December 29th, 2007
11:59 PM ET
4 years ago

Thompson: 'Not particularly interested in running for president'

(CNN) – Republican Fred Thompson has long faced criticism he lacks motivation to be President of the United States, and the former Tennessee senator's latest comments Saturday may spark new criticism on that front.

"I'm not particularly interested in running for president," the former senator told voters at a campaign event in Burlington, Iowa when challenged by a an audience member over his desire to be commander-in-chief.

"But I think I'd make a good president," Thompson continued. "I have the background, capability, and concern to do this and I'm doing it for the right reasons."

Thompson took heat for not jumping into the White House race until September - significantly later than every other candidate - and has since been criticized for his laid-back campaign style and often-times light schedule.

But the former actor has criticized his rivals for launching their presidential bids months ahead of his, and continually touts the fact he hasn't harbored presidential ambitions his whole career.

"I am not consumed by personal ambition," Thompson also said Saturday. "I'm offering myself up."

"I'm only consumed by a few things and politics is not one of them."

But Thompson added the sacrifices he has made to run for president proves he wants the top job.

To be clean, I had to cut everything off," he said. "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 a man would have to be a total fool to do all those things and to be leaving his family which is not a joyful thing at all if he didn't want to do it."

–CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney

Filed under: Fred Thompson • Iowa
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. Political Ticker Moderator

    CNN experienced a technical problem Sunday that caused readers’ comments to be deleted. We apologize. It was frustrating for us; we know it must be frustrating for those of you who submitted their comments. But the problem is resolved, and the comments section is again open.

    December 30, 2007 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  2. Anonymous

    And America isn't 'particularly interested' in you either, Fred.

    December 30, 2007 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  3. mike kaplan

    Put a fork in him. He's done.

    December 30, 2007 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  4. jolene

    Maybe you should have printed his whole comment instead of the few lines that make him look bad. He is the most qualified to lead our country and it is refreshing to see that he isn't running for the office of President for reasons other than trying to do what is right. Your Liberal view is showing!

    December 30, 2007 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  5. Walt, Belton, TX

    That's a good thing to get out in the open. I'm not particularly enthused about supporting a self-proclaimed loser anyway!! Say goodbye Fred......................

    December 30, 2007 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  6. Brad, Stockton, CA

    If he's not particularly interested in running for president, then he would probably make a particularly disinterested president. Why the f&$% is he wasting the time and patience of American voters?

    December 30, 2007 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  7. K.G.

    I support Fred Thompson and fully believe he is the best man for the job.
    His knowledge of issues and ability to explain the issues in language the common person can understand is one of his greatest assests.

    He is willing to serve and is making a sacrifice to serve. The news media has attacked him so many times claiming he is lazy when the man is far from lazy.
    I do not understand the attacks against him other than there are those who want to put personal opinion in their reports to support other candidates.

    He needs honest coverage from the news media and the chance to be heard.
    I think if you research his statements and his voting record in the Senate you will see a leader that is consistent and will be the same person after he is elected that he is today, and was in the past.

    He is the only candidate that chose to join the race at the traditional time and he is running his campaign on a lower budget. People love him, why is the press hitting him so hard? Do we want to allow the press to decide who the next President will be or are we as a people willing to do research and vote based on knowledge of the candidates.

    December 30, 2007 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  8. Micky

    Were he in the lead anywhere, he'd be singing a different tune. Being at the bottom of just about every poll, however, prompts this face-saving measure.

    We don't need a hack actor/hack president anyway. Neither did we need a rich kid/hack businessman for that matter. Once this current reign of ineptitude ends, we need a person with real vision and with the diplomatic prowess to return America to the stature it so rightly deserves.

    December 30, 2007 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  9. Michelle

    The more I hear from this man, the more I like him!

    December 30, 2007 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  10. Michelle

    Fred Thompson has learned that you have to balance ALL areas of your life whenever possible. As an actor which is also true as the President, you have to take the down time when you can get it in order to perform your best in unexpected difficult situations. I have worked in both the film industry and as a contractor for the Department of Defense. I think Mr. Thompson is taking an intelligent approach to this instead of wearing himself out so if he wins he can begin his term already exhausted only to remain exhuasted for the next four to eight years. It's called pacing yourself. It works.

    December 30, 2007 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  11. Sam T. Mullins

    I am GLAD that FRED THOMPSON, a moral, honest, & principled man, would rather be CALLED to serve as President by the people, and his peers, versus being DRIVEN by a "FIRE IN THE BELLY" to fullfil some "life-long" personal ambition to be President as YOU in the media keep HARPING at...

    FRED THOMPSON is the ONLY candidate who has pointed out that during WWII the US spent 38% of our GNP fighting the NAZIs & JAPANESE IMPERIALISM & EXPANSION, and that in contrast we are currently spending less than 9% of GNP to fight the GLOBAL WAR against ISLAMO-FASCIST & JIHADIST who have been shouting DEATH TO AMERICA,killing serveral THOUSANDS of US citizens and soldiers in the past 30 years, and Fred will fight to secure AMERICA...

