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Question on Tennessee trips up Fred Thompson

September 27, 2007 |  7:59 pm

Fred Thompson didn't exactly assuage questions about his attention to detail when he seemed out of the loop late last month when his top communications director was let go.

Then, during a trip this month to all-important Florida, he appeared at sea when asked to comment on the Terri Schiavo end-of-life case that had so consumed first the state and then the nation. "That's going back in history," he said. "I don't remember the details of it."

Also in Florida, he was taken aback when asked about the touchy issue of energy exploration in the Everglades. "Gosh, no one has told me that there's any major reserves in the Everglades, but maybe that's one of the things I need to learn while I'm down here," Thompson said.

On Thursday, there came a question about his home state. The result was another Thompson whiff.

Talking with reporters while fundraising in Tennessee, he was asked about a federal court ruling last week that ruled unconstitutional the Volunteer State's lethal injection procedures. Replied Thompson: "I hadn't heard that. I didn't know."

He probably should get some points for not trying to bluster his way through a non-answer. Plus, when he's not on the campaign trail, he's still got his hands full --- at age 65, he's the father of a toddler and an infant, which makes it tough to stay on top of the local news. And, more seriously, none of these recent lapses is especially bothersome, individually.

Collectively, though, they create a context that likely will magnify inevitable missteps by Thompson down the road. And, for a candidate whose late start means he has less time to hone a political persona, that cannot be a welcome prospect

-- Don Frederick