Fred Thompson, acting the part he hopes to make his own one day soon, in the cautionary tale Last Best Chance.
Last Best Chance was produced to help spread the word about the threat posed by unsecured nuclear materials. The Nuclear Threat Initiative offers background material — and distributes free DVD copies of the film — at LastBestChance.org.
What did we know about Ronald Reagan when he ran for office? That he had a certain rapport with chimps named Bonzo, that he'd want us to "win one for the Gipper." But he hadn't been on screen for ages at that point. With Fred Thompson, it's a little different.
Thompson, the Law & Order actor, former U.S. senator and current Republican presidential candidate, is no stranger to higher office. He was a CIA director in No Way Out, a White House chief of staff in In the Line of Fire, President Ulysses S. Grant in Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and another president in Rachel and Andrew Jackson: A Love Story.
But none of those roles feels quite as on-the-nose right this minute as the one he played two years ago in a little-seen film called Last Best Chance. The plot turns on nuclear material that's found its way into the wrong hands — which is the chief fear of the producers of this 45-minute film, a private organization, called the Nuclear Threat Initiative, that seeks to influence Washington policy.
Happily, with President Fred Thompson on the case, you barely even need a CIA. He's got his own sources of information: "Why," he asks his staff pointedly, "do I have to find out from the Russian president that there was a gunfight at a reactor in Belarus containing material that could be made into a nuclear weapon?"
Now it's clear that something about Thompson's acting and political careers have merged in the minds of casting directors. And of course, he'd like that to happen in the minds of voters, as well. Thompson's only ever cast in roles like this one: He's the motivator, the great bringer-together-er, the thinker of big thoughts, and the defender of, well, everything. "We can't let these bastards start World War III," he tells his staff. "Now get started — now."
Now, alas, turns out to be a little late in Last Best Chance. Bombs are being driven to their destinations as President Thompson holds his head in his hands, lamenting, "I don't know how many there are, where they are, or what I can do to stop them." Which is not, perhaps, the ideal message for candidate Fred Thompson — but then, Thompson is unlikely to be hiring screenwriters to be his speechwriters.
Nor, I'm guessing, will he be hiring the folks who wrote the promotional copy for Last Best Chance, who presumably were not thinking of his election when they wrote that some of the events in the film "may already have happened — some may be happening now — all may happen in the future if we don't act now to prevent them."
That line would likely work better for the Democrats, don't you think?