Mark, you say you’re irked by the Thompson’s “senior moment” criticism. Since I wrote a column that appeared this morning making that very claim, let me respond. I am a Fred Thompson fan — so much so that I wrote a major profile of him for Esquire magazine in 1993 positing that he would make a great future Republican presidential candidate (the profile never ran but that’s another story). I think I was the first journalist who had a long conversation with him about how he read National Review during his overnight shifts at a Memphis hotel where he worked as he put himself through law school. I wrote a column in February expressing the view that his presence in the GOP race would only be a benefit to the party.
But I still think he was awful in the first hour of the debate, though much better in the second — and that, if his first moment had taken place during a major debate with a Democrat in a general-election season, it would have finished him and the Republican party off for good. And saying so might only be of help to Thompson if it helps to focus him — because if Byron York is right and the Thompson people are thrilled by his performance yesterday, they are in desperate need of a reality check.
And it’s a cheap shot to say that people are asking conservatism to be redefined to include Rudy Giuliani. As I recall, you were once one of the movement’s foremost law-and-order conservatives. If I had told you in 1982 that there would be a mayor of New York City who:
would institute major reforms in the police department that would insist on arrests for minor crimes as a means of capturing criminals guilty of larger ones; and would defend his police department come hell or high water against race baiting activists intent on defanging it; and would fight the consent decrees imposed on the city by a weird alliance of left-wing interest groups and left-wing judges; in whose mayoralty the entire body of scholarship and intellection on the interplay between crime and social decay would be proved correct; and where, most important, crime would drop by 60 percent and hundreds of square miles of unsafe streets would suddenly be places where children could play without fear of being hurt by stray gunfire…
what would you have called that, back when you were working for Ed Meese? Liberal?