Fred Thompson: Not Interested in Running for President
Mark Memmott and Jill Lawrence of the paper’s OnPolitics blog summarize the story thusly in a post titled “Thompson: Doesn’t like campaign process, ‘will not be devastated’ if he loses”:
In a dispatch today from Burlington, Bill quotes the former Tennessee senator as saying he doesn’t like modern campaigning, isn’t that interested in running for president and “will not be devastated” if he doesn’t win.
They then provide the full report, the relevant portion of which I’ll provide unexcerpted:
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.
Chelf said after the event that it was “almost refreshing to hear that approach.”
“I think there is a passion there,” he said. “I think it’s sort of a Southern gentleman passion.”
Geraghty says, “The man sounds dead!” and provides a full transcript of the remarks, which are much more nuanced than the report. A key passage highlights this:
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.
Krumm and Quick argue that Theobald and company intentionally “Dowdified” Thompson to make it sound as if “really doesn’t want to be president at all” and contend Theobold has a history of bad reporting.
I’m not familiar enough with Theobald’s body of work to offer an assessment. In terms of this particular report, though, I find the criticism puzzling.
Certainly, the lede by Memmott and Lawrence is misleading; then again, it’s a one-sentence summary of a called-in report. Further, CNN’s Alexander Mooney does a better job of capturing the spirit Thompson’s remarks than Theobold.
Still, I came away from the report with the right impression: Thompson thinks he’d be a good president, would work hard if elected, but he’s not going to be devastated if he doesn’t win.
To be sure, Thompson’s long answer comes across as folksier and gives a more nuanced view of his thinking on the matter. But when isn’t that the case? A man’s fan club will always be unsatisfied with a 150 word summary of a 900 word answer. For that matter, I can’t remember the last time I attended an event and was fully satisfied with the reporting on it. We all view things through different filters and, frankly, reporting — especially on a tight deadline — is hard.
There’s enough genuinely bad journalism out there without making a federal cause of every nuance of disagreement.
Photo credit: AP via CNN