    FRED THOMPSON is the ONLY candidate that has proposed to RAISE a "Million man standing Army" above and beyond current troop numbers, TO FIGHT this evil, and to SECURE AMERICA, JUST LIKE WE DID IN WWII .....

    FRED THOMPSON is the ONLY candidate again who has called for immediate enforcement of current laws and immediate building of the DOUBLE BORDER FENCE as already passed into law to stop illegal immigration & SECURE THE BORDERS NOW ! ! !

    FRED THOMPSON is the ONLY candidate with detailed policies, & intestinal fortitude to take on the tough problems like Social Security for the future NOW...

    FRED THOMPSON is the ONLY candidate running for POTUS, as an ardent follower of the "FEDERALIST" papers & the FOUNDING FATHERS, who wants to give us back more control to govern ourselves in our daily lives to the state and local levels as set forth by our founding fathers in the Constitution, and STOP the UNCONSTITIONAL hi-jacking or trampling of these powers by the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT....

    WE NEED FRED THOMPSON FOR PRESIDENT IN 2008....

    December 30, 2007 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  12. Brian S.

    Michelle, you must be joshin' us! Right?! This guy is naught but a feeble old man. As I've said before, eposure to TV has muddled reality and fantasy in many peoples' minds. This is dangerous.

    December 30, 2007 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  13. Robb, New York

    Three months ago, everybody and their mother in law was clamoring for Fred to run, saying that he was the ideal candidate. Now this guy sounds like he doesn't want the job. So what was the point of this whole campaign, Fred, if you're not really "running for president"? Funny... everybody made him out to be the second coming of Reagan, but he's got the enthusiasm of a one-trick pony like Tancredo: not running for the job, but running to get a message across to the public. What Fred's message really is not a whole lot different from his opponents anyway.

    Here's some advice for all of you thinking of a run for public office... if you're running for the sake of running and not clamoring for the job– especially if the job is at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue– don't bother running. America needs somebody who wants it while at the same time wants to do it well.

    December 30, 2007 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  14. Greg, San Francisco, CA

    "I don't want to be President, but if you insist, how can I refuse." How arrogant. He's going to drop out after finishing 3rd or 4th in both Iowa and New Hampshire. We need a President who wants to roll up his sleeves and get cracking, not one who's in it because he had nothing better to do.

    December 30, 2007 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  15. FRedStates

    It's been said that "A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes." Telling isn't it... that this story has been picked up by just about every media outlet in the country... however... the truth behind these comments isn't quite getting the coverage it deserves. But that's what great about being allowed to leave a comment like this. Thank you CNN. Please read the complete conversation that these comments were taken from.

    ********************************

    Voter... My only problem with you and why I haven’t thrown all my support behind you is that I don’t know if you have the desire to be President. If I caucus for you next week, are you still going to be there two months from now?

    Fred Thompson…In the first place I got in the race about the time people normally get into it historically. The fact of the matter is that others started the process a lot earlier this time than they normally do. I think it was for some of them when they were juniors in high school.

    APPLAUSE

    That is a very good question, not because it’s difficult to answer, because, but I’m gonna answer it in a little different way than what you might expect.

    In the first place, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t. I wouldn’t be doing this if i didn’t. I grew up very modest circumstances. I left government, 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 that to be clean you’ve got to cut everything 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 a man would have to be a total fool to do all those things and to be leaving his family which is not a joyful thing at all if he 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 that they can have.

    When this talk first started, it didn’t originate with me. There were a lot of people around the country both directly and through polls, liked the idea of me stepping up. And of course, you always look better at a distance, I guess.

    But most of those people are still there and think its a good idea. But I approached it from the standpoint of a deal. A kind of a marriage. If one side of a marriage has to be really talked into the marriage, it probably ain’t 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, then you have an opportunity to do some wonderful things together.

    I’m offering myself up. I’m saying that I have the background, the capability, and the concern to do this and I’m doing it 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 it used to be.

    I don’t know that they ever asked George Washington a question like this. I don’t know that they ever asked Dwight D. Eisenhower a question like this. But nowadays, it’s all about fire in the belly. I’m not sure in the world we live in today it’s a terribly good thing if a president has too much fire in the belly. I approach life differently than a lot of people. People, I guess, wonder how I’ve been as successful as I’ve been in everything I’ve done. I won two races in TN by 20 point margins, a state that Bill Clinton carried twice. I’d never run for office before. I’ve never had an acting lesson and I guess that’s obvious by people who’ve watched me. But when they made a movie about a case that I had when I took on a corrupt state administration as a lawyer and beat them before a jury. They made a movie about it and I wound up playing myself in the movie and yeah I can do that.

    And when I did it, I did it. Wasn’t just a lark. Anything that’s worth doing is worth doing well. But I’ve always been a little bit more laid back than most. I like to say that I’m only consumed by very, very few things and politics is not one of them. The welfare of our country and our kids and grandkids is one of them.

    If people really want in their president 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 could achieve the Presidency of the United States, someone who can look you straight in the eye and say they enjoy every minute of campaigning, I ain’t that guy. So I hope I’ve discussed that and hope 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 false pretenses. I go out of my way to be myself because I don’t want anybody to think they are getting something they are 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’ll do what I’ve always done in the rest of my life and I will take it on and do a good job and you’ll have the disadvantage of having someone who probably can’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.

