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The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

An Account of Thompson’s ‘Desire’ Question, From The Man Who Asked



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Todd Chelf, the Iowa Republican who asked Fred Thompson the question about his desire to be president that launched this weekend’s brouhaha, gave me his account of the question, the answer, and the aftermath.

After watching the blogs and media coverage of the question, I think the question and answer were taken out of context. From the start I want to make one thing clear, I do not nor have I ever thought Sen. Thompson is lazy. No one can accomplish in a lifetime what he has accomplished and be lazy. The question really came from months of frustrations. I started looking around for a candidate early because I really wanted to be a part of a campaign. Gov. Allen from Virginia was a possibility until his election meltdown.  I looked at Gov. Huckabee early, but wrote him off as not being a viable candidate this time around. Shows you what I know.  I also saw some of the big government ideas the Romney camp is now pointing out.

#more#

Speaking of Gov. Romney, I looked at him as well. Something about Gov. Romney just does not feel right. There is something about him I just do not trust. He is a little to slick. His image is a little too perfect. I could care less he is a Mormon. Frankly, I think the press made too big of an issue of his faith. I can only remember one person who mentioned his Mormon faith as being an issue. Most Iowa Republicans I spoke with about Romney were more concerned about his flip-flopping on the issues, than him being a Mormon bishop.

A high school friend of mine is a lobbyist in Washington D.C. During a phone call he mentioned Fred Thompson was thinking of running for President.  I remember asking “The guy from Law & Order?” I knew he had been a senator, but did not know much anything else about him.  Then I started receiving emails from Lamar Alexander and his Volpac telling me he was trying to get his good friend Fred Thompson to run for president. I began to look at Sen. Thompson and his record. I got excited. Here was proven conservative with a proven track record. He was well known to people outside of the political geeks. Not mention the last time the Republicans nominated a proven conservative who was marginal actor we nominated one the greatest presidents of all time.

Then the waiting began. I was in the Ames area during the straw poll, but I did not go, because I was waiting for my candidate to get into the race. I rationalized his late entry the same way he did on Saturday, he was getting into the race when candidates use to get into the race. I kept telling my family and friends just wait until he gets into the race, it will be like a ground fire. Finally, he announced and then nothing. It was like running downstairs on Christmas morning, only to find underwear under the Christmas tree. The day arrived, but there was no excitement. To be honest, my interest waned.

A few months ago he came to Burlington. I arrived at the event site when the doors were to open and the place was packed. There was excitement. He walked into the room and spoke. He said what I wanted to hear. Finally here was my candidate. There was still something missing. He did not ask me to support him. He told me what he thought about the issues. He fielded questions from the audience. It did not feel like a campaign rally. It was more like a lecture from an outstanding political speaker. Then the questions really started to creep into my mind, does this man really want to be President? Is he running for President or Secretary of Homeland Security? We see that in Iowa. Candidates for “president” are really running for some other office.  I wanted to ask him that night do you want to be my president. I found myself wanting to support Sen. Thompson, but not knowing if he wanted me to support him.

I continued to look at all the candidates, but I kept coming back to Sen. Thompson. I wanted the chance to hear him talk again and Saturday was my chance. My friend from D.C. was visiting town so we went together to hear Sen. Thompson. The room and crowd were smaller this time.  The only seats left were next to a woman I know through my work with the Boy Scouts. We waited for Sen. Thompson to arrive. Rep. King of Iowa introduced him. He walked into the room and sat down at the table with one of our local radio personalities. Again his answers were refreshing. Instead of sound bite after sound bite, he gave long thought out answers. He was advocating the ideas I wanted to hear. Then the question and answer session arrived. I wanted to know does this man want to be my President?  I got the last question in.

The answer was exactly what I hope it would. It was a great answer. At points during the answer I was ashamed I had asked the question. I knew the answer.  Do I really want to support a candidate who lives to be President?  Is that type of candidate really interested in serving the nation or serving his own self-interest? Sen. Thompson positioned himself as willing to serve, not for an enlarged ego, but out of a deep desire to serve his nation. He has desire to make our nation better for his children and grandchildren. Far from a slick Branson like presentation, he presented himself as a dedicated patriot willing to serve if we, the American people, were willing to have him do so. He refuses to be a President under false pretenses. He is not leading us into a shotgun relationship. He understands that under the founder’s concept of the social contract, both parties must be fully aware of the terms of the contract when entering into the agreement. If the American people do not want him to be President, he is not going to trick us into agreeing to him. As I said, the answer was refreshing. It was a great answer.

I went and saw Gov. Romney that night. Do not misunderstand me; if Gov. Romney is the Republican nominee for President, I will support him. His presentation was an event. His hair and teeth were perfect. He smiled.  He pressed the flesh. His wife glowed as she stood next to him. Make no mistake; Gov. Romney wants to be President of the United States. Maybe that is why I do not trust him. In the end, Sen. Thompson was right, the next President should be someone who wants to serve the nation, not someone who wants to be President. Far from the press coverage that stated Sen. Thompson does not have the desire to be President, his desire is to serve the American people. He believes the best way to do that is to be President. If he is not elected President, he will not be disappointed. He will find some other way to serve the American people, just like he has throughout his career. After listening to Sen. Thompson and thinking about what he said, I can only conclude he is the best candidate for the job.


Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson


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