Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Transcript of 'Leno' - Fred Thompson's Announcement

Fred Thompson announces his candidacy for the 2008 Republican Presidential ticket.



JAY LENO: Thanks for coming. I hope you didn't hear the monologue.

FRED THOMPSON: I did. We'll let the Tennessee joke slide until after the election.

JAY LENO: Right.

FRED THOMPSON: You know, I appreciated that last segment you did, though. Every once in a while I need something that just makes me glad I got out of television. (Laughter.)

JAY LENO: Oh, really. Thanks. That's very kind of you. I've got to ask you something. You were here in June. You said then you were testing the water. You've been in the water for a while now. Are you starting to get a little wrinkly? (Laughter.)

FRED THOMPSON: These wrinkles don't come from the water. (Laughter.)

JAY LENO: They don't come from the water. All right. What's the temperature? Is it tepid? What does the water tell you.

FRED THOMPSON: Nice and warm.

JAY LENO: Nice and warm?

FRED THOMPSON: It hasn't been that long really. We've done it a few months, where a lot of people have been working on it since they were in the choir in high school. So we're where we need to be right now, and that's one of the things I wanted to talk to you about. I'm running for President of the United States.

JAY LENO: All right. (Applause.)


JAY LENO: I'm excited. Wow.


JAY LENO: Well, that's very exciting. Now, it took a long time to decide this.

FRED THOMPSON: Not really. We started ‑‑ we mentioned it the first time in March. A lot of people have been, of course, running for some time. Everybody kind of changed the rules. Usually you don't announce until after Labor Day, but they started running a lot earlier, spending millions of dollars and so forth, and everyone said that you couldn't run this year without raising a hundred million dollars and starting much earlier. I don't believe that. I wasn't in the room when they made the rules; so I had to kind of follow my own lead. So we started around the kitchen table in late March talking about it, thinking about it, thinking about what kind of world and what kind of country our kids were going to grow up in and how many people have a chance to do something about it. And I decided that it was time for me to step up. So I did. (Applause.)

JAY LENO: A lot of the pundits say, "Oh, well, you waited too long."

FRED THOMPSON: No, I don't think so. Of course, we'll find out, but I don't think people are going to say, you know, "That guy would make a very good President, but he just didn't get in soon enough." (Laughter.) Communications being what they are nowadays, if you can't get your message out in a few months, you're probably not ever going to get it out. Most people don't start paying attention to these elections until they get a little closer. They treat politicians kind of like the dentist ‑‑ they don't have anything to do with them until they have to, until the election is near. (Laughter.)

JAY LENO: Well, you haven't spent any money yet, and you're second in the polls. There must be something to the theory.

FRED THOMPSON: Not too bad. Well, you can't tell much by polls these days, but obviously the people are going to give me an opportunity to talk to them about the things that I think are important. I think there will be decisions made in the next few years that are going to impact our lives and the lives of our kids and grandkids for a long, long time. They're going to determine whether or not we're a weaker, less prosperous, more‑divided nation than we have been. We can't let that happen on our watch.

JAY LENO: Now, if you ‑‑ Giuliani, Romney, McCain ‑‑ which of those guys is the toughest opponent? Which do you fear the most?

FRED THOMPSON: I don't know. I know them all to a certain extent. John McCain and I sit side by side on the Senate floor. He's a good friend and will be after this is over with unless, of course, he beats me.

JAY LENO: Right. (Laughter.)

FRED THOMPSON: Then I'll have to take another look at it, but I can't gauge them. I still think it's kind of early. You know, if you look back in history, some of these primary states, early primary states, have changed from what the polls were from like three weeks out.

JAY LENO: Right.

FRED THOMPSON: They're all formidable, but I think I will be, too. So the nation is not going to be hurt by having one more good person step into the race.

JAY LENO: Now you're on the cover of "Newsweek." It says "Lazy Like a Fox," which is ‑‑ I used to get this in school. "Jay has the ability but does not apply himself. (Laughter.) "If Jay spent as much time" ‑‑ Do you consider yourself a good ‑‑ do you like to campaign, or is it one of those necessary evils?

FRED THOMPSON: No, I like the part where you get out with the people.

JAY LENO: Right.

FRED THOMPSON: That's kind of been my history, you know, the red pick‑up truck and all, you know, more than just symbolism. First of all, it got me away from the staff. They couldn't ride along in the truck. It also got me out with the people.

JAY LENO: You took a truck and drove around?

