On Monday, I had the opportunity to interview Fred Thompson briefly between stops at the Minnesota State Fair. I aired the recording of the interview the same day on my CQ Radio show, along with a recording of the press conference that preceded it. For those who missed the show, I have the transcript of my one-on-one walking interview with the presidential aspirant, who discusses the tone he wants to set with his upcoming campaign.
EM: I’m Ed Morrissey from Captain’s Quarters.
FT: Oh, Captain’s Quarters, yea
EM: Well thank you very much for agreeing to talk to me for a little bit here Senator.
FT: Well, not at all … Captain’s Quarters! I’m a big fan of yours. We’ve dealt with similar subjects in times past
EM: Yes we have, Federalism is among them. … Senator, what do you see as the most pressing foreign policy issue outside of Iraq for the next administration to deal with?
FT: Two things that we need to think about and they’re overlapping. One is the United States’ role in the 21st century. We have been bulwark and the symbol for hope and freedom to the people of the world for a long time. We’ve helped people achieve freedom and economic prosperity for a long time in this world and led the way toward democracy. But there’s a false dichotomy going on right now between idealism and realism. We need both. We need to learn from our mistakes; we can’t go everywhere and be all things to all people and solve everybody’s problems. We got to be smart as to what we’re capable of doing. We’ve got to make sure that the people are together for any tough engagements. On the other hand if that’s all we care about, we’ll no longer be the United States we’ve known in times past. We can’t lose the traditional role that we played in assisting and helping those who want freedom. And so, to me,
FT: It’s both. The second part is, Iraq is not the war. Iraq is a part of the war. Iraq and Afghanistan are current fronts in a global war that I don’t think we yet totaling appreciate the dimensions of. How long it’s going to last, how much resources we’re going to have to commit to it and how resolute we’re going to have to be.
EM: Well, speaking of that Senator, you’ve got a lot of commentary about your sober, realistic tone that you took in Indianapolis, yesterday or the day before, is that the type of campaign you want to bring to people to hear some tough truths to prepare us for the battles ahead?
FT: Well, let’s just say that the rah-rah stuff has its time and place and I’m not above a little of that from time to time but that’s not why I am where I am right now. Life is too short, the difficulties facing our country are too serious, not to tell the truth about what we’re going to have to do as a nation. It’s sober in a way but it’s optimistic in a way. It’s not optimistic not because of the world we see around us but because we think we can do something about it, that we can do better. That’s the source of my optimism. And I’m not going to shy away from the facts; I’m not going gear myself to try to get a party applause line every second or third sentence I make. Republicans and well as the rest of the American people need to come together on the fact that we have some tough choices ahead of us and the one thing that is not sustainable is our current path with regard to our attitude toward global conflicts and with regard to our attitude toward our economic future, current trends and our attitude with regard of what it’s going to take to do better; and that’s unity of the American people.
EM: How do you -- [interrupted by aide] OK, the butter sculptures are coming up, Senator. It’s been a pleasure talking with you. I know you have a lot of fans among my readers and I just wanted to say thank you again.
FT: Thank you very much and thank you for what you’re doing.
Coming up at Heading Right: the press conference transcript.
UPDATE: The "ST" stood for Senator Thompson, but I see how this could be confusing. I changed them to FT instead.
UPDATE II: I should explain that the Butter Sculpture is a long and honored tradition at the Minnesota State Fair, and it trumps a blogger interview every single time...
CQ commenter Filistro asks me "how did he strike you... as a person, I mean?" Given a caveat that I tend to find most people likable on a personal level, I was impressed with his warmth and sincerity, both with me and with the crowd. I talked a bit about this during my show that day, but the crowd clearly sensed his approachability and his geniality. He did not strike me as someone going through the motions, but as a man who genuinely enjoys interacting with people, even the press.
Does that make him the best candidate? Not on its own, but it does give a sense of why he will make a very good candidate on the trail. The interview gives a sense of why he's running in the first place.