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The Campaign Spot

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

Fred Thompson, Knifed By Half-Quotes Again



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Some of Team Thompson are claiming they’ve been “Simonized” again – after Roger Simon of the Politico, who wrote an account of his visit to a firehouse that made it sound disastrously awkward, when later video depicted the candidate, his wife, and the firefighters all smiles and good cheer.

This time their grumbling is directed at this account in USA Today:

BURLINGTON, Iowa — Fred Thompson said Saturday he does not much like the modern form of presidential campaigning and that he “will not be devastated” if he doesn’t win the election.

“I’m not particularly interested in running for president,” Thompson said, but rather he feels called to serve his country.

“I don’t know if you have a desire to be president,” Burlington attorney Todd Chelf told Thompson during a question and answer session raising an issue that has dogged his campaign.

“I am not consumed by personal ambition,” Thompson responded. “I’m offering myself up.”

Given the volatile state of the world, the actor and former Tennessee senator said he was not “sure it is a good thing if a president has too much fire in his belly.”

“I’m only consumed by a few things and politics is not one of them,” he said.

The man sounds dead!

But having now seen video of the event, the account appears to be a pretty selective take on it. Thompson appears to be at a Q & A with an event host, and a questioner asks, “if I caucus for you next week, are you still going to be there two months from now?”

The event host says, “Senator, you were a little bit late getting into the race.”

Fred responds, “The fact of the matter is, others started this process a lot earlier this time than they normally do.”

“Right after the last election.” (some laughter)

“I think that for some of them, they were juniors in high school.” More laughter, applause, and then this lengthy answer from Thompson transcribed by your friendly neighborhood campaign correspondent:

“That is a very good question… Not because it’s difficult to answer, but because I’m gonna answer a little bit of a different way than what you might expect. In the first is wanting the opporunity. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t. I grew up in very modest circumstances. And I left government and I and my family have made sacrifices for me to be sitting here today. I haven’t had any income for a long time because I’m doing this. I figure if you’re gonna be clean, you have to cut the [unintelligible] off. And I was doing speaking engagements, and I had a contract to do a TV show, I had a contract with ABC radio like I was talking about earlier and so forth… I guess one would have to be a total fool to do all of those things and to be leaving his family, which is not a joyful thing at all… if you didn’t want to do it.

But I am not consumed by personal ambition. I will not be devastated if I don’t do it. I want the people to have the best president they can have. (applause) When his talk first started it didn’t originate with me. There are a lot of people around the country and both directly and through polls… liked the idea of me stepping up. And of course, you always look better at a distance, I guess. (laughter) But most of those people are still there and think it’s a good idea.

I approach it from the standpoint of a deal… Of kind of a marriage. You know, if one side of the marriage has to be really talked into the marriage, you know, it’s probably not going to be a very good deal for either one of them. But if you mutually think that this is a good thing — in this case, if you think this is a good thing for the country, the you have the opportunity to do some wonderful things together. I’m offering myself up. I’m saying that if I have the background, the capability and the concern to do this and I’m doing this for the right reasons… but I’m not particularly interested in running for president, but I think I’d make a good president. Nowadays, the process has become much more important than I think it used to be.

I don’t know if they ever asked George Washington a question like this. I don’t know if they ever asked Dwight D. Eisenhower a question like this. Nowadays it’s all about fire in the belly. I’m not sure that in the world we live in today, it’s a terribly good thing for a president to have too much fire in his belly.

I approach life differently than a lot of people. People, I guess, are wondering how I’ve been as successful as I’ve been in everything I’ve done. I’ve won two races in Tennessee by twenty points in a state Bill Clinton carried twice. I had never run for office before. I’ve never had an acting lesson, and I guess that’s obvious. (laughter). When I did it, I did it. It wasn’t just a lark. Anything worth doing is worth doing well. I’ve always been a little more laid back than most. I like to say I’m only consumed by very few things, and politics is not one of them. The welfare of my country, and my kids and grandkids, growing up, is one of them. (applause)

If what people really want in their president is a super type A personality, someone who has gotten up every morning and gone to bed every night and been thinking about, for years how they can be president of the United States… someone who can look you straight in the eye and say they’ve enjoyed every minute of campaigning… (laughter) I ain’t that guy. (more laughter) [To questioner] So I hope  I’ve discussed that, or I haven’t talked you out of anything. I honestly want… I can’t imagine a worse set of circumstances than achieving the presidency under a false pretenses, especially if you feel the way I do. I’ve gone out of my way to be myself, because I don’t want anybody to think they’re getting something they’re not getting. I’m not consumed by this process, I’m not consumed with the notion of being president. I’m simply saying I’m willing to do what’s necessary to achieve it if I’m in sync with the people. And if the people want me, or somebody like me, I will do what I’ve always done with everything else in my life. I will take it on and do a good job. You’ll have the disadvantage of having someone who probably cna’t jump up and click their heels three times, but will tell you the truth. And you’ll know where the president stands at all times.”


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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