...It's every generation throws a hero up the pop charts. [Paul Simon, The Boy in the Bubble]
I think of that line relative to former Senator Fred Thompson today. A fawning media, blogosphere, and core of GOP activists seem to view him as the savior who will soon ride into the 2008 presidential race and make all things right. Discussion of him these days is almost universally positive. He's getting a high toss up the "pop charts."
All of this adulation will likely suck Thompson into the campaign. It's at that moment that we'll see the pop star begin to plunge. It happens to everyone. Voters will learn that they don't agree with him on everything. Bloggers will complain that he isn't really charismatic, whatever that nebulous term means when used by political observers. Reporters will begin to probe and report that Thompson, contrary to the heady expectations being voiced today, is human.
None of this is to say that Fred Thompson won't be nominated. He might be. And, in spite of the fact that 2008 is the Democrats' to lose, given that party's penchant for lemming-like self-destruction at the polls, Thompson might even win. And, more importantly, he may be qualified to be President.
But it is a predictable element of fame in America--and probably the rest of the world--that we love the famous until we decide that it's time to knock them down. It's then that we find some new "saviors," we can boost, then bash.
"There’s talk on the street, it sounds so familiar. Great expectations, everybody’s watching you.
People you meet they all seem to know you, Even your old friends treat you like you’re something new...There’s talk on the street, it’s there to remind you that it doesn’t really matter which side you’re on. You’re walking away and they’re talking behind you. They will never forget you till somebody new comes along." [The Eagles, New Kid in Town]
It's okay to respect those who attain prominence or power. It's also okay to question their decisions, motives, and abilities. But a little bit of realism at either end of the sorry "adulation or savaging" cycle would be a good thing.
For example, the McCain-haters who want Thompson in this race right now would do well to remember that during the two senators' overlapping tenures, their voting records were strikingly similar.
The bottom line is that neither Fred Thompson, the flavor of this month, Barack Obama or Rudy Giuliani, the flavors of last month, or John McCain, the flavor a few years back, are as perfect as the adulation and media coverage accorded them at the tops of their cycles or, most likely, as imperfect or as bad as the reports from the trash cycle indicate.
Of course, this phenomenon is nothing new. Thirty years ago, John Lennon wrote, with more than a little self-pity and a lot of self-aggrandizement, yet insightfully, "All the world's a little town. Everybody wants to bring you down." (John Lennon, Isolation)
Secretly, I think, we all believe that we're more worthy than the people who reach or climb close to the heights of politics, music, literature, movies, academia, or our own fields. Ultimately, it's a personal thing that goes back to human beginnings: We boost one hero and then resent their success because, truth be told, we all want to be the hero. We want to be God.
[Also see here.]