Fred the Fake

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"Thompson Claims Reagan Mantle" — news item.

First, a little history.

In 1974, as we all know, Ronald Reagan was a very close friend and political ally of Vice President Gerald Ford. Reagan, who had tried and failed to become Dick Nixon’s running mate in 1968, was doing everything he could to stay close to the Republican money machine that Nixon had created, so he could launch his own future campaign from the same well-oiled plutocrat springboard. He artfully managed to keep on good terms with both the "Rockefeller Republicans" of the left and the Goldwater types, whom he disdained, with thinly-veiled contempt, but whose indispensable and indisputable grass-roots strength eclipsed that of the New York Limousine Liberals.

But the limousine Liberals had the money. And Reagan needed that, too.

Vice President Ford’s Chief of Staff, Dick Cheney, was a young whiz-kid know-it-all who had also, of course, long been a leader of the "Viet-Cons" — the insidious secret insider group of Washington foreign policy hacks who had helped lie America into the Viet Nam war under Lyndon Johnson. The Viet-Cons, you might recall, were a small but powerful group funded primarily by Thai exiles in the United States, who advocated the extermination of Ho Chi Minh by any means necessary because he was a world-class domino player and would eventually gobble up Thailand if he were allowed by Nixon-Ford to take over South Viet Nam and then run amok in Southeast Asia (this scary scenario came to be known as the "Domino Theory.") The marching orders from the Thai-onists were secretly transmitted in code through "Goren on Dominoes," a syndicated column that regularly appeared in newspapers across the country at the time, often next to the columns of one Robert Novak, a young newspaper reporter from Illinois.

Reagan and Ford were aided in their coalition-building efforts by a surprisingly vibrant youth movement, spearheaded by "Young Americans for Ford" (YAF). Led by a savvy up-and-coming New Yorker named Megan Marshack, YAF helped to cement broad support for the Ford-Reagan alliance that would prove to be so important when the Watergate scandals erupted.

That’s just to refresh your memory. Still with me?

What happened next is, alas, burned into the American memory. We all remember how incensed Ronald Reagan became when Vice-President Ford’s Chief of Staff, Dick Cheney, was indicted for leaking to reporter Novak the fact that CIA undercover operative G. Gordon Liddy was in fact married to Raquel Welch. Welch, you might recall, was an American ambassador, of sorts, to Southeast Asia, and a frequent official visitor there. In her travels, she had become disenchanted with the attempts of the Viet-cons to perpetuate the war, and was incensed that they would always trot out the "Domino Theory" when their war was challenged. "You don’t support the troops," the Viet-cons would shout at her.

The troops, however, begged to differ. They cheered Raquel at every appearance, and Raquel cheered them. In explaining her desire to end the war, she merely said, "I’d rather entertain live troops than go to funerals for dead ones."

From the court records we all know what happened next: Vice President Ford sent Cheney, his chief of staff, on a secret mission to save the Viet-cons and smear Raquel Welch any way he could. At First, Cheney suggested using grape jelly, but Ford nixed that approach, even though Liddy had often made secret CIA payments to certain Viet-con operatives with Krugerrands delivered in jars of Welch’s Famous Grape Preserves.

No, Cheney went instead to Bob Novak. Cheney told Novak about Liddy’s "operative" status, and Raquel Welch’s cover was blown for good. As we all undoubtedly remember (how could we forget?), Liddy was forced to leave the CIA. He later became a volunteer teacher in various federal prison facilities, as well as a part-time radio commentator.

Ah, how the memories surge. At that point, Reagan, now well-established as a great friend and fan of Vice-President Ford, went to him personally and offered to raise "big money" from Ford’s well-heeled friends for the "Dick Cheney Legal Defense Fund." Ford was so pleased when Reagan made this offer that he stood up and walked around his desk to embrace the Gipper — but unfortunately bumped his head on the "Nixon’s the One" poster that hung above his Heisman Trophy.

The rest is history, of course. Reagan raised five million dollars to defend Cheney from unscrupulous charges that he was a closet Viet-con, a leaker of state secrets, and a perjurer (he was charged with lying to federal prosecutors about his role in the Watergate coverup). With this bold step, Reagan solidly endeared himself to Ford’s wealthy supporters, and sealed his claim to Vice President Ford’s support for Reagan’s campaign to capture the GOP presidential nomination in 1976. As we can all recall now, in the light of Nixon’s subsequent pardon of Cheney, it was all a "slam dunk."

Well, that’s the whole story, folks — and it’s an important one. It constitutes the sole credible rationale for Fred Thompson’s claim that he is "Another Reagan."

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