Getting civil with Fred Thompson
We got settled on the upper deck with Gish to began the long, slow journey down the River. After we pulled away from shore, the two friends Gish spoke of emerged from a lower observation deck that I had not yet explored. The friends were a lovely young woman and Fred Thompson, Tennessee's newly sworn in U.S. Senator.
Gish, not realizing the significance and timing of the union, introduced me to Fred and his date. For a brief moment - although it seemed like hours - Fred and I just stood face to face, staring at one another. Both were certainly not anticipating the encounter - not there, not then. But in typical Fred Thompson fashion, his facial expression turned from disbelief into a broad shit-eating grin. He stretched his hand out toward me and blurted to Gish, "I know this fella all too well."
As fate would have it, I had spent most of my waking hours during the previous 18 months attacking Fred Thompson in the public arena (on TV, radio and in print), doing all I could to tarnish his reputation as an actor, lawyer, lobbyist and politician.
Shortly after the introduction, Fred invited me to settle into an area of the boat where we could talk. I recall him saying something to the effect that "if we're going to be stuck on this damn boat together for the next 12 hours, we should at least try to be civil about it all."
During our chat we recounted some details of the 1994 race, including some of my more pointed attacks on him ("Gucci-wearing, Lincoln-driving, cigar-smoking, two-bit actor turned D.C. lobbyist who will say and do anything to get elected" was clearly one of his favorites). As only Fred Thompson could do, he managed to take an otherwise potentially volatile encounter and turn it into a pleasant - almost bonding - exchange with a recognized political arch enemy.
While I still hold fast to my belief that the better, more qualified man - Jim Cooper - lost that race, I do see why Howard Baker, the epitome of political civility, would be urging the White House to consider bringing in Fred Thompson to be the President's chief of staff.
At a time of great turmoil in Washington - from strained Administration-congressional relations to free-falling public support for virtually all of Bush's initiatives - a little dose of Fred Thompson might be good for ails the White House.
While I doubt - if he brought in Fred Thompson - that I would have any newfound respect for President Bush and all he represents, Bush would be making a smart political move having Fred Thompson help steer his ship.
I can see Fred now working his magic, pulling together a group of angry congressional leaders, sitting them down, and saying through a broad shit-eating grin..."since we're going to be stuck together in office another 24 months with this President, we at least try to be civil about it all."