There is nothing in Fred Thompson's life that he has actually done that makes him "a tough guy" in the sense Fineman means it, nor is there anything that makes him a "cultural conservative." If anything, what his life actually is -- his behavior in reality -- seems to negate those characterizations.
But the illusion of manliness cliches, tough guy poses, and empty gestures of "cultural conservatism" are what the Republican base seeks, and media simpletons like Fineman, Halperin and Matthews eat it all up just as hungrily. That's how thrice-divorced and draft-avoiding individuals like Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh become media symbols of the Christian "values voters" and "tough guy," "tough-on-defense" stalwarts.
And it's how a life-long Beltway lobbyist and lawyer who avoided Vietnam, standing next to his twenty-five-year-younger second wife, is held up by our media stars as a Regular-Guy-Baptist symbol of piety and a no-nonsense, tough-guy, super-masculine warrior who will protect us all.
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