The Washington Times crunches some numbers on ACU and National Journal ratings for Fred.  The Times makes the relevant point that Bill Frist was actually the more conservative (at least by ACU standards) of the Tennessean U.S. Senators when both men served together.  Of course, instead of being the Great Conservative Hope, Bill Frist is busily running Volpac and backing Fred Thompson.  The reason seems to be, as far as I can tell, that we have seen Bill Frist in action as Senate Majority Leader, and his performance made us long for the days of the staunch conviction and fighting spirit of Bob Dole.  Meanwhile, Fred Thompson got out while the getting was good, before the full onslaught of the Bush Era, and so memories of his time in the Senate are a little more blurry and bound to be suffused with warm, nostalgic feelings for the good old days when real conservatives supposedly roamed the halls of the Senate.  This obviously makes no sense.  The reality is that Frist more naturally fills the “conservative gap” in the GOP presidential field than does Fred, but was so badly compromised by his time running the Senate under Bush and the subsequent loss of the Senate in ‘06 that he ceased to be viable.  Thompson, had he remained in the Senate, would be in the exact same position politically.  It is only because he happened to separate himself from the Senate GOP before it went careening to its doom that anyone takes him at all seriously.  In terms of substance, he is actually a less compelling figure for conservatives in terms of his policy views than Bill Frist.  The reality is that Bill Frist, whatever his voting record, was an appalling failure of a conservative leader, which would hardly give anyone much confidence in his endorsement of the leadership potential of old Fred.

The use of National Journal ratings on “ideology” is much less reliable for properly understanding the relative conservatism or liberalism of a politician, since they routinely categorise pro-war, security state policies as conservative and opposition to them as liberal.  The ACU will often count things in similar ways, so that Ron Paul has the absurdly lower rating of 82.3 while Tom Tancredo rates 97.8–they differ principally over the war and the security state.  In NJ ratings, Ron Paul winds up somewhere towards the center on foreign policy because he has opposed most of the Bush Era surveillance and war measures.  Thus, Thompson’s relatively greater “conservatism” on foreign policy as recorded by NJ is slightly misleading if you do not take into account that this means that he is actually among the worse interventionists.  Likewise, his ACU rating is probably inflated by his leanings towards interventionist foreign policy.  His speech in London last week and his association with the Cheney clan confirm this tendency of his, which is probably the single greatest reason to be wary of his candidacy (if and when it is finally declared).