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Big guy's down, little guy's still tickingPosted Wednesday, January 23, 2008, at 9:36 AM
Don't misunderstand. I respect ex-candidate Fred Thompson as a person and a politician.
But I also highly respect U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, now of the Nashville district but who represented Bedford county in 1994 when he ran for Al Gore's open Senate seat.
Much was made during that campaign of how different the two men are/were. Cooper is short of stature, bookish and was visibly uncomfortable doing the necessary "gladhanding" while Thompson came across as a big ol' good old boy with a tough, dominating image, slapping everyone's back, and driving a pickup truck across the state while speaking with a deep, gruff voice.
Former Gov. Ned McWherter was quoted as saying he felt Cooper's image in comparasion to Thompson made him unelectable.
Fast forward nearly 14 years.
Cooper returned to Congress a few years later with help from a highly creative ad, which poked fun at that image and showed off a family which appeared quite lively, and a weak opponent. Today he's a highly respected difference-maker.
Thompson, who some pundits say was ineffective as a two-term senator, found success on a TV soundstage but seemed unable at times to explain to Republican primary voters exactly why he wanted to be president. The drive just wasn't there. And the image morphed into what I think was an undeserved tag of "lazy." (Maybe he's worn out from helping raise two very young children at age 65...)
Ironically, in a situation where so many candidates often put on an act, the true actor may have been too true to himself.
I suspect we'll hear from Thompson again. He has a lot to offer, whether portraying someone else on-screen or helping our country in real life. Put him in the right position and he'd be effective as a leader, although I'm not sure what that position is.
Now Cooper's in Washington, although in the House chamber instead of the White House. Thompson's in D.C., too -- as a resident. Nothing more.
But in this round, substance wins over style.
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David Melson is a copy editor and staff writer for the Times-Gazette.
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