Thompson and the 'Laziness' Issue
Bailey, Holly, Newsweek
Byline: Holly Bailey
Does Fred Thomp- son have what it takes to be president? The former senator turned "Law & Order" actor, who launched an exploratory committee last week, has been dogged by rumors that he doesn't have the work ethic for a long campaign. "The book on him is he's lazy," David Keene, president of the American Conservative Union, said last week. The criticism seems fed by Thompson's time in the Senate, where he maintained a less rigorous schedule than his colleagues and was known to duck out of late-night debates. Of the 90 bills he introduced during his eight years in the Senate, only four became law.
Thompson has never denied being irritated with the pace of Senate life and cited it as one of the reasons he opted out of a 2002 re-election bid. "I don't like spending 14- and 16-hour days voting on 'sense of the Senate' resolutions on irrelevant matters," he said in 1998. "There are some important things we really need to get on with--and on a daily basis, it's very frustrating." His 2008 competitors have privately questioned his endurance, with one rival consultant (anonymous so as not to reflect badly on his own man) telling NEWSWEEK, "I doubt he has the fire in the belly to compete."
Thompson allies are pushing back. "Anyone who says he's not a hard campaigner doesn't know what they are talking about," Tennessee GOP chair Bob Davis, a former Thompson aide, tells NEWSWEEK. "I was there, they weren't." Still, it's true that Thompson is preparing to mount a somewhat untraditional bid for the GOP nomination. …