Thursday, October 04, 2007

One on One with Presidential Candidate Fred Thompson

Thompson with the President on the War?

Jeff Berkowitz: Senator Fred Thompson...let me ask you about the War, are you with this President on the War?

Senator Fred Thompson: I think things are looking much better. I think General Petraeus has told us there is light at the end of the tunnel. And, I think we need to take advantage of the opportunity we’ve got. If we don’t, it’s going to make for a more dangerous country for us to live in because we’ll be signaling the wrong things to the wrong people.

Jeff Berkowitz: So, you stay with him through spring, keep that same level of troops, with that drawdown to about 130,000?

Fred Thompson: Well, fortunately, we see the possibility of some pretty significant drawdowns as a part of the success scenario, not because of artificial deadlines that have been set by the politicians back home but because of the military realities of the Iraqis helping themselves more and more, with their military capabilities, so I am optimistic we can stay on that glide path.

Earned path to citizenship for current illegal immigrants?

Jeff Berkowitz: the other hot issue is immigration. You talk about border security. Can you envision ever favoring an [earned] path to citizenship for the 12 to 15 million illegal immigrants who are here, now, in the United States?

Fred Thompson: Well, to be fair to the people who have come here, played by the rules, stood in long lines in many cases—to become full fledged citizens under our laws and who have become such good, productive citizens, here—in honor of them, I think other people ought to be required to go back and come in and play by the same rules.

Jeff Berkowitz: So, step back but then if they come back and take care of their fines, make sure they’re law abiding, have a job, speak English, then you would consider it?

Senator Fred Thompson: No, I mean they go back and make application, just like anybody else. Now, a lot of them aren’t going to voluntarily do that, but if we enforce the borders and enforce the laws here at home, I think attrition will work in our favor and we’ll be moving in the right direction.
Fred Thompson, candidate for President in the Republican Primary, interviewed as he was exiting a fundraiser at the Chicago Club in the Chicago Loop on Wednesday (October 3, 2007) at 7:15 pm. He was with his wife, Jeri Thompson, who is from Naperville, IL. She is attractive and has the reputation for being smart, quite involved in the Senator’s campaign and a good mom to their two young kids.

The former Tennessee Senator and star of Law and Order graciously consented to a short interview. He had already met with the press on his way into the funder. As he said, we couldn’t “dally,” in setting up the camera, because they had “young uns,” waiting for them. And, we didn’t dally, within fifteen seconds of his saying yes, it was lights, camera and action—words he has often heard before—and we anticipate airing the interview shortly.

Thompson: a new Southern Strategy?

Thompson, having entered the race late, has some ground to make up, especially in Iowa and New Hampshire, but he is now in second place in South Carolina and Florida. Perhaps a bit of a “southern strategy,” is already at work. Characterized by many as “Southern Fried Reagan,” Fred Thompson may be able to lay claim to the title of Reagan’s successor, with the same kind of one-on-one charm that President Reagan had. The trick will be for him to transform that personal, down-home charm to the larger political stage.

Small screens and large screens:

Thompson obviously plays well on a small screen (Law and Order). But, now, as a Presidential candidate, he is on a large screen, or a multi-screen theater complex. There will be lots of balls to keep up in the air, and a need for a strong, well disciplined organization to manage all of those balls.

As his campaign has officially gotten off the ground, there have been many media reports that Thompson’s nascent organization has struggled to find a workable chain of command, including the right role for his wife, who is knowledgeable about the ways of Washington and politics, and who is clearly a trusted advisor to the former Senator.

Thompson’s race to lose?

Organizational problems aside, Thompson enters the race with enormous national name, or perhaps more precisely, face recognition from his role on Law and Order. A great many voters have already attached the name to the face, which in part accounts for his high polling numbers, even before he was officially a candidate. Indeed, a number of the pundits say this is already Thompson’s race to lose. And, they may be right.

Thompson has the reputation for having the right ideas for the Republican Primary conservative base. And, he is said to have the voting record to back up that reputation as a true blue conservative. If both of those assertions pan out and if Thompson can ratchet up the energy level at debates, get comfortable with one minute charismatic response and develop winning campaign themes, he will be, and perhaps already is, a formidable candidate
Who, What was said and the Take at the Thompson Funder

The funder was not open to the media, but our sources tell us that it was attended by about seventy, or so, high rollers, including State Senator and 2006 Republican Primary candidate Bill Brady, who brought with him a contingent from downstate Illinois. State GOP Chairman Andy Mckenna, Jr. attended the funder but that may have been in his role as State Chair as opposed to as an individual supporter. However, it is being said that Andy Mckenna, Sr. is supporting Thompson, although he did not attend the funder.

Several Chicago TV stations reported on Wednesday night that the “take,” was about 100K. The face value of the tickets was $1000 to attend the general funder and $2300 for the VIP Pre-Meeting and photo op.

A significant player on the Thompson Illinois Team is former State Senator Roger Keats, who was a part of the Draft Thompson to run for President effort. Keats, in discussing what Thompson talked about at the funder, said:

What the Senator talked about as the number one responsibility of the President was National Defense. And then he said the correlation of the second responsibility is keeping the economy going, which he said is related to national defense. The strength of our economy is what allows us to have the strength to defend ourselves. Then the third factor he discussed was the role of a more limited government to make sure people keep the rights and freedoms they have today.

Keats said Thompson was asked about Iran and Thompson said we need to be helping the people who are trying to free themselves from the tyranny in Iran.

Keats asked a question about free trade and Keats said Thompson “recognizes we’re the largest exporting nation in the world.” Keats said “you don’t want to get in trade wars when you’re the largest exporting nation in the world.”

Keats said Thompson also spoke about some of his history with former Senator and White House honcho, Howard Baker.

This reporter asked Keats what Senator Thompson thought we ought to do to help the people in Iran. Keats said that Thompson discussed how we need to be aware that there is opposition to the mullahs who govern in Iran and that we need to support those people. Keats said Thompson did not get too specific and Keats thinks the mistake Obama makes is that he tries to tell the world exactly what he is going to do. Keats said “you have to play your cards a little closer to your chest but at the same time you have to make it clear we will help our friends.” And, Thompson made that clear, said Keats.
Jeff Berkowitz, Show Host/Producer of "Public Affairs," and Executive Legal Recruiter doing legal search can be reached at You may watch "Public Affairs," shows with Presidential Candidates Richardson, Obama, McCain, Giuliani and Cox and many other pols at