FRED THOMPSON: Took my truck and with one guy. A lot of times he drove; sometimes I drove. We'd go from town to town and announce ahead of time we were showing up, pull up in the square. I'd get in the back of the truck in the bed and make a speech, and we'd move on. And we went from 20 points down against a popular incumbent congressman to 20 points ahead on election night. And then, two years later, we ran again in another contested race, won by another 20 points. I won in Tennessee ‑‑ if I can brag a little bit on myself politically ‑‑ by 20 points in two races in a state that Bill Clinton carried twice. So I must like campaigning enough to get the job done. And the same thing is true with regard to what we're facing now. Of course, the stakes are much more important, I think, much more serious when you're running for President, and I take it that way. I'm going to do my dead‑level best to make sure that the people get an opportunity to make the decision. You know, the pundits have all decided one way or another. The media and a lot of people make their living off of politics nowadays, and that's fine. But if I can get out with the folks, sometimes I'll communicate to them on the air waves, where tonight, I think, right after the show is over, we're going to have on our website ‑‑ ‑‑ I'm on for about 15 minutes telling the folks what I'm doing and why I'm doing it. So we're using that. And then we're going tonight, Jeri and the kids are backstage here. We're going to go to Iowa. So we'll do that plus grassroots campaigning which is what we're going to do in Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina for the next, oh, seven days.

JAY LENO: You mentioned New Hampshire now. Your fellow Republicans are debating tonight, and they're a little miffed at you for being here instead of being there. What do you say?

FRED THOMPSON: Well, we'll have an opportunity to debate a lot. I've been debating in courtrooms in the country since I was 28 years old and political forums and so forth. So they're fine, and we'll do our fair share.

JAY LENO: What do you think of them? As someone who watches these debates, I must admit it's a little thirty‑second ‑‑

FRED THOMPSON: I don't think much of them.

JAY LENO: How would you like to debate? FRED THOMPSON: I would do it in small groups preferably one‑on‑one and set aside a segment of time ‑‑ Newt Gingrich has a good idea. He talks about the Lincoln‑Douglas debates. The circumstances are different, but the principal is still the same: A thoughtful discussion over a period time to get to know what people are really thinking and what they're really like. The segments now, you know, you've got ten guys if everybody shows up, you know, with 30, 40 second sound bites. It's not designed to enlighten the American people. It's more designed for the people who are putting the debates on, and you run from one to another to another to another, and that's all well and good. I'll do my share, but I don't think it's a very enlightening forum to tell you truth. And I'll tell you something else. For those who talk about that New Hampshire situation, I'm certainly not disrespecting them, but it's a lot more difficult to get on the "Tonight Show" than it is to get into a presidential debate. (Applause.)

JAY LENO: Exactly. We'll be right back with Fred Thompson right after this. (Commercial break.)

JAY LENO: We're back with newly announced Presidential candidate Fred Thompson. And that is the most presidential suit I've ever seen.

FRED THOMPSON: Thank you very much.

JAY LENO: That's the one they issue when you're going to run?

FRED THOMPSON: The official Presidential suit.

JAY LENO: Let me ask you. I've got some bumper stickers. Let's see if you like any of these here. "Fred Thompson Because Giuliani is Too Hard to Spell." (Laughter.) I like this one, "Fred Thompson. He has a narrow stance." (Laughter.) Probably can't comment on that one.


JAY LENO: We'll try one more. "Because I'm not Dr. Phil." (Laughter.)

FRED THOMPSON: I have been mistaken for Dr. Phil.

JAY LENO: Really.


JAY LENO: If it works, use it.Let me ask you about some serious matters. The Iraq war, obviously the biggest issue in the campaign ‑‑ were you for it?


JAY LENO: You were for it.

FRED THOMPSON: I think we got to remember what it would be like if we had not done what we did. Saddam would still be there, having defeated the United Nations, all the resolutions. It would have defeated the United States in effect. It would have been in a position to continue its nuclear weapons program. His two sons would still have been doing what they were doing ‑‑ putting people in human shredders and attacking their neighbors. And I think, especially in light of what Iran is doing right now, they certainly would have been in a nuclear competition in that part of the world, sitting on those oil reserves. To think that, had we not gone in there, we wouldn't have any problems or anything, I think is dead wrong.

JAY LENO: Do we stay?

FRED THOMPSON: I think we stay until we get the job done, Jay. I don't think ‑‑

JAY LENO: What is the definition of "get the job done"? I think that's the part that is confusing people.

