Fred Thompson has played the president in the movies, and the ex-senator now says he is “leaving the door open” on a real run for the White House in 2008.
The Tennessee Republican said he has been encouraged to run by some of his former colleagues, who cite the lack of a “true conservative” among the top tier of candidates already on the campaign trail.
“It’s not really a reflection on the current field at all,” he said during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday” yesterday, discussing his potential bid. “As you know, some of them are very good friends of mine. I’m going to wait and see how it pans out, see how they do, how it develops.”
Mr. Thompson, 64, said he was pondering a run after former Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker and other Tennessee Republicans began drumming up support for him.
“It will be interesting to me as I listen to people and learn and watch what’s going on and what’s the reaction, and the poll numbers and so forth, as to whether or not my instinct on that is right,” he said.
Mr. Thompson, who has maintained a role on the popular NBC legal drama “Law and Order” since leaving the Senate in 2003, explained his position on a number of issues important to the Republican base, including abortion, gun control, immigration and the war in Iraq.
On Iraq, Mr. Thompson said as president his strategy would largely mirror that of President Bush. “I would do essentially what the president’s doing. I know it’s not popular right now, but I think we have to look down the road and consider the consequences of where we are.”
The only issue discussed where Mr. Thompson broke from the views of the conservative base was campaign-finance reform. As a senator, he voted for the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform legislation, which became law.
“We’ve got a situation where people could give politicians huge sums of money, which is the soft-money situation at that time, and then come before those same politicians and ask them to pass legislation for them,” he said. “So that’s not a nonconservative position, although I agree that a lot of people have interpreted it that way.”
Aside from his acting career, Mr. Thompson has remained involved in politics since leaving Washington. He recently served as a member of the Libby Legal Defense Trust steering committee, helping to raise money for former White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr.’s legal team.
“I’d do it now,” he said when asked if the president should pardon Mr. Libby, who was found guilty on four counts last week of lying to investigators in the Valerie Plame CIA-leak case. “This is a trial that never would have been brought in any other part of the world. This is a miscarriage of justice.”
Mr. Thompson said he has no timetable for deciding whether to initiate a presidential campaign.
“I want to see how my colleagues who are on the campaign trail do now, what they say, what they emphasize, what they’re addressing, and how successful they are in doing that, and whether or not they can carry the ball in next November, and mainly whether or not they can reach the American people, inspire the American people to do the tough things that we’re going to need to do.”