From NBC's Lauren Appelbaum
Recognizing "it all begins in Iowa," Fred Thompson officially began his campaign for president in Des Moines. Thompson told the audience the "preseason is over" and promised to make America a "stronger, more prosperous nation." Like the rest of the candidates, he promised change, saying he is not a career politician. In fact, he promised to be the president "who will blow the whistle on this lack of responsibility" in the current government. "We still get our basic rights from God and not from government," he said.
Thompson began, talking of terrorism. "We are living in an era now of the suitcase bomb," he said. "We are living in an era now of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, where a small amount of the wrong kind of material getting in the wrong hands can do destruction that we never though possible. They are more likely than ever to fall in the hands of our worst enemy. Radical Islam has declared war on us."
On Iraq, Thompson has previously said it is important to stay in the country until the job is done. Today, he parsed that a bit, drawing a distinction between Iraq and the global war on terrorism. "Iraq is a part of that conflict, but Iraq is not that conflict," Thompson said. "That conflict will be with us unfortunately long after Iraq is in our rear view mirror. And the whole world watches and waits as the determination of the American people is tested."
Thompson did not talk about healthcare or energy policy in his speech, but he did call for stronger immigration laws. "A country that cannot enforce her own borders will not remain a sovereign nation," Thompson said to loud applause. He also stressed the importance of fiscal responsibility, stating Congress is spending the entire social security surplus.
His 23-minute speech followed a video introduction, which detailed his biography. But facing a stigma of laziness (see Newsweek's "Lazy like a fox" cover) did he give opposition researchers fodder with this line? "I thought about just running that video again instead of making a speech, to tell you the truth."