An Interview With Fred Thompson’s Wife, Jeri Thompson
Yesterday, I got together with Fred Thompson’s wife, Jeri Thompson, for a phone interview as she traveled around Iowa. Unfortunately, near the end of the interview, while she was running low on time, she hit a bad cell. At that point, I lost her permanently and wasn’t able to reconnect with her to get in the final 2 or 3 questions. Still, I think you will enjoy the interview, which has been edited slightly for the sake of grammar, clarity, and brevity.
Now, if you become First Lady, would you have any role in Fred’s Administration? Would you sit in on cabinet meetings, for example?
(Laughs) The only meeting I’d be sitting in on would be the meeting when he gets off the clock — well, you really don’t get off the clock — when he gets together with the family. One thing he learned growing up is the importance of sitting down, counting your blessings, and having dinner together. That’s the only one I would be involved in.
Now Hillary Clinton has been touting her “experience” as First Lady on the campaign trail, as if it’s an enormous asset that makes her particularly well qualified to be President. She’s even taking credit for some of the things her husband did as President. As a potential First Lady, what do you think of that?
Well, I try not to pass judgment on a lot of this stuff because everyone has had different experiences. What I know is that the experiences Fred has had, from getting married at 17 and working in a factory, putting himself through college and then through law school, being a federal prosecutor at 28, being minority council at 30, moving on to help Marie Ragghianti take down a corrupt governor, playing himself in the movies, being a U.S. senator, and doing all the things he has done since then qualifies him to be President.
Marrying (him) doesn’t qualify me to be in any of those decision making processes with him. All that qualifies me for is to be his wife and that’s what I ought to do.
I love him, support him, and try to be a good wife and a good mother. That’s the role I signed onto when I married him. People forget that he was leaving the Senate when I married him. We didn’t really intend to do political things….
One more question along these lines — Michelle Obama, perhaps about Hillary Clinton, perhaps not, said something, and I wanted to get your reaction to it, “If you can’t run your own house, you certainly can’t run the White House.” In other words, if your marriage is a trainwreck, you probably won’t be a good President either. You think that’s true?
Well, I think overall, theoretically, it’s probably true. But, they have a different relationship. They are direct rivals and they’re going to say things about each other that I probably wouldn’t choose to say.
What I think is probably of more interest to some of your readers is the fact that conservative women get such a different treatment in the press, including the women’s press, than the Democrats.
For goodness sake, Hillary has been on the cover of most women’s magazines and had glowing reports on everything she has ever touched. Michelle Obama actually could stand up in an Annie Leibovitz spread in Vogue magazine with her finger pointed at her husband’s campaign manager, telling him what to do in the caption, and I don’t think that Cindy or Judith or I could get away with such a thing.
So, you don’t think Republican women get fair treatment compared to the Democratic women?
Generally speaking, no, I don’t.
I agree with you. Now, let me ask you a question you’ve probably heard 500 times: you have been called a trophy wife quite a bit during this campaign. Do you find that insulting given what you’ve accomplished in your life?
You know, your perspective changes as things in your life change. At first, it was kind of a strange experience to go through, but now, after being on the bus with the boys, and being 41 years old with two kids under 4, I am thinking that’s not such a bad thing to be said about me.
(Laughs) Yeah, it is kind of a backhanded compliment, isn’t it?
(Laughs) As I said, my perspective has changed and I’m not so sure it’s bad. All my girlfriends and my aunts have been telling me, “You know what? You’ll look back on that and you’ll be happy…”
Now, the other candidates obviously planned their runs at the presidency quite a long time ago.
Since high school, probably.
Right. But, Fred entered the race after the grassroots pleaded for him to get in. So, tell us about the first time you and Fred had a serious discussion about his running for the presidency this year. When was it and can you tell us a little bit about it?
Well…I know one of the conversations we had, we were sitting around our kitchen table and we do have these two small children….So, looking at a three and a half year old at the top of the stairs, he said to me…”A lot goes through your mind from the time Hayden is at the top of those steps to the time she’s at the bottom. I feel our country is at a crossroads and we need to do something.” I agree.
Now, early on in the campaign there were allegations that you were at the root of some staff shake-ups with your husband’s campaign. Is that true?
No. Early on, back when he first started, when he had a contract with NBC and a contract with ABC, and we had the two small kids…we were doing the best we could to try to juggle the move from sort of a grassroots movement into a presidential campaign and…anything I did was at the request of Fred. Anything I did was certainly something that he wanted to be done. My job isn’t any different than (that) of any other wife in any other strong marriage. That’s to be a partner and to be supportive and to try to do what I need to do to help him get to where he needs to be.
