Right Said Fred

I want to marry Fred Thompson and bear his children.

I’m not pledging him my vote in the New Hampshire primary, though — I’m not quite ready for that level of commitment.

I’ve said numerous times that I think one of the key elements in winning the presidency has to be a sense of humor. The American people seem to prefer to vote for the candidate who comes across as warmer, funnier, more ready to laugh at themselves and with people than one who is not. That trend has held true in every election since 1980, and (once you skip the 64-76 period, when laughter just didn’t seem appropriate — an assassination and Watergate bookending two war referenda) most before then. A sense of humor and a willingness to laugh at oneself seems to indicate a level of comfort with oneself, an ease and general even-temperedness that the American people seem to value in a president.

And the judgment of history seems to bear it out. Those presidents who consistently rank the highest in historical reflection are the ones who seem to have had the readiest wit — Reagan, Kennedy, FDR, Lincoln.

Well, the Associated Press is currently running one of the sillier features of the current presidential campaign — “dumb personal questions of the day.” And having seen three of the questions so far, I’d have to say that Fred Thompson is demonstrating the most presidential wit.

Thompson’s attitude seems to be “this is stupid, and I’m not going to treat it seriously. Instead, I’m going to simply give answers that take the crap you people have flung at me and give it right back to you — in one or two words.”

The first question was “what was your childhood nickame?” Fred’s answer? “Mr. President.”

The second one was “what is your most prized personal possession?” “Trophy wife.”

As soon as I saw the third question, I knew the answer. “What do you like to do on a lazy day?” I said “run for president,” but that was too wordy. Thompson cropped it down to “campaigning.”

The hits on Thompson have been that he got a late start, he’s lazy, and he has a trophy wife. Here he’s taken each of them and tossed them right back in the face of the AP.

The responses of the other candidates have been similarly enlightening. Hillary Clinton had no childhood nicknames that stuck — which (speaking from personal experience) probably means that the only ones that really did stick were derogatory. Hillary also didn’t answer about her most prized personal possession, and John Edwards said “his running shoes.” Mitt Romney said an old car — one with great personal meaning to him. And the lazy-day activity answers were laden with “spend time with family” and “reading” — the kind of answer that they think the American people will want to hear.

The next question is “who is your favorite 20th century president from the other party.” No one springs to mind, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say most of the candidates will list the candidate and explain why. The Republicans will bring up Kennedy and his hawkish defense policy and conservative tax policy; the Democrats will bring up FDR Teddy Roosevelt and his environmentalism and Nobel Peace Prize. Thompson, however, will just give the president’s last name and let that stand without explanation.

And my money’s on “Truman.”

That’s Harry Truman, who once read a scathing review by the Washington Post of his daughter’s singing and threatened to beat the reviewer.

I can’t wait to find out.

Correction: TR, not FDR, and Peace Prize mention added. Doh…

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