t last count, there were 327 men competing for the Republican presidential nomination; far too many to name here, but ultimately of little consequence since none has a chance against one man who has quietly sat on the sidelines for most of this political dogfight. He calmly watched as the others snapped and snarled at each other, their furry coats slick with sweat, their claws bloody, their eyes crazed, their tongues hanging with exhaustion ....
Okay, enough with the dogfight analogies. Sorry. Sometimes these literary constructs take on a life of their own. We'll just press on and assume you can discuss politics without animal references, such as the fact that Newt Gingrich looks like a Chow Chow. (Hey, don't start Googling for pictures. Just trust me on this one.)
At a time when the Republicans have little to run on besides war, trillion-dollar deficits, and rising inequality—nothing that really stands out as a good bumper sticker—the one man who can hold the White House is Fred Thompson. The lawyer-turned-actor-turned-politician-turned-actor-again has recently declared his candidacy—although he has yet to explain all those hyphens—after spending several weeks in Iowa keeping us "guessing." But let's not be jaded here. There are lots of reasons to visit Iowa, such as the dairy museum, which there's probably one of. Not to mention clean restrooms in various locations throughout the state.
OF ALL THE potential nominees, Fred Thompson is the closest thing to Ronald Reagan that his party has seen in a generation. And he's got all the qualifications to be president:
• He's an actor.
In other words, he's ready to tackle the toughest issues in the way Americans most expect: by pretending to be strong. We want steely eyes of resolve, a determined jaw, broad shoulders, a towering physique, and an Actor's Equity card, none of which are possessed by other Republican hopefuls. Giuliani, a towering physique? Please. Newt Gingrich, steely eyes? Try beady. (Actually, a Chow Chow has beady eyes ... made you look.) John McCain, a determined jaw? Not since he gave the commencement grovel at Jerry Falwell's school, Red State University. Mitt Romney might qualify for the actor's union, but only because he looks like a game show host.
At 6 foot 3, Fred Thompson would make us proud in those summit photos by towering over other world leaders, most of whom are short and stooped, having spent much of their early lives at desks studying languages, science, and history. You know, the boring stuff. For Americans, it's not what you know, but how good you look when you're not knowing it.
FOR THE DEMOCRATS to win, they'll need an equally strong candidate from the land of make-believe. And that man is Tommy Lee Jones.
Thompson may be a TV star, but Jones is an Academy Award-winning movie star. He eats TV guys for lunch. (Really. With a sprig of cilantro.) In more than 60 films, Jones has shown physical and emotional attributes far surpassing Thompson's. In Men In Black Jones stood up to aliens. Big aliens. And I counted at least three times when he personally saved the entire planet. (To this day, I remain grateful.)
If Jones can stare down a six-story alien cockroach, you think he'll have any trouble with Kim Jong Il, a much smaller bug?
In The Fugitive, a falsely accused Harrison Ford desperately pleads his innocence to U.S. Marshal Tommy Lee Jones: "I didn't kill my wife!" Unmoved, Jones coldly replies, "I. Don't. Care." Osama bin Laden may have his reasons, but pity him if he tries to explain them to our President Jones.
I've got chills.
When President Jones stares into the eyes of Vladimir Putin, he may or may not get a sense of the soul George Bush claims to have seen. But Putin will definitely be standing in a puddle of his own making.
And let's be honest: Ronald Reagan only pretended to be a cowboy on his ranch—riding horses and clearing brush. Jones played a REAL cowboy in Lonesome Dove. (For the record, farmhands clear brush, not cowboys. Cowboys eat farmhands for lunch. Really. With a sprig of alfalfa.) And, unlike our current president, who was born in, ahem, Connecticut, Jones really is a Texan. He was born on the hot and dry side of Austin, which explains why his face looks like a drought hit it.
A campaign between Thompson and Jones won't be pretty. The Republicans will play dirty and reveal that Jones' first film role was in Love Story—I'll pause briefly while you shudder involuntarily—but who among us is not guilty of youthful indiscretions? Al Gore, please put your hand down.
And speaking of Al Gore, do you think Fred Thompson was his college roommate? Nope. Tommy Lee Jones: The next president of the United States.
Ed Spivey Jr. is art director of Sojourners.