March 17, 2007

Law And Order Candidate


At first, I thought today’s LAT on-line headline about the potential presidential candidacy of Fred Thompson was a bit of a joke.  But that was before I clicked through to the article and saw the accompanying photos.

The smaller one, a tight shot of Thompson in front of an American flag, I believe, is from “real life.”  The second, much larger shot, however, is the one you see above.

Forming a package with the pic is the following caption on the “enlarge” page:

ALTERNATIVE TO MODERATES: Fred Thompson, who portrays a politically savvy district attorney on NBC’s “Law & Order,” takes conservative positions on key social issues.

Sure the text identifies Thompson as an actor (and is followed by a photo credit from NBC).  At the same time, however, the caption doesn’t actually identify the photo as fictional, but assumes you (as a full-blooded American TV watcher) know that already.  Subtle point maybe, but doesn’t the caption itself blend fiction and reality by marrying (in one sentence) Thompson’s “conservative positions” to the visual representation and physical stance of his television persona?

I am very interested in your reaction to this image — particularly how you encounter it perceptually, and whether (and how) you experience it shifting back-and-forth between Hollywood and Washingtonland. 

And, just to inform the discussion a bit, I thought I’d borrow a few reactions from an interesting comment thread at Ezra Klein (after he asks: “Can someone explain to me who former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson is and why anyone cares that he’s thinking of running for president?”)

Snip 1:  People would care that he’s running for president because they’d get all confused and think his resume is much more impressive than it really is. …Without referencing Wikipedia I can’t tell you which of his film-jobs he’s actually had in real life and which he hasn’t, so I have to assume he’s an admiral in the USNavy who also spent time in the Senate while moonlighting as a district attorney in NYC, and at one time may have been an air traffic controller.

Snip 2:  Fred Thompson would be a much better Republican President than the current occupant. I realize that’s not saying much, of course, but you at least get the sense that he might understand the profundity of habeas corpus.

Snip 3: Born in Alabama, the former Senator from TN (1994-2003) is a staunch Conservative and, known as a man of integrity. He will carry the south.

Snip 4:  Thompson served for about 9 years in the Senate. Which according to DEMS standards is more than enough to run for president, seeing as he has more experience there that Clinton, Obama, and Edwards.

Snip 5:  (N)othing breeds bottom of the barrel like desperation. And the GOP is desperated.

(image: David Rose / NBC via

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Michael Shaw
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