TV star could be next president

Matt White

Americans might look to the small screen for their next President.

Fred Thompson, who plays the character of District Attorney Arthur Branch from the television series “Law and Order,”is an unannounced 2008 Republican presidential hopeful who might just have all the right qualities.

Currently, Thompson polls third in the Republican presidential field, behind former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Arizona Sen. John McCain, but ahead of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. That’s quite a feat for someone who hasn’t officially declared himself a candidate.

Thompson, who is better known for the character he played on television, served in the U.S. Senate from 1994 through 2003. While in the Senate, Thompson served as Chairman of the Senate Government Relations Committee, which he used to investigate irregularities in fundraising during the 1996 presidential election cycle.

But, instead of using his position to punish members of the opposite party, Thompson conducted a fair investigation – he was actually criticized by members of his own party for not finding more “dirt” to use against former President Clinton.

But, there’s more to Thompson than just his bipartisanship. He acted quickly in the wake of Sept. 11 to pass legislation to reorganize the federal government for greater information sharing. And — the best part about that is — he’s able to step back and recognize the problems in the legislation.

Speaking to the Weekly Standard about the growth of government bureaucracy since the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, Thompson stated, “Well, to tell you the truth, in retrospect, we may conclude that it wasn’t any different. But it got to the point where almost anything would have been an improvement. You’ve got to start somewhere, and you can’t just wait until everything is just right … we were kind of jumping aboard a moving train.”

On issues related to federalism, Thompson was a maverick in the Senate. He was the only person to vote against the so-called Good Samaritan law, legislation that protected individuals from being sued if their good faith efforts to help someone in distress were unsuccessful. According to Thompson, passing that sort of legislation is the responsibility of the state governments, who are closer and more responsive to citizens than are the far-away federal government.

Thompson’s stand on that issue is important because it demonstrates principle. It’s easy to vote for “feel good” legislation (indeed it looks bad when you vote against it), but he had the backbone to stand up to his peers and tell them they were overstepping their boundaries.

Taken together, Thompson’s service in the Senate demonstrates he’s able to cooperate with other lawmakers when necessary, but also willing to stand up for what he believes is right. And he’s willing to admit his own mistakes.

Ultimately, the last time Republicans nominated an actor for president the American people saw fit to put him into office for two terms. Reagan won 44 states in 1980 and 49 states in 1984.

It might be too much to expect Thompson to produce those sorts of results, but then again, right now Americans are more familiar with Arthur Branch than Fred Thompson.

Matt White is a senior magazine journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].