So, what is your role with the campaign? What do you do on a day to day basis? Do you do anything that the campaign manager would normally do? Anything like that?
No. Well, I…do media as people are interested, like you, in talking to me. I spoke to a radio station out of New Hampshire this morning. I spoke to a radio station in central Florida earlier today. I try to do what I can…to make sure that he gets fed and goes to bed at a reasonable hour. Other than that, I am busy trying to find Christmas presents for my children that aren’t made in China and don’t have lead-based paint.
(Laughs) Yes, I guess that is a good thing to do.
We went to a toy story; I think we were in Waterloo, and we walked around this fantastically quaint…toy store and I could not find — I had about 10 cameras with me by the way, and none of us could find a toy that wasn’t made in China or Taiwan. It broke my heart.
I bet. Now, the dynamic with your husband’s campaign has been a little odd. What I keep hearing people say about him is that he’s the most conservative candidate, that he’s the most consistent conservative candidate, that he has the best policy proposals, and that they liked how he performed at the debate, but they think he’s lazy. So, you know him well and you’ve gotten to see him in the campaign, so is it true? I mean, at home, do you have to like bring him his slippers and his remote control or anything…
(Laughs) You know what’s interesting about this is that all of these things that people say about us don’t square. If you really think about all these different stories, they don’t really make sense. If I am what they say on one level, do you really see me running around after him with slippers. (Laughs)…
When people talk about Fred Thompson, the people that have known him for years and years, I mean all the way back to when he was at Vanderbilt Law School, he is the same guy now that he was then. What I mean by that is that he is very deliberate, very thoughtful, and though he may be slow talking, as some folks are in the South, certainly it doesn’t (mean he’s lazy). I think what we’re talking about here is a label that people are trying to put on him because you cannot tear apart this man’s integrity. He doesn’t dance to any man’s tune. Why do you think those facts (She’s referring to IMAO’s hilarious “Fred facts,” which we discussed right before the interview began) resonate? Because he is that strong, John Wayne kind of guy. I love him, so I’m not impartial on this subject, but for goodness sake, look at the guy’s resume…
…Who is the guy you want on your side of the table? Do you want someone who doesn’t know who they are? Fred started, after he read Barry Goldwater’s Conscience of a Conservative, the first Young Republicans Club in Lawrenceburg, TN. You think these other guys can say that?
…I mean, look at the sanctuary city issue alone. You had one of the other guys who actually went to the Supreme Court to fight FOR a sanctuary city. You can literally pluck through each of the issues and he has been the consistent conservative on all of them, to his core…that’s what makes him not have to be so manic.
…Why do these other guys have to jump up and down to make their case all the time? Because they didn’t have the same case some time ago. Fred’s politics do not depend on his geography or the office that he’s running for. It’s a beautiful thing to be with someone who is so comfortable with himself and knows where he thinks the country needs to go. It’s really incredibly gratifying to see other people start to learn about who he is and what makes him tick — and it’s not what the mainstream media says. Just because they don’t get it, doesn’t mean it ain’t there.
…Now Fred is more popular in the blogosphere than any of the other candidates; there’s no question about that, but there seems to be sort of a strange hostility towards him from, let’s say Fox News and some of the bigger names inside the Beltway conservative pundits. First of all, do you think that’s true and if so, why do you think that’s the case?
Well, I do think that’s true at some level…Early on, because of the fact that he got in at a more traditional time than some of the other candidates that started running in high school, it really didn’t (fit) the schedules and planning of some of the media outlets.
He really doesn’t like to play the game the way (they think) it’s supposed to be played. He likes to shoot it straight. He likes to tell them how it is. Some folks don’t like that so much. He also doesn’t play by anyone else’s rules. There’s an unwritten (rule) that no one likes to talk about and that’s that you have to play the game the way media wants to play it and you can be their darling. He’s not that kind of guy….(Jeri hit a bad cell and I lost her for about 20 seconds).
…Give me an example of not playing the game the way the media wants to play it.
Well, folks got upset that he didn’t get in early. They said you have to get in now, you have to do it this way. You have to raise a hundred million dollars. He said, “You know what? I don’t think that’s a good return on the American people’s investment. I think I can get my message out a different way and can save them 50 million dollars by getting in a little bit later and I’m still going to be the leader in these debates. I am going to be the one that says “no” to an overbearing moderator and I am not going to put my hand up, thank you very much. You’re going to give me a minute on how Americans are going to get together and save the world… (Jeri hit another bad cell and I lost her permanently here).