    December 30, 2007 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  16. Mike O Plano, TX

    Here's the precise quote, fully in context. In context, it makes a LOT more sense:

    "Q: (Courtesy ABC News) My only problem with you and why I haven’t thrown all my support behind you is that I don’t know if you have the desire to be President. If I caucus for you next week, are you still going to be there two months from now?

    That is a very good question, not because it’s difficult to answer, but I’m gonna answer it in a little different way than what you might expect.

    In the first place, I got into the race about the time people normally get into get into it. The fact of the matter is people get into it a lot earlier than they used to. For some of them, they were juniors in high school.

    The first place, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t. I wouldn’t be doing this. I grew up in very modest circumstances. I left government and I and my family have made sacrifices to be sitting here today. I haven’t had any income for a long time because I figured to be clean, you’ve got to cut everything off. I was doing speaking engagements and I had a contract to do a tv show. I had a contract with abc radio…and so forth. A man would have to be a total fool to do all those things and to be leaving his family which is not a joyful thing if he didn’’t want to do it.

    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.

    When this talk first originated from people around the country both directly and through polls, liked the idea of me stepping up and of course, you always look better form a distance.

    But most of those people are still there. I approached it from the standpoint of a deal. A kind of a marriage. If one side of a marriage really has to be talked into the marriage, it probably ain’t going to be a good deal. But if you mutually decide it’s going to be a good thing. In this case, if you think this is a good thing for the country, then we have an opportunity to do some wonderful things together.

    I’m offering myself up. I’m saying that I have the background, the capability and concern to do this and do it for the right reasons. 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 it used to be.

    I don’t know that they ever asked George Washington a question like this. I don’t know that they ever asked Dwight D. Eisenhower a question like this. But nowadays, it’s all about fire in the belly. I’m not sure in the world we live in today it’s a good thing if a president has too much fire in the belly. I approach life differently than a lot of people. People, I guess, wonder how I’ve been as successful as I’ve been in everything that I’ve done. I won two races in TN by 20 point margins in a state that bill Clinton carried twice. I’ve never had an acting lesson. I guess that’s obvious by people who’ve watched me…

    When I did it, I did it. Wasn’t just a lark. Anything that’s worth doing is worth doing well. But I’ve always been a little more laid back than most. I’m only consumed by very, very few things. Politics is not one of them. The welfare of our country and our kids and grandkids is one of them.

    If people really want in their president 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 win the presidency of the united states, someone who can look you straight in the eye and say they enjoy every minute of campaigning, I ain’t that guy. So I hope I’ve discussed that and didn’t talk you out of anything. I honestly want – I can’t imagine a worse set of circumstances [than] achieving the Presidency of the United States under false pretenses. I go out of my way to be myself. "

    December 30, 2007 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  17. Sledge

    Get out the race, you dead horse.

    December 30, 2007 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  18. Peter Skibitzki

    Don't worry CNN some of us save our comments just in case of so called "Technical problem"

    Throughout History the truly Great Leaders of this nation have often stumbled into, been in the right place at the right time, or as in Fred Thompson’s case been called upon by a greater good to place our nation above personal interest. Leaders like Harry Truman, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan, all men who never aspired to be president but rose to the challenge of the office when called upon. Men of Honor, Integrity, and Conviction unlike like all of the life long politicians who have been running for president since getting elected to their first tax payer supplied job.

    December 30, 2007 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  19. mark wilkes barre pa

    why is it people have a hard time believing a candidate for the office of president would not be fond of all the uglyness involed with campaining ? who believes you have to be a life long politician or the HEIR APPARENT to win ? who believes that only those who can stoop lower than the other candidates has a chance to win ? the media, haters, fringe supporters of the extreme in either parties, paranoid campain advisors, thats who !!!!!

    December 30, 2007 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  20. Matt A. , Marietta, GA

    ""I'm not particularly interested in running for president...I guess a man would have to be a total fool to do all those things and to be leaving his family, which is not a joyful thing at all, if he didn’t want to do it."

    Even Fred doesn't think much of himself. Lol.

    Obama / Biden 2008

    December 30, 2007 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  21. Scott, Madison, WI

    This would be the same Freddie T that summed up the Bhutto assassination and its aftermath as a "situation". Really? WOW! You've got a real grasp there ol' boy, and it ain't on the issues either.

    Please go into hiberation until the spring of 2008!

    December 30, 2007 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  22. Ajay Jain, Garland, TX

    Fred Thompson does not have a chance at the nomination leave alone the general election!

    Go Hillary44 08! http://hillaryis44.org/

    December 30, 2007 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  23. Samir, Houston, TX

    I think it is time for a woman or minority to take charge of this country.

    The era of old-fashioned white men is at an end.

    December 30, 2007 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  24. Mel Whirley

    Matt and Ajay, there is a truism that states people get the government they deserve!

    December 30, 2007 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  25. Verdis

    Yep ur done. Take ur lil' chickadee and high tail it back to Tennessee. I'm a sho nuff disapointed in ya boy.

    December 31, 2007 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
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