One of Ronald Reagan’s key advisers, Michael Deavers, has endorsed Senator Thompson. This is a great feather in Thompson’s cap. It is looking more and more like Thompson is a serious candidate.
By Tim Shipman in Washington, Sunday Telegraph, UK
Ronald Reagan’s closest allies are throwing their weight behind the White House bid by the late president’s fellow actor, Fred Thompson.
The film star and former Republican senator from Tennessee will this week use a speech in the heart of Reagan country, in southern California, to woo party bigwigs in what insiders say is the next step in his coming out as a candidate.
Fred Thompson, Reagan’s men are backing – an actor
A key figure in the Reagan inner circle has now given his seal of approval to Mr Thompson, best known as a star of the television crime drama Law and Order.
As deputy chief of staff, Michael Deaver was a key member of the “troika” of aides who kept the Reagan White House on track. With the chief of staff James Baker and special assistant Ed Meese, he was the master of image and presentation.
Mr Deaver sees the same raw material in Mr Thompson as was perceived in Ronald Reagan, describing him as someone “that could really make a difference”. He added: “He is very popular in his party. He could change this whole thing and turn this primary system upside down.
“As Ronald Reagan used to say, after he stole a line from Al Jolson, ‘Stay tuned, you ain’t seen nothing yet’.”
Mr Thompson’s political and acting careers have been closely interwoven for more than 20 years. He originally worked as a lawyer and -Republican campaign -manager, and was a key legal counsel in the Watergate scandal in the Seventies
He was then asked to play himself in a 1985 film about a real-life judicial corruption scandal in Tennessee, supposedly because the producers could not find a professional actor who could portray him plausibly. That launched his acting career, which he has maintained alongside stints as a senator and continued Republican campaigning.
He has been a popular choice for on-screen authority figures, playing variously a White House chief of staff, a CIA boss, a highly placed FBI agent, and a senator. As one New York Times critic noted: “When Hollywood directors need someone who can personify governmental power, they often turn to him.”
Mr Deaver voiced the view of many Republicans that the current crop of declared candidates is unsatisfactory. Of the front runner, the former New York mayor Rudi Giuliani, he said: “His popularity may be a mile wide and an inch deep. I’m sure that lead will shrink.”
Mr Deaver’s intervention is significant. He is very close to Mr Reagan’s widow, Nancy, and is seen as the keeper of the Reagan flame.
Clark Judge, a White House speechwriter for Mr Reagan, said: “Fred Thompson, like Ronald Reagan, is a man of tremendous substance. There is a sense in the party that none of the candidates is quite ‘it’.”
Mr Reagan, he said, had “embodied the mission of the party – entrepreneurial growth, limited government and a strong national defence. Whoever can bring that mission into this age will be the nominee. And it may be Fred Thompson.” Roger Stone, who was a Reagan campaign strategist, said: “The president Americans want is, in fact, the guy they see on Law and Order: wise, thoughtful, deliberative, confident without the cockiness of George W Bush, urbane yet country. Fred Thompson communicates all those virtues.”
In 1965, when Mr Reagan, then the host of the television show Death Valley Days, was considering whether to enter politics, members of the Lincoln Club in Orange County persuaded him to run for governor of California.
On Friday Mr Thompson will address the 45th annual dinner of the Lincoln Club, which is billed as the “largest and most active political club in the United States.” The invitation was one that other Republican candidates had tried to secure.
The club includes some of California’s richest businessmen – a necessity if you need to raise $20 million quickly in order to compete with Mr Giuliani, John McCain and Mitt Romney. The club found $100,000 for the 2003 campaign to oust California’s Democrat governor, Gray Davis, which helped Arnold Schwarzenegger into the post.
Mr Thompson has shown that he recognises the importance of assuming the Reagan mantle. He is on record as saying: “Ronald Reagan believed in something. How much we need that today. He 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.”
Mr Reagan himself, asked whether his training as an actor had prepared him for the presidency, once replied: “I don’t see how any fellow that wasn’t an actor could do this job.”
Americans need not wait for Mr Thompson to win next year’s election to see him in the Oval Office. He plays President Ulysses S Grant in the film, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, which opens next month.
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