CLEMSON, S.C.--Imagine a wiry little man with a flop of gray hair. He's wearing a brown leather bomber jacket. Medium build. Every word he says, he shouts. Like he's half deaf. Sounds like an irate hillbilly, even if he's not. (He could be.) After each sentence, he pauses, lifts his chin, then plunges back in. Theatrical. Now imagine him saying the following to Fred Thompson at the Stable Steakhouse in Prosperity, South Carolina, with one hand resting on the back of his booth and a portrait of a horse hanging over his head:
Thompson: Yes, sir.
Man: Fred, I drove over 500 miles to see you.
Thompson: Bless your heart. Let's give this man a hand. (Applause, cheers)
Man: I came over Finch Mountain in a snowstorm. (Pause) May I call you Fred?
Man: That's okay until January and I can call you Mr. President. (Laughter, more applause). Now, I've got a question.
Thompson: Yes sir.
Man: (Pause) I'm looking for a tall man who will stand tall for America. (Pause.) Who will cut the ears off of earmarks! (Pause.) Stop dead illegal immigration! (Pause.) And pull the teeth of activist judges...
Man: ... who take your house to build 7-Eleven! (Pause, then louder) And I want to know if you've got a Jim Bowie knife and a good strong pair (pause) of Channellock pliers! (Laughter, even more applause, calls of "That's right!" and "Hear, hear!")
Something tells me Mitt Romney doesn't field a whole lot of questions like that.
Thompson, for his part, answered with Southern-fried aplomb. "Did you ever see the movie 'Walking Tall'?" he said, referring to the 1973 action flick about Buford Pusser, a Tennessee sheriff who single-handedly rid his town of crime and corruption. "You know the ax handle that old Buford used to carry? I got me one of them. I knew Buford Pusser. His daughter gave me one of those ax handles and I still got it. I thought about it many, many times. There's a lot you can do with that."
I hate being a Yankee.