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Cable Exclusive: GOP Presidential Candidate Fred Thompson and His Wife Jeri Talk with Sean

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," October 3, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Senator Thompson, good to see you again.

FMR. SEN. FRED THOMPSON (R), TENNESSEE: Good to see you, Sean.

HANNITY: And, Jeri, good to see you.

JERI THOMPSON, FRED'S WIFE: Thank you.

HANNITY: All right, now, we have Hayden Victoria. Hi, Hayden. How are you? And how old are you, Hayden?

H. THOMPSON: Four.

HANNITY: And this is Samuel Howard.

J. THOMPSON: Howard. Samuel Howard Thompson.

HANNITY: Jeri, we've known each other a long time. And as the media has pointed out — let me read from the Associated Press about you: "Rarely seen and never heard." Well, obviously that's not going to happen tonight. "Former political consultant who's said to wield considerable influence behind the scenes of her husband's campaign."

J. THOMPSON: I — I — If I had time to do that it would be a different story, but I have two kids under four. I think most people in America understand how much time and effort that takes.

HANNITY: Do you guys spend a lot of time on the road together, you all?

F. THOMPSON: As much as we can. As much as we can. Her priorities, of course, our priorities are our kids, and we have to work it around their requirements and so forth. But it sure — it sure makes it different for me when they're around.

HANNITY: You'd like to — part of it, I noticed you've been traveling around. It's not the red pickup truck, but you guys have had to bus a little bit on the road.

F. THOMPSON: Yeah, a little bit. And it's filled up with non-campaign stuff, too, I tell you.

J. THOMPSON: Stickers. Barbie Dolls. Lots of videos. Lots of videos.

HANNITY: You know one thing I read, which I don't know if you guys have heard or thought about here, that, Jeri, if Senator Thompson is elected president, that would make you the youngest first lady since Jacqueline Kennedy.

J. THOMPSON: I have one question. Do I get the clothes?

HANNITY: You mean, do passed down from one first wife to another, first lady to another?

J. THOMPSON: But that stuff isn't what you think about now. We've been really blessed this trip, because I'm from the Midwest. I was born in Nebraska. I spent my summers in Lake Okoboji here in Iowa, and my mother got to come visit us. I grew up outside of Chicago. My aunt lives in Omaha. She's been able to come spend time with us, so this is really special for us, and it ends up being a blessing to be able to have all the family come join us.

HANNITY: But you know something? It's tough when anybody is running for any campaign or any office, when you get to the level of running for the presidency, that's the most scrutiny any candidate is going to get running for any office. Obviously, you guys had to think long and hard about this decision. Bring us into that decision-making process.

F. THOMPSON: Yeah. Yeah. Well, this is — all I can say is, this ain't my first rodeo. And Jeri knows what it's all about, too. I ran for the Senate. That's one level. And I've been around presidential campaigns. And it's — the kind of things you're talking about has escalated over the years. There's more outlets to perpetrate that sort of thing than there used to be, also. And so you have to take that into consideration.

But the question there — it's only aggravation when you get right down to it. When you put that up against the future of your country and its security and its prosperity and what kind of a world these kids are going to grow up in, and your grandchildren, it's pretty small potatoes. It's never been a tough question as far as we're concerned.

It took a little while for us to decide that this was the thing to do, right time to do it and so forth, and making sure we were being fair with the children and all. But in terms of the outside aggravation, that just makes us more determined.

HANNITY: Yeah. Jeri, you've been around politics a lot. You worked with the Republican National Committee, for the Senate Republican Conference for a while. Years ago, you even had an occasional appearance on "Hannity & Colmes." So you know a lot about the political world. What was the decision like for you when you all were thinking about running?

J. THOMPSON: I knew. I knew when we started talking about it that the most important thing that I could do was to support Fred in his decision, and no one knows him better than I do. And no one knows that he will secure our prosperity and our security better than anyone I know. And that's — that is more important to me and to us because of our kids and because of his grandkids. And that's what motivates me. And that's why I'm here.

