I understand why many Republicans welcome the possible entry of Fred Thompson into the Republican primary race. But I think that this is backward looking rather than forward thinking.
Thompson represents a classical conservative platform in the person of a Washington outsider who could play the role of a believable, assertive and straight-talking statesman and who would undoubtedly surround himself with the elite conservative ideologues of the Republican party. Sound familiar? Yes, it is just this nostalgia for the glory days of Ronald Regan that convinced so many well-meaning people to continue to support George Bush long after it became evident that he was an ineffective leader caught in an ideological time-warp. Bush is the “outsider” who surrounded himself with the most inside of insiders and en masse they have blindly relentlessly pursued a misguided ideological agenda both at home and abroad.
David Brooks has recently made a strong case for why Republicans should get over their nostalgia for the era of Reagan. The logic is quite simple: the agenda of the day consists of immigration reform, global warming, social security and health care. Solutions to these problems are going to require some large-scale governmental measures and the old mantra of deregulation, lower taxes and smaller government is an insufficient answer. Furthermore, if Iraq has shown us anything it ought to have shown us that the cold-war rhetoric of good vs. evil and the free vs. those who hate freedom is shortsighted and dangerous. The war on terror, if there really is one (to borrow a phrase of Jacque Derrida’s), is not a war we can win militarily. The irony is that Bush may understand the need for a real change in Republican ideology domestically (remember “compassionate conservatism”), but he has become so clouded by the haze of 9/11 that he has lost all momentum in that direction.