The more I hear from and read about Fred Thompson, the more I appreciate him. He's a communicator, which would be a refreshing change from the current White House, and a conservative, which, well, would be another. As the new banner to the right of the page shows, I really, really think he should run.
One of the things I find fascinating about the idea of Thompson running, though, is that he really doesn't need to for personal reasons. In fact, there are several reasons why being elected President could actually be negatives for him: he makes excellent money acting; he's got a recently married wife (2002) and a very young child (three-and-a-half years old); he's already spent some time in public service; finally, he gets to conduct his life at the intensity and pace he chooses, to an extent that few of us ever do. By most measures of success, Fred Thompson should be deep in proverbial "fat & happy" territory.
So if Thompson gets himself elected President next year, he'll be condemning himself and his young daughter to miss between four and eight years of one another's lives. He'll take a heavy pay cut. He'll also be signing up for the most stressful job in the world. Finally, he doesn't have that career-politician air about him, implying that the pursuit of power isn't foremost in his mind. The move would thus be a significant personal sacrifice, in several ways.
For that reason I'm becoming convinced that if Thompson does run, he'll do it for almost purely ideological reasons. He's being coy and playing patty-cake with the decision for now (which is also very intelligent: by the time primary elections begin in February 2008 we're all going to be sick, sick, sick of the current crop of candidates), but most indicators show that the response from all over the Right has been overwhelmingly positive. Thompson even said as much in an interview with Laura Ingraham earlier this week.
Lots and lots of comparisons are beginning to be made between Thompson and another actor-turned-President, and while many of them are a bit breathless and ill-thought-out, the point is that Thompson doesn't have to run, and indeed has several good reasons to avoid running. There's a nobility in that, and an opportunity for a little ideological housecleaning among Republicans (read: butt-kicking of laggards and milquetoasts) that I find promising.