HANNITY: And that you believe in him and that this was...

J. THOMPSON: I believe in him and I believe in our country.

HANNITY: Do you want to have a role in the campaign? This is the question that is asked [of] any candidate's wife.

J. THOMPSON: The role that I have probably would be no different than any other spouse, and that's you're the most important, probably, surrogate for — you know — that husband or wife.

HANNITY: Right.

J. THOMPSON: I don't think it's any different for me than anybody else.

HANNITY: Right. Well, I notice you guys — it shouldn't surprise you. You got hit a little bit in "Newsweek" in an article, and one of the things they said here, and I think it's important. Maybe sometimes when you have an opportunity to set the record straight, and because in both instances, and quotes I'm going to throw at you here, they were quote, "unnamed sources," one supposedly from within your campaign. Quote, "A GOP operative who is an unofficial campaign manager and top adviser."

J. THOMPSON: We've got about 100 of those, don't we?

HANNITY: "'People wonder if she's more into this than he is,' said a Thompson adviser who asked not to be named, talking about private matters." And the other quote in the same article, "This time around, some close to him question whether moving into the White House is truly Thompson's life ambition or more the dream of his wife, Jeri."

F. THOMPSON: Think about that for a minute. You know — to people who say that this has not been my lifetime ambition, I plead guilty. It hasn't been. That's absolutely true. Circumstances change. Times change. The country faces different challenges.

And you change as an individual. When I leftthe — before I left the Senate, Jeri and I got married. Not too long after that, we discovered that Hayden was on the way. And you look at things differently. You ask yourself, what kind of a country and what kind of a world are you going to leave behind? Our generation, what are we doing to or for the next generation, for their welfare? And how many people have an opportunity to do anything about it?

And I was fortunate enough to have a wife who inspires me. Who — she says she knows me better than anybody, and she does, and to have her have the kind of faith in me that she has, it does inspire me. But to move from her life and the things we enjoy, and a television show or whatnot, making speeches around the country — you know, plane tickets are usually for two. And one of these days before long, you know, she'll — she could do that do with me.

And that's not — I don't think that's something she relishes moving out of into this kind of a process and be open to anything anybody wants to anonymously say about you.

But, again, it's not that much of a priority, and it's a testament to her strength, really, to say, sure, it hurts sometimes when you know it's so false and so unfair, but so what, you know? It doesn't compare to what we're doing here.

HANNITY: Right.

I was interested to find out, I didn't know you guys had met July 4, 1996, in Nashville.

J. THOMPSON: Yes, sir.

HANNITY: How did you meet?

J. THOMPSON: We met at the Kroger, which is the grocery store chain.

HANNITY: You were out shopping, Senator, at the Kroger?

F. THOMPSON: I was on my way to my mother's house, actually, and Jeri claims to remember what I had in my basket. I'm not sure I do. But...

J. THOMPSON: Beanie-Weenies, and a half of a pre-made sandwich.

HANNITY: Have either one of you...

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HANNITY: Have you both ever had a moment to stop and think what happens if you win? Or have you allowed yourself to think about what that life would be like? That would be just a little over a year from now. Jeri?

F. THOMPSON: You want to go first?

J. THOMPSON: I wonder if I could get some sleep.

HANNITY: Have you ever thought about being — you might be first lady. I mean, he's second in the polls, very strong numbers. His numbers have tripled since April. He's a strong candidate.

J. THOMPSON: It's somewhat daunting if you look at it that way, but I have to look at as that my priorities won't change when he wins. It would be still — I'm still his wife, and I'm still the mother of them, you know, one-and-a-half and four-and-a-half-year-old children that require a lot of attention and a lot of guidance. And if I could be that role model that's doing the best that I can in those two roles, then that's — that wouldn't be any different than who I am right now or what I'm doing right now.

HANNITY: If you're first lady, your job would be to take care of the kids, and that would be your main focus?

J. THOMPSON: Yes. It would.

HANNITY: Whether it's in the White House or not?

