If Steve West of Maryville has his way, a former Tennessee senator will be elected president of the United States in 2008, and it wont be Al Gore.
West is among several throughout the country who are asking others to encourage former U.S. Sen. Fred Dalton Thompson to run for the Republican nomination for President.
Thompson currently plays district attorney Arthur Branch on the hit NBC television show "Law and Order." According to the shows website, the former senator has homes in Nashville and in Washington, D.C.
"Fred has not made any commitment or said he wants to run. Hes got a great job and a good life," West said.
West said there are many people who think Thompson will consider jumping into the race. "People think he can make a difference," West said.
The retired Maryville city councilman and former mayor said many individuals he has spoken with across the country believe Thompson is someone who could heal the country and bridge differences. The former senator wouldnt get involved in the race unless he knew he was needed, West said.
"He already has name-recognition, not just in acting, but in his performance in Washington," West said of Thompsons Senate career and time as a Watergate lawyer. "Hes got credibility. Hes got stature. He has the ability to speak to foreign heads of state as well as to the Senate and the House. He could bring this country together and really strengthen our leadership position in the world community."
West said he got involved in the move to draft the former senator into the presidential race about two and a half months ago. A good friend of his, a car dealer in the state of Washington, called and said he was concerned with the people in both parties who were lining up to run for president.
"There are good people who have good credentials, but there were a couple of candidates who concerned both him and me. Im basically a Republican, but Ive voted for some Democrats," West said. "Our country is so polarized right now. Bush is so polarizing, but so are the Clintons, and so are some of the other people."
West said his friend complained that there wasnt a "middle of the road" candidate who could lead both parties as a leader for the American people. West said his friend was looking for a candidate with the stature to command respect and represent conservative values and yet not offend moderate Americans.
"He said, Ive come to the conclusion that Fred Thompson fits all those bills. He has a Reaganesque quality; hes a good communicator. Not that we need to go to actors all the time, but his background is the Watergate Commission," West said, quoting his friend.
West said he took to the idea and remembered how Thompson initially didnt want to run for Senate until he was asked to run. Then he only did it because he felt there was a need, West said.
West said after that phone call, he made some phone calls of his own and began asking people to contact Thompson to encourage him to run for president. It was also about this time that he was rotating off the board of the National Auto Dealers Association. During his final speech, he told the board members and dealers they needed to consider Fred Thompson for president.
"I said, In two years were going to make a decision that will affect our business and lives very strongly. Whether Republican or Democrat, we have to look at who can be the best leader and bring the country together and bring common sense back without being a polarizing figure," he said.
West said President Bush reached out to Thompson to help usher his Supreme Court nominee through the legislative confirmation hearings.
West said the idea of letting Thompson know he is needed to run to president makes sense because thats how he got involved in the Watergate investigation. It was Thompsons question "What did the President know and when did he know it?" that Sen. Howard Baker asked aloud during the Watergate investigation. Thompson was, at the time, Bakers counsel and former campaign manager.
West said one of the things people ask is if Thompson has the "fire in the belly." Does he really want to do it? People also tell the car dealer that if Thompson is seriously considering the move, he must do it soon before all the donors money is committed, West said.
"Fred Thompson has name recognition that none of these other people have," West said.
Of the three leading Republicans and three leading Democrats, their supporters are picking them, in many cases, because they dont like someone else, West said.
"Some are for individuals because theyre against someone else," West said. "The reasons theyre choosing is not necessarily on the basis of who is good for the leadership of America and who can bring America together."
West said he has heard that Thompson is also hearing the rumblings and is considering a run for president. "A lot more people are encouraging him and writing to him and are encouraging people who know people to do things," West said.
West said that Thompson would probably make a decision in the next couple of months. "I have not talked to him. Ive written to him and talked to other people," West said. "I think if America asked him to be a candidate for president, he would not turn them down."
West said the message is spreading about Thompson. "Key people think he gives us a chance as a country and a party and if hes convinced, he may do it," West said.
Editors note: There are several websites and blogs on the issue. The easiest to navigate and get to others is the Knoxville News Sentinels political blogger Michael Silence. Go to http://blogs.knoxnews.com/knx/silence/. Another website is draftfredthompson.com.