The Blog

Fred Thompson:
A Presidential Primer

Do the movies make the man?

8:13 AM, Mar 22, 2007 • By VICTORINO MATUS
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Trudeau: Hey. Something serious happens every night, only it doesn't make the newspapers. Ever see those guys on TV, juggling knives and chain saws? That's what we're doing with those planes up there, only we do it one handed 'cause the other hand's playing 3-card monte with the planes on the ground . . . .

What we see here is Thompson in crisis mode. He is acutely aware of the stress air traffic controllers experience on a daily basis, what with all the planes, knives, chainsaws, and card games going on.

In the Line of Fire (1993): What better way to prepare for the White House than by playing the part of Harry Sargent, the president's chief of staff. Sargent may not be the most likeable guy, especially when confronting Secret Service agent Frank Horrigan (Clint Eastwood) about a possible assassination attempt, but he still has the best of intentions, as can be seen in this exchange:

Sargent: Isn't it possible this guy has pushed some buttons in you? Maybe you're overreacting a little.

Horrigan: I'm just trying to protect your boss, damn it.

Sargent: So am I. We're trailing . . . points in the latest polls. He could be out of a job in six weeks. He's got to be seen.

Horrigan: Even if it kills him?

Sargent: Next order of business?

Thompson knows how vital it is for a president not to be cowering behind his security agents. He knows what it takes to win.

Law & Order and Law & Order: Criminal Intent (2002-2007): Perhaps most revealing is the role Thompson plays on the Law & Order series as New York district attorney Arthur Branch:

D.A. Arthur Branch: It's not enough to do good . . . You gotta be seen doing good.

Or then again:

D.A. Arthur Branch: Sometimes the good you do won't do you any good.

Thompson is also an optimist:

D.A. Branch: Well, I guess it beats dousing yourself in rum and lighting up a Cohiba.

Most important, however, is Thompson's sense of duty:

EADA Jack McCoy: You can rewrite the law when you're appointed to the Supreme Court.

D.A. Arthur Branch: God willing.

But be forewarned: Critics will no doubt search for less impressive, possibly even damaging lines of dialogue to stifle his campaign. Over the past 20 years, Fred Thompson has said and done a lot. He may have sounded insensitive in Necessary Roughness or obtuse in Feds. And God only knows what Thompson had to say in Aces: Iron Eagle III or those two fateful episodes of Matlock.

Victorino Matus is an assistant managing editor at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.