J. THOMPSON: It absolutely would.

HANNITY: Yeah.

F. THOMPSON: Well. If — and I'm sure Jeri feels the same. If I didn't feel like I could be a good father and a good president at the same time, I wouldn't do it. I wouldn't run for president. But I think that — I think you can make it work. There's ways to do things.

You know — when you hold that office, the places which you can go and spend time together with your family and your children, and work part of the time, and stay with them part of the time on vacations, and things of that nature. A lot of fathers have to travel a lot. I mean, I was traveling a lot before this came about. A lot of fathers have to spend a lot of time away from home. We'll always be under the same roof, if I had my way about it.

So, yeah, I've thought a lot about it. But I've also thought about, you you know — I want them to know that their daddy always tried to do what was right. And that — you know — this is the right thing to do for our country. I think they'll feel the same way that I do when — and Jeri does — when they grow up about, you know, their country and the importance of doing what you ought to do when you ought to do it.

HANNITY: Let me ask you this, in terms of, maybe a role that you might take on — as you've pointed out, your children are going to be your first priority. You wouldn't run for president if you couldn't be a good father at the same time.

We have, in the case of both Barack Obama's wife, Michelle, and John Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, both have been very active out there, and even aggressively going after Hillary Clinton. Mrs. Obama said, "My view is that if you can't run your own house, you certainly can't run the White House." Elizabeth Edwards, talking about Hillary Clinton, lest there be any doubt — Elizabeth Edwards said Hillary Clinton didn't just fail to get universal health care, as first lady, and then went on to further — would that be a role you'd want to take on at all, in the campaign?

J. THOMPSON: You mean, in attacking Hillary, or...

(CROSSTALK)

HANNITY: In the primary campaign or in the general campaign.

J. THOMPSON: I think Fred is such an eloquent spokesman, I'd leave it to him. On those kind of things, I think that...

F. THOMPSON: You're a better politician than I am.

(LAUGHTER)

F. THOMPSON: That was great!

(LAUGHTER)

J. THOMPSON: You know, ironically, that's not my style. That being said — that being said...

(LAUGHTER)

F. THOMPSON: Now I'm right about there, right?

J. THOMPSON: Yes, you are. The one thing that I might express if I have the opportunity and (INAUDIBLE) to do that, is that it does seem surprising to me that there isn't more coverage of women's rights in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Iran.

And why these questions — you know, we keep having these, you know, these stories about the role of the spouse this time around, why aren't we talking about the roles of these spouses all over the world that are being stoned and being hung for looking the wrong way or not wearing the burqa, you know, properly?

That is something to me that I can't quite square. It's very — it's very difficult for me to try to explain to daughter, who is 4, you know, why certain women are treated differently, you know, here versus there. And I think that is the sort of thing that needs to be discussed more openly than some of this other trivial stuff.

HANNITY: We showed video on "Hannity & Colmes" the other night in Iran of a woman being stoned to death, you know? That was — you know, we looked at — we had in Iraq rape rooms we discovered, torture chambers that were there. Women in Afghanistan were not able to pursue an education, were not able to go out to work. Now they are able. I would agree with you. I think those issues are not focused on a lot. Why do you think that is?

J. THOMPSON:: But for our brave troops — our troops that were there, there would be Uday and Qusay still there. And those are the things that we need to remind ourselves of when we have these conversations. I think that those sorts of things are very important.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HANNITY: Just prior to coming on the air, your campaign released a statement from you regarding the comments and the goings-on in Washington right now to, quote, "condemn" Rush Limbaugh on the Senate floor.

F. THOMPSON: Yes, yes.

HANNITY: You said, "Congressional Democrats are trying to divert attention from insulting our military leader in Iraq and pandering to the loony left by attacking Rush Limbaugh. He is one of the strongest supporters of our troops, yet Democrats claim he is not being strong enough. I wonder who General Petraeus and his troops think is most supportive?"

F. THOMPSON: Yes. Well, somebody asked me what I thought about that, and that's what I think about it. They're trying to divert attention from the embarrassment of having to align themselves with an outfit like MoveOn.org and take their support and direction, in many cases, because they raise so much money for the Democrats.

