Former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson has a change message, but it’s less about how he’s going to change the country, than it is about how he’s not going to change himself to seek the presidency. He’s not going to change his convictions, the way he campaigns, the way he walks, anything. He often comes back to theme of ambition, and how he doesn’t have it — at least not in an untoward way — as if he’s still wrestling over whether he really wants to be running for president or not. Take me or leave me, Fred says, and sometimes you can’t help wondering if he prefers that people leave him.
People like Fred. The 50 or 75 people gathered at the front of a restaurant in Ames laugh at his jokes and seem to appreciate him and his “common sense, consistent conservatism.” But there isn’t a lot of charge in his performance, though according to a friend of mine he was more animated than he had been at other recent events in Iowa. He talked about his three or four top policy priorities, said people should choose the president they would feel comfortable with at a negotiating table with an adversary, and assured everyone that “better days are ahead of us,” before taking some questions and slipping out of the back of the restaurant as quickly as he could. Not typical behavior for a politician, but Thompson has little taste for standard campaign fare, and that’s just the way it’s going to be.
For Fred, change is electing the guy who you can trust not to change.