Maybe We Need a Lazy President
[A]s he prepares to formally begin his campaign for the White House this week, after months of “testing the waters,” the conventional wisdom in Washington is that Thompson doesn’t want it badly enough, isn’t willing to work hard enough-put bluntly, that he is lazy. Newsweek: Grin and Bear It
The last “lazy” president we had was Ronald Reagan. For those of you too young or too senile to remember, Reagan’s laziness was the stuff of legend. I found this beauty from Ralph Nader’s web site, written in 1985:
At first I thought that House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O’Neill (D-Mass.) had unfurled the white flag of surrender at his post-inaugural meeting with President Ronald Reagan. O’Neill told the president that “in my 50 years of public life I’ve never seen a man more popular than you are with the American people.” This is the same Tip O’Neill who called Reagan lazy, cruel and uninformed at various times last year.
Contrast the images of Bill Clinton holding all night “wonk” session with these images of Reagan, who bragged about “burning the midday oil” and giving orders to the Secret Service that if a military crisis develops to wake him up “even if I’m in the middle of a Cabinet meeting.”
During his eight years in office, Reagan’s laziness resulted in curing inflation and stagflation, a 50 percent cut in the cost of gasoline, a mammoth cut in taxes, a rejuvenation of American pride, the rebirth of the American military, near-perfect victory over the Soviet Union, and freeing American business from a labor union strangle-hold (m/m).
Clinton, on the other hand, given the same amount of time managed to lose the Congress to Republicans for the first time in more than 30 years, pass sweeping Republican welfare reform, disspirit the military, and get a b.j. in the Oval Office. I’ll take lazy.
Getting back to the Newsweek article for a moment, it’s worth the read. I get the feeling that author Holly Baily set out to write a hit piece on Thompson designed to derail his campaign even before it starts. But, as so many journalists found when attacking Reagan, the story of the man turned her heart. For instance, Baily, here, attempts to demonstrate Thompson’s lazy selfishness at the Minnesota State Fair. In this scene, local politicians are impressing the former Senator with the fair’s Butter Princess–a statue of a woman made entirely of butter:
A Minnesota politician offers to introduce him to the sculptor. “No, no,” he demurs, trying to look disappointed. “I wouldn’t want to get in the way.” At the moment, Thompson is interested in only one thing-the giant strawberry milkshakes being sold a few yards away.
You gotta love it. Reagan, by the way, once refused to have his picture taken with a group of disabled kids during his 1975 run against Gerald Ford. Instead, after the press wandered off, Reagan rounded up the kids and spent half an hour talking and posing for private photos. He didn’t want to use their handicaps for his election.
Later, Baily treats us to what will likely become one of the defining stories of Fred Thompson.
He was interested in sports, and if Freddie Thompson wasn’t what you’d call a finesse player-he was a mess of arms and legs running with a ball-he managed to lead Lawrenceburg High to the state championships in basketball and football. Yet even on the field he was a clown. During one football game, Thompson took a hard tackle and didn’t get up. It looked as though he’d been knocked out. When his coach and teammates rushed over, Fred-die opened his eyes and grinned. “How’s the crowd taking it?” he asked. He kept still a few beats longer, then sprang to his feet and took in the cheers from the stands. Thompson was voted most outstanding athlete, but he never received the award. The school’s teachers, fed up with his classroom antics, demanded he be stripped of the prize.
I assure you that Bill Clinton was never stripped of a prize in high school without a fight to the Supreme Court. Fred Thompson simply moved on.
When Thompson begins campaigning in earnest, the qualities that some call laziness will pay big dividends. If a man or woman cannot do the job in a 60 hour week, then he or she cannot do the job at all. Clinton worked 120-hour weeks because the job was beyond him and he lacked focus. Reagan worked 40-hour weeks because he was larger than the job and focused on the important things.
I don’t know that Fred Thompson changed Holly Baily’s mind. She might have liked the guy before she began the article. What I do know is this: she likes him now. She and her contributors end the piece the way countless writers ended countless articles about Ronald Reagan. In fact, if I had Lexus/Nexus, I’ll bet I could make a case for plagiarism:
Thompson, who has already been president three times in the movies, is about to find out how much harder it is to play commander in chief when you don’t have a script.