Candidate Critique

That, and other news, in today’s Political Panorama.

Fred Thompson’s entry inspired a few varied reactions from critics — most of whom zeroed in not on his acting career but his choice of homespun words, like his tendency to drop the “g” from words like “I’m running.”

On the Politico, theater critic Jeremy McCarter reviews Fred Thompson’s announcement video. “Thompson wants to establish a tone of effortless masculine ease. What’s surprising, considering how often we’ve all seen him disappear convincingly into various tough guys and government operatives on the big screen, is that this doesn’t feel like a put-on, the way that, even now, the phrase “Governor Schwarzenegger” induces giggles.

He can get by with little more than two camera angles and a couple of different zooms because he has The Voice: a worn-in baritone that magically evokes all things wholesome in American culture, from the guide on a Disney ride to that crusty old-timer in the Pepperidge Farm ads to a Rockwell painting that narrates itself.”

The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz was less than enthusiastic about Thompson’s “Tonight Show” entry.

“Thompson was casual and folksy as he made the declaration, but seemed to me a bit rambling and low-key for a man accustomed to memorizing his lines. He made a couple of mild jokes, but mostly kind of ambled his way into the race. One thing I found off-putting: He barely glanced at Leno, playing instead to the camera, but didn’t look directly into the camera either, instead sort of gazing into space.

It was, to be candid, a flat performance–though he didn’t look like the striving candidates who, as he put it, have been planning their presidential bids since high school.”

And Time’s James Poniewozik takes exception to the notion that Thompson’s choise of Leno was anything ground-breaking. He sees it as a conservative move.

“Five decades after the Nixon-Kennedy debates, three decades after an actor and former TV host was elected president and a good decade and a half after Bill Clinton blew sax on the Arsenio Hall show, the perception still persists that anytime a candidate uses TV strategically, it’s a sign that he or she is a new kind of media-savvy politician. Thus the hullaballoo over Fred Thompson’s choosing his old network NBC to announce his candidacy for President, on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

But really, was there a more (strategically) conservative and old-fashioned move Thompson could have made? In an age of niche media, he chose to debut on one of the flagship shows of the ever-shrinking mass media. He even chose network over cable, opting out of the New Hampshire Republican debate on Fox News, dissing the multi-candidate debate format to Leno in the process: “I don’t think much of ’em,” he drawled. “I don’t think it’s a very enlightening forum, to tell the truth.”

Teddy’s Tune: Sen. Edward Kennedy was the toast of a Grammy org dinner last night, singing “We Are the World” with Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Quincy Jones and John Rich.

Ron for Rudy: Actor Ron Silver is also endorsing Rudy Giuliani. He’ll be an adviser to his campaign. “His record of accomplishment is extraordinary and his vision will serve America well,” says Silver, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, in a statement. “He is committed to keeping our nation on the offense in the Terrorists War on Us, and I am proud to support him.”

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