That former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) is moving forward with a presidential bid is hardly open to question anymore. Today, he hired a campaign manager (a former top aide to H.W. Bush), which is usually a reliable precursor to an announcement.
With this in mind, we can now expect the onslaught of little-red-truck stories. A few weeks ago, Noam Scheiber and Bob Somerby had a bit of a debate about how the media would cover the little red truck that helped Thompson get elected to the Senate in 1994. Scheiber argued that everyone would soon know that Thompson’s truck schtick was a fraud, little more than a phony prop. Somerby noted that everyone would not know because the media wouldn’t bother to report the story accurately.
Sorry, Noam, Somerby wins this round. Consider this gem from the new issue of Newsweek.
Folks in Franklin, Tenn., think they’ll know when Fred Thompson decides to run for president. Parked in Thompson’s mother’s driveway is the rusting red Chevy pickup that the former senator turned actor drove all over the state during his two U.S. Senate campaigns. He drove the truck to Washington in 1994 after he was elected to fill an unexpired term and used it as a populist stunt again during his re-election campaign, often giving speeches from the lowered tailgate. “People are watching that truck like hawks,” says the Southern Baptist Convention’s Richard Land, who also lives in Franklin. “Nobody can imagine he won’t use it if he runs.” […]
Thompson, who now lives in Virginia, hasn’t driven his pickup in several years. The paint is peeling and its U.S. Senate license plates expired back in 2002. Mark Corallo, a spokesman, says Thompson “just hasn’t had the heart to sell her.”
Most of this is misleading. Way back in 1996, Michelle Cottle explained the reality. Thompson didn’t have an old red pickup, he leased it as a campaign prop. He didn’t even drive the thing — as Kevin Drum recently noted, “Basically, he just drove the thing the final few hundred feet before each campaign event, and then ditched it for something nicer as soon as he was out of sight of the yokels.”