I've finally put my finger on what fascinates/disturbs me so much about the concept that Republican Fred Thompson is a frontrunner for president, beyond the fact that he has spent a third of his life on the planet as a corporate lobbyist. It's basically accepted fact that Thompson was an entirely lackluster -- and lazy -- U.S. senator, and that his current status as a presidential frontrunner really has primarily to do with his side career as a small-time character actor on the TV show Law & Order and in a spate of B-Movies, including those memorable gems of cinematic history like Baby"s Day Out and Iron Eagle III. We know Thompson's acting career is by far the most important factor in his billing as a major frontrunner because if someone of a similarly thin political resume without the Hollywood bit parts floated his name for a run -- say, someone like former Republican Senator Lauch Faircloth (NC) or Peter Fitzgerald (IL) -- that person would be utterly ignored by the media and political Establishment.
Now, it's true, we've had an actor president before -- Ronald Reagan. But what's different is that while Reagan was a B movie actor, he was also a LEAD actor. That is, he actually starred in movies, which at the very least explains the fame he used to ascend to the White House. Thompson, by contrast, has never ever been a star in any movie (other than that massive nationwide blockbuster that nobody saw apparently called Last Best Chance). And yet, somehow, this man is now universally billed in the media as a Very Famous Actor. Even if you do count his bit-part appearances on Law & Order, this billing is absolutely absurd, to the point where I've got to believe his Beltway media billing him as a "well-known actor" accounts far more for his current notoriety than anything he's ever done in his modest acting career.
Look, I wouldn't dare argue that people don't know Fred Thompson's face from his various uninspiring movie and television cameo appearances.But what I am saying is that there's something pathologically insane about the media and political elites attempting to ordain a man as a frontrunner for Most Powerful Person on Earth by manufacturing the concept that this man possesses ubiquitous "fame" somehow derived from a mediocre collage of single-epsiode bit parts on shows like Matlock and Roseanne 15 years ago. It's fine to become President having once appeared on a few installments of Matlock. It's entirely not fine to become President primarily BECAUSE you appeared on a few installments of Matlock.
The insanity inherent in this makes me wonder really how ridiculous could it all get? There are a lot of actors exactly like Fred Thompson -- that crew of middle-aged white men who seem to have been in every single movie you've ever seen. People like Maury Chaykin, Joe Don Baker, Lane Smith and Bruce McGill. What's next? Will one of these fine thespians run for president and enjoy a coronation as a Very Famous Actor and thus Very Serious Candidate for President from the Beltway media and the national Republican Party elite?
Hell, these guys have at least as much on-screen experience in movies about politics as Thompson does, and as we all know, that's what's really important. Take the Distinguished Gentleman -- the 1992 comedy making fun of corrupt Washington. This movie is a keeper when playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, as it features a virtual cornucopia of these ubiquitous character actors that seem to appear everywhere. Same goes for My Cousin Vinny, a flick which is, at its core, about the breakdown of America's legal system and whose ensemble again features a strange convergence of Fred Thompson-ish nobodies ... and thus potential presidential frontrunners.
I mean come on all you reporters, RNC operatives and Serious Pundits cloistered there in Washington -- you've gotta start being fair. If Fred Thompson's breakthrough performance as Bernard Oxbar in Curly Sue qualifies him to become the most powerful person on the Planet Earth, doesn't Bruce McGill's similarly stunning performance in Animal House as D-Day put him in contention? Just think about the international diplomatic possibilities of McGill's ability to play music by flicking his throat -- isn't that exactly what America needs on the world stage right now?
Or what about Joe Don Baker? He's basically a Fred Thompson lookalike (boy it would be weird, typical of the media and somewhat apocalyptic all at the same time to see Joe Don Baker play Fred Thompson in the inevitable TV mini-series about Fred Thompson's run for president, likely entitled something like "Lights, Camera, White House" ... ahh but we can only dream). Baker is a man who has a breadth of on-the-big-screen military and CIA experience from his appearances in James Bond movies. Just look at that picture of him above -- doesn't that inspire confidence in the face of the terrorists? Baker is also a man who, in Fred Thompson terms, is a Very Famous Actor, having portrayed a corporate lobbyist in Distinguished Gentleman and delivered a spellbinding appearance as a hard-nosed police chief in Fletch. Doesn't that give him at least as solid credentials for billing as a serious presidential contender as Thompson and his two-minute appearance as the greasy CIA director in No Way Out?