And MoveOn, you know, practically calls Petraeus a traitor, and most of them don't vote to condemn them for that. And yet they'll take something that somebody like Limbaugh says, which is — which was totally a distortion of what he was talking about, clearly, and to try to divert attention from it, and go to the Senate floor, and take the time of the United States Senate to personally insult him.

And, you know, that's one of the reasons why Congress has an 11 percent approval rating. You know, here we are trying to determine what the United States' role in the world is going to be, coming into the age of weapons of mass destruction and radical Islam around the world, we're trying to keep our country from going down the road to economic chaos with the kind of locked-in spending programs that we've got that inevitably we have to do something about, this is what they take time on the United States Senate floor to talk about. And I just thought it was time that I said my piece on that little part.

HANNITY: Has the campaign been everything you expected? Is it harder? Is it easier? The ABC poll that came out today has you a solid second, tripled your numbers, as I said, since April, and holding. You're about to enter the debate process in fairly short order. Are you happy where you are, both of you, right now? Is it everything you thought? Is it more than you expected?

F. THOMPSON: It's about — it's about what I expected. You know, I've been running strong for some time now. I think people will think that they have — that they know me, that they know where I'm coming from, that they know that I'm doing this for the right reasons, that I have no reason or motivation to speak anything but what I think is the truth.

Some of it is the tough truth, the fact that we're in a global conflict of which Iran and Iraq are only a part of, and the global conflict is going to take a lot of effort and unity and money, the fact that we're spending the money of future generations right now, and we've got to do something about that. Those are the things that motivate and drive me.

I think people see that. And some of it's from maybe the TV show and other things, but I've been around since Watergate in one fashion or another. And I like to think the people are right, that they do perceive me the way they do.

HANNITY: All right. Let me ask, there's one controversy — I've read a lot, Senator, about your faith and your background. You grew up and went to [a] church that was fairly strict. There was no dancing, no music playing, et cetera. And the last time we spoke, you said your faith is one of the most important things to you in your life.

And yet I've got one headline, quote, "Evangelicals Are Turning on Thompson," and James Dobson said he wouldn't support Thompson. And having had that conversation with you and knowing a little bit about your background, I was a little bit surprised about that.

F. THOMPSON: Yes. Well, don't read too much into the Dobson thing. Frankly, that's the only one I've seen that is like that.

HANNITY: The one that — with the AP story that had this leaked memo?

F. THOMPSON: Yes, yes. That is the one, that is the Dobson memo. A gentleman who has never met me, has never talked to me. I have never talked to him on the phone. I did have one of his aides call me up and kind of apologize the first time he attacked me and said I wasn't a Christian.

But I haven't spoken out publicly and, you know, chastised him for that. I'm not going to. I don't know the gentleman. I do know that I have a lot of people who are of strong faith and who were involved in the same organizations that he is in, that I've met with — Jeri and I, both, have met with. And I'd like to think that we have some strong friendships and support there.

And we talked about things in some detail, some of which I'm glad to talk about, many things, in answer to specific questions, some of which are very personal to me, and I've never worn any of that on my shoulder. I have my own relationship to the good Lord. And, as I like to say, in my heart of hearts, I know I'm straight with him and I'm on good terms with him, and I'm on good terms with those who love me and those who I love. And the rest of it, you know, I'll just have to work around that.

HANNITY: Would you want to have a conversation with Dr. Dobson? Do you think that might help?

F. THOMPSON: I have no idea. I don't particularly care to have a conversation with him. If he wants to call up and apologize again, you know, it's — it's OK with me. But I'm not going to dance to anybody's tune.

HANNITY: Senator Thompson, Mrs. Thompson, Jeri, thank you for being with us today. Appreciate it. Thank you guys.

F. THOMPSON: Thank you very much.

J. THOMPSON: Thank you.

F. THOMPSON: Appreciate it.

HANNITY: Thanks.

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