Farewell, Fred. We Hardly Knew Ye. (And by "Knew Ye," I Mean "Ever Saw You Campaigning.")

UPDATE, 1.23.08:

Who could have seen it coming?

Other than, like, everyone.  

At 2:24 p.m. this afternoon, a message from "Friends of Fred Thompson" arrived in the inboxes of political reporters and operatives across the country.

And with that, reporters and operatives all across the country--including, I'm guessing, those on Thompson's payroll, who must have been sick of repeating that the boss's one-stop-a-day schedule represented "a lazy new kind of campaign"--breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, they thought. We can stop pretending this guy wants to be president.

Thompson's bid was so painfully and publicly half-assedthat his withdrawal is almost like an act of leadership. Yes, he was a charming, coherent conservative who showed well in debates and had gotten somewhat fired up in his final days. But from the start, no one ever really believed his heart was in winning the White House.

I like to think of him as the Peter Gibbons of presidential candidates. Gibbons, in case you're not a 21-to-34-year old Clinton-era cult comedy aficionado, was the protagonist of the 1999 Mike Judge workplace romp "Office Space" starring Ron Livingston as Gibbons and Jennifer Aniston as his obligatory love interest. Like Thompson, who said in 1998 that he didn't enjoy "spending 14- and 16-hour days voting on 'sense of the Senate' resolutions on irrelevant matters," Gibbons is a likable, laconic dude who somehow got stuck with monotonous gig that he obviously loathes. "Ever since I started working, every single day of my life has been worse than the day before it," he says. "So that means that every single day that you see me, that's on the worst day of my life." But everything changes when Gibbons suddenly stops worrying about pushing paper--and stops showing up at the office--inspiring friends and colleagues to shake off the shackles of their own workaday lives and rebel against the powers that be.

Sure, it's unlikely that a liberated Thompson will go on to deploy a computer virus to swindle money from a regional tech company. But that's no reason his story shouldn't shine like a beacon of hope for disgruntled, disinterested staple monkeys everywhere.  

Also, there's now a chance that the fourth next installment of the "Iron Eagle" series will finally get greenlighted.

So everybody wins.