At least Fred Thompson's not as "doctrinaire" as Ronald Reagan. That's one message from Adam Nagourney and Jo Becker's front-page story Friday on the launch of the Thompson campaign, "For Thompson, Goal Is to Don Reagan Mantle - Actor Is Conservative, but Less Doctrinaire."
Political reporter Nagourney, as is his wont, made 18 references to "conservative," not including quoted material or the subhead, in the 1,100-word story.
Here are the first five paragraphs:
"Fred D. Thompson had one central strategic goal as he formally began his presidential campaign on Thursday: to win over conservatives who are disheartened at their current choice of Republican candidates by positioning himself as the ideological and stylistic heir of Ronald Reagan.
"Mr. Thompson is certainly conservative, and has been throughout his public life - particularly on the question of federalism, the size of government, tax cuts and his unwavering support for the war in Iraq.
"Biographically and stylistically, Mr. Thompson, another former actor trying to become president, recalls the easygoing manner that Reagan used to advocate conservative solutions to the nation's challenges, as he made clear with his announcement speech in Des Moines on Thursday. He spoke of 'common-sense conservative beliefs,' including the notion that 'we still get our basic rights from God, not government.'
"Yet in some notable ways, Mr. Thompson is different from Reagan, and he has at times deviated from the orthodox conservatism that Reagan, after his death and nearly two decades removed from his presidency, has come to represent.
"Mr. Thompson, the former senator from Tennessee, has at times voted in support of affirmative action, at other times against it; Reagan's Justice Department consistently championed efforts to eliminate it. Mr. Thompson, a former trial lawyer, has voted against efforts to impose federal caps on punitive damages and lawyers' fees, a central part of the conservative agenda."
Susan Saulny is covering the emerging Thompson campaign in Des Moines and penned this bit of condescension in Friday's edition.
"He painted himself as a reformer, Washington outsider and watchdog, a true conservative with small-town values. But while delivering catchy phrases that drew easy applause, he offered no details about how a Thompson administration would seek to achieve its goals."