Now that he is out of the race, and not that anybody ever asked me, I will disclose that I was always a Fred Thompson guy. I liked his political positions, but most of all I liked the way he went about campaigning. Thompson was manly, smart, self-effacing, quick with a good line, and refused the embarrassing, self-promotional boy-bandism that, as his failure probably proved, is today a required affectation of presidential politics.
Andrew Ferguson has a remembrance of all of this in the Weekly Standard that is an absolutely lovely piece of journalism:
The traditional restraint of old-time presidential candidates wasn’t arrogance or sanctimoniousness, the twin accusations that wised-up politicos made against Thompson during the campaign. There was a philosophical component to it too: By not seeming overeager–no matter how eager they were–candidates paid tribute to the democratic idea that political power is best sought, taken on, and used reluctantly. It was also a matter of seemliness, and Thompson, alone among recent candidates, felt its pull. In his stump speech he often mentioned George Washington, once a staple of political rhetoric for his willingness to walk away from the power that was thrust upon him. Today Washington’s restraint seems nothing more than an archaism. And by extolling it Thompson sounded merely odd.
“If people really want in their president a super type-A personality,” Thompson said at that Iowa town hall meeting, “someone who has gotten up every morning and gone to bed every night thinking for years about how they could achieve the presidency of the United States, someone who could look you straight in the eye and say they enjoy every minute of campaigning–I ain’t that guy.”
That’s why so many of us liked him.