate, but he would have been the best incumbent.

John Fund, National Review:

In or out of office, Fred Thompson stayed true to the conservative principles he believed he had made America great. He always thought a major reason Republicans lost the presidency in 2008 was that they had aided and abetted runaway government spending. Republicans had to commit themselves to smaller government, he contended, because Democrats are incapable of following through on ever being fiscally prudent. "Their political coalition needs more revenue like a car requires gasoline," he told me as he ran for president. "Reagan showed what can be done if you have the will to push for tough choices and the ability to ask the people to accept them." Fred Thompson never made it to the White House, but he nonetheless showed a strength of character and a grounded belief in common sense that left his country a better place.

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