Lazy Fred Thompson

Andrew Sullivan reports that Fred Thompson’s high school yearbook photo is captioned, “The lazier a man is, the more he plans to do tomorrow.”

Presumably, that reflects young Thompson’s advice to his classmates rather than their view of him. Still, it’s rather amusing in light of the “Fred Thompson is lazy” meme that’s been going around forever.

I’m hardly Thompson’s biggest supporter; however, it’s a pretty silly notion. By any reasonable measure, Thompson is anything but a lazy man.

Take a look at his Wikipedia entry and you’ll see that, “After graduation [from high school], he worked days in the local post office and nights at a bicycle assembly plant.” He was “the first member of his family to go to college” and “earned a double-major in philosophy and political science in 1964, as well as scholarships to both Tulane and Vanderbilt law schools. He went on to earn his J.D. degree from Vanderbilt in 1967.” That already put him in the top 1% of his graduating class at Lawrence County High School, I’d wager.

Two years later, he was an assistant U.S. attorney, working brutal hours. He went on to manage the re-election campaign for Senator Howard Baker and to serve as “co-chief counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee in its investigation of the Watergate scandal.” This, by age 32.

For the next few years, “While in private practice, he also accepted appointments as Special Counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (1980—1981), Special Counsel to the Senate Intelligence Committee (1982), and Member of the Appellate Court Nominating Commission for the State of Tennessee (1985—1987).” Granted, this is lucrative and rewarding work. But it requires long hours and a lot of effort.

Apparently, once he got into elective politics, he found he doesn’t enjoy 20 hour days on the campaign trail and was loathe to suffer the long nights on the rubber chicken circuit expected of junior Senators. One can hardly blame him on that score but, in a presidential selection system that seems to reward endurance, it could be a problem. Still, it doesn’t make him lazy.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. My dad used to say that if you wanted something done right the first time, give it to the laziest guy around because he won’t want to do it again.

    I still haven’t made up my mind for the 2008 primaries, let alone the general, but I find myself kind of liking Fred Thompson and one of the reasons is precisely this kind of laziness demonstrated on his part. He at least gives off the appearance of being somebody who doesn’t want to fart around with the crap, but would rather get straight to the task, get it done, and then go fishing. I like that in people, and as long as they’re getting the task done, I hope they get plenty of time for the R&R.

    With all of that said, however, that’s an appearance he gives off, and I am reluctant to attribute it to how he actually is in any way.

  2. Dan says:

    Here’s the thing people often miss about Thompson leaving the Senate. He was planning on running again, until his daughter died. He then decided against reelection so close to the election that he left the GOP scrambling for a candidate.