FRED THOMPSON: Until it is pacified enough for those people who walk through those lines with people shooting at them in some cases who voted, put their finger in the ink and so forth, the first time in that part of the world, in the history of the world, until they have an opportunity to have a free life and to not be killed by al‑Qaeda and others fighting in that part of the world. I think that's doable. I think it's tough, but I think we can't afford to go into a situation and not show resolve. I think the most dangerous thing in the world that could happen to the United States of America is for people to think we're weak and divided. Iraq is a part of a much bigger picture ‑‑ Iraq and Afghanistan. There's a global war going on. We are the main target and those who would befriend us. The enemy is ruthless. Al‑Qaeda is here in this country. National intelligence estimates tell us that. They are strong. They're trying to get their hands on nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. I don't know how much ‑‑ how more stark the situation could be. That's going to be the situation we're going to have to deal with for sometime regardless of what happens in Iraq, but if the wrong result happens in Iraq and we're perceived the wrong way by friends and enemies alike, it's going to make the situation more difficult, and we're going to be more vulnerable. It's a tough deal, but a it's a choice of two bad choices. It's not a good and a bad.

JAY LENO: Well, how about Iran? Do you see possible military action there as well? I mean, at what point does it stop?

FRED THOMPSON: You can't ever tell what the facts on the ground are going to be a year or two years from where we're sitting here. Obviously our intelligence know some things that you and I don't know. I was chairman of a committee that dealt with some of these issues for the Secretary of State until I resigned to do this. I had a high security clearance, but I don't know exactly where they are in their nuclear program. I don't think our intelligence knows precisely, but they're moving in that direction, and they're clearly responsible for more and more of our problems. They are sending in these improvised explosive devices. They're training Iraqi militants in Iran and sending them back in to Iraq. They're sponsoring Hezbollah and probably as we speak are planning another attack on Israel. They support Hamas. They support terrorism all around the world. They've got a fellow who is not put together well upstairs running the country and has threatened the destruction of Israel. I mean, sometimes, when these maniacs make threats, they mean it, and it comes to pass later on. So we've got to take that situation very seriously, but obviously a military attack is the last thing in the world that you want to have to do, and there's some things that we can do that probably will not necessitate that.

JAY LENO: I just wonder what we do to get a ‑‑ I grew up ‑‑ when I was a kid, John F. Kennedy was President. It was the Peace Corps, and we would send American college students to these countries, and they would love us. I think we made friendships that were good for 25, 30 years because Americans had befriended these countries. And it seems like we are not well‑liked around the world. Maybe I'm naive and maybe because I'm in show business, but it seems like I would want people to like us as a country because they think we're a ‑‑ I know we're a good country, but I wonder what we have to do to get these allies, these other countries to maybe ‑‑ what are we doing wrong?

FRED THOMPSON: Well, part of that comes with being the strongest, most powerful, most prosperous country in the history of the world. I think that goes with the territory. We're more unpopular than we need to be. That's for sure, but our people have shed more blood for the liberty and freedom of other peoples in this country than all the other countries put together. (Applause.) And I don't feel any need to apologize for the United States of America. We don't make ‑‑

JAY LENO: I wasn't suggesting that ‑‑

FRED THOMPSON: I know you weren't. We make mistakes. I think we can do some things better. I think part of what we've got to do with regard to the global terrorist problem I talked about is for all the forces of civilization, all of our friends and people who love freedom need to understand that this is a battle against freedom and tyranny worldwide, that the good guys need to be on one side. To the extent that we can do better in reaching out and convincing people, sharing intelligence and sharing military operations and so forth and equipment and know‑how and technology, we certainly need to do that. We have shown how difficult it is to shoulder these burdens or the greatest share of these burdens by ourselves, and we need to do that. But we need to keep it in perspective. We're probably never going to be loved by everyone as long as we're that way. Look, on the other hand, at a place like France. We've gotten more criticism probably from French leaders and French people or press than anybody else; yet they elected a person that came over here, shook President Bush's hand before the election, went back, and said, "We want to be friends with the United States," and they elected him. (Applause.) So we may have misjudged ‑‑ we may have taken some of that rhetoric coming from the leaders of that country from what the real people think. So it's not a totally clear picture.

JAY LENO: So you're off to Iowa tonight?


JAY LENO: It starts right now.

FRED THOMPSON: It starts right now. (Applause.)

JAY LENO: Senator, good luck in your campaign, sir. (Applause.) Come back and see us any time.

FRED THOMPSON: Appreciate it. Thank you.