I think it sounds like a strong possibility:
But Mr. Thompson appears serene about all the speculation swirling around him. "Those running are all good guys, and would be good presidents," he says leaning back in a recliner. "But there are truly vital issues--from the looming entitlement crisis to nuclear proliferation--I'm not afraid to talk about. Lots of people have such a low regard for politicians that they're open to a campaign that would be completely different."
So how would a possible Thompson campaign be distinctive? "Politics is now one big 24-hour news cycle, but we seem to spend less time than ever on real substance," he muses. "What if someone harnessed the Internet and other technologies and insisted in talking about real issues in more depth than consultants would advise? What if they took risks with their race in hopes that the risks to our children could be reduced through building a mandate for good policy?.."
The next president, according to Mr. Thompson, needs to exercise strong leadership "and get down in the weeds and fix a civil-service system that makes it too hard to hire good employees and too hard to fire bad ones." He doesn't offer specifics on what to do, but notes the "insanity" of the new Congress pushing for the unionization of homeland security employees only five years after it rejected the notion in the wake of 9/11. "Should we tie ourselves up in bureaucratic knots with the challenges we may have to face?" he asks in wonderment.
The challenges, he says, are numerous. On Iraq, he admits "we are left with nothing but bad choices." However, he says the "worst choice" would be to have Osama bin Laden proven right when he predicted America wouldn't have the stomach for a tough fight. The costs of Iraq have been high, but they could be even higher "if we have another stain on America like that infamous scene from Saigon 1975 in which our helicopters took off leaving those who supported us grabbing at the landing skids."
Mr. Thompson is especially worried about nuclear proliferation. He serves as chairman of the International Security Advisory Board, along with former Clinton CIA Director Jim Woolsey and former Democratic Sen. Chuck Robb. The board recently received an unclassified briefing that convinced him three or four countries in the Middle East are "on the cusp" of acquiring nuclear weapons should the Iranians carry through with their own weapons program...
Clearly there are areas where he comes across as less polished, but when he discusses McCain-Feingold and runaway spending for example, he sounds like he has the essential elements of his message thought out. And it seems like he'd seek the 'straight shooter' label that served McCain so well.
The rapidity with which he's disavowed his vote on McCain-Feingold makes me wonder whether he's decided that it's a major reason for the displeasure that primary voters feel toward McCain. Certainly it's among the first things that every conservative I know mentions when talking about McCain's problems.
Among other trivia, how odd would it be to have a President older than 65 with two children under 10? I have to think it's probably never happened before.
Update: Novak offers this on Thompson today:
Actor-politician Fred Thompson's unexpected expression of interest in seeking the Republican presidential nomination has attracted an equally unexpected favorable reaction, especially among social conservatives.
In Tennessee Republican politics, former Sen. Thompson was allied with Howard Baker and Lamar Alexander in the state party's more liberal wing. However, his voting record in the Senate was solidly conservative. He is viewed by the Christian right as more acceptable than any of the three Republican candidates leading in the polls -- Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Mitt Romney.
Nobody is sure that Thompson really will run. He has been reported in line as successor to radio commentator Paul Harvey to fill one of the most prestigious and profitable broadcasting niches.