Was Fred Thompson's presidential campaign just a ruse to get the VP slot? That's what Fox News campaign reporter Carl Cameron says:
Now it can be told- The Thompson story
Back in March of 07 at the CPAC convention in DC several former Fred Thompson Congressional staffers told me Fred Thompson was thinking about a run. Some of his Tennessee cronies had been talking him up too.
I reported first that he was eyeing a White House bid. At the time several insiders told me OFF THE RECORD that it was largely a trial ballon to guage his popularity and float his name as a possible vice presidential nominee. I was sworn to silence.
Those insiders have now lifted the conditions on our conversations. From March to August of 07 through postponed announcement days, staff changes, firings, resignations and general disarray the Thompson camp was stunned by the incredibly positive response and didn’t really know how to manage it. The trial balloon soared mighty high and he found himself being dragged into a race that he was not even sure how to run....
And that, presumably, is why he ran the worst presidential campaign ever run by someone who wasn't a cross-dressing ex-mayor of New York.
Do I believe this? It strikes me as plausible -- though it also seems as if floating this now might be an attempt on Thompson's part to save face. Or maybe it's true and it's being floated now for face-saving reasons.
I should note that at the righty blog Hot Air there's this speculation about Cameron's motives:
A reader e-mails to remind us (snidely) that Cameron's been hammering Fred ever since his pal Jim Mills was hired away from FNC [Fox News Channel] by the campaign and then summarily fired a few weeks later, leaving him high and dry.... I don't know anything about Cameron to make me think he’d be so vindictive as to invent details to smear a disfavored subject, but there's your grain of salt.
However, also from the right, there's this at Ace of Spades HQ:
JackM. works in DC and heard the same thing. He wrote me earlier:
I heard about this as well, and was also sworn to secrecy....
I think you can take Cameron's story to the bank. It seems to jibe with what I heard, although I didnt hear it at CPAC. I heard it [sometime before Thompson officially declared]....
Which is then qualified somewhat:
He softens that "absolutely true" a bit--
I wrote that it was "Absolutely true"...obviously I cant know that as I'm not in Fred''s head.
It is true that the story was circulating in DC. That's what I meant to imply. So that I believe it is absolutely true that Cameron was told this, as I was told the same thing at a later date.
Just because a rumor is widespread doesn't make it true and all that. Still, JackM. heard this from people other than Jim Mills. I can't say who, but let's say the notion that Fred wasn't quite in it to win it was not limited to embittered ex-staffers.
Believable? I have no idea.
In any case, whatever his intentions may have been, I really think it's quite possible that Thompson will get the VP slot -- it's still the conventional wisdom that he's "presidential" in his bearing, though he certainly wouldn't show up the guy at the top of the ticket; he has some credibility with the litmus-test right (more so than his pal John McCain, and possibly more than Mitt Romney); and he's liked by at least some members of the Beltway establishment (let me remind you once again of the bizarre Washington Post column from last June in which Sally Quinn imagined John Warner telling Dick Cheney that, in order to save the GOP, he had to resign and be replaced by Fred Thompson -- "Everybody loves Fred," Quinn told us).
Would it be smart for McCain to run with another aging cancer survivor? Well, The Bucket List did hit #1 on the box-office charts last weekend, for whatever that's worth. Would it a be a smart move for Romney? Well, he seems to have enough health and vigor for both of them, and he needs to run with a Southern Protestant to mollify evangelicals in his party. Thompson's not much of a churchgoer, by his own admission, but he might be close enough.
Cameron says of Thompson:
He has not said who he will endorse. He is friends with John McCain. But if he doesn’t throw his support behind anyone …it makes it easier to be picked by everyone.