ARLINGTON, Va. -- I have no idea whether Fred Thompson, former senator from Tennessee, will run for the Republican nomination for president, but he should.
He has Ronald Reagan's communication skills and speaks plainly, in ways most people can understand. Anyone who has listened to him substitute for Paul Harvey on ABC News Radio senses that, in this, he follows in Mr. Reagan's footsteps.
Mr. Thompson conveys Middle American, common-sense values. When he is asked a question, he doesn't sound as if he's giving a poll-tested, pabulum answer. Agree or not, his statements spring from conviction.
In an interview with Fox's Chris Wallace last month, Mr. Thompson gave refreshingly direct answers to questions. On Iraq: "We're the leader of the free world, whether we like it or not. People are looking to us to test our resolve. ... If Saddam Hussein were still around today with his sons, looking at Iran developing a nuclear capability, he undoubtedly would have reconstituted his nuclear capability. Things would be worse than they are today."
Yes, we made mistakes in Iraq, Mr. Thompson says: "We went in there too light, wrong rules of engagement, wrong strategy, placed too much emphasis on just holding things in place while we built up the Iraqi army, took longer than we figured. Wars are full of mistakes. You rectify things. I think we're doing that now."
Abortion? "Pro-life. ... I think Roe v. Wade was bad law and bad medical science. And the way to address that is through good judges."
Gay rights? "I think that we ought to be a tolerant nation. I think we ought to be tolerant people. But ... marriage is between a man and a woman, and I don't believe judges ought to come along and change that."
As for "civil unions," Mr. Thompson thinks it should be left up to the states.
Gun control? Mr. Thompson is "against it generally."
Mr. Thompson is a member of the advisory committee for the Libby Legal Defense Trust, which supports Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who is appealing his perjury conviction. Mr. Thompson told Mr. Wallace that if he were president, he would pardon Mr. Libby immediately.
There's something else to like about Fred Thompson. He doesn't appear to be lusting after the job, as if he needs it for his self-image. This, too, is much like Mr. Reagan.
It is said of Mr. Thompson that he has always "answered the call" of his country, whether it was serving as minority counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee or in other capacities, including senator.
Some political "experts" think it is almost too late for any candidate to announce for president. But waiting might be the best strategy. Conservative Republicans are restless about what they regard as a weak field. They want someone who can take on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton or Sen. Barack Obama and win.
Mr. Thompson thinks he can afford to wait until he again hears "the call." In being coy and demonstrating patience, he is following the advice of poet John Keats:
Fame, like a wayward girl, will still be coy
To those who woo her with too slavish knees,
But makes surrender to some thoughtless boy,
And dotes the more upon a heart at ease ...
Make your best bow to her and bid adieu,
Then, if she likes it, she will follow you.
Fame and the presidency may be about to follow Fred Thompson. That would be good for the Republican Party and, should he win, good for the country.
Cal Thomas' syndicated column appears Wednesdays in The Sun. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.