STEVE INSKEEP, host:
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.
The latest Republican to say he might run for president is a man familiar to moviegoers and fans of the TV series "Law and Order." Fred Thompson plays an elected official on TV and he knew the role of public official since he'd previously been a U.S. senator.
Over the weekend, Thompson said he's considering a run for the White House.
Mr. FRED THOMPSON (Former Senator; Actor, "Law and Order"): It's not really a reflection on the current field at all. As you know, some of them are very good friends of mine. I going to wait and see how it pans out, see how they do, how it develops.
INSKEEP: Fred Thompson speaking on "Fox News Sunday." Today, another Republican announces his intentions. Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel holds a news conference in Omaha. Should he say he's entering the race, should he say that, Hagel would bring an anti-war voice into the ranks of candidates who have so far supported President Bush in Iraq, at least on the Republican side.
Joining us now is NPR senior correspondent Juan Williams for some analysis. Juan, good morning.
JUAN WILLIAMS: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: I don't mean this as any negative reflection on Senator Hagel - he's obviously widely respected and well known - but given all the Republicans already running, why would he think he'd have a chance to win?
WILLIAMS: Well, there's really no lock on the GOP base or the party establishment among the nine candidates already in the race, Steve. In addition to which, what you have is Senator Hagel as someone who would be a strong anti-war candidate, which is - there's no such candidate in the race right now.
And Hagel is the man who is the co-sponsor of the nonbinding resolution opposing the troop, the recent troop increase. He's called the president's actions in Iraq a dangerous foreign policy blunder - the most dangerous, he said, since Vietnam. He's even spoken of the possibility of impeaching President Bush and criticizes colleagues on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for being too milk toast. He said that if they want safe jobs, they should go sell shoes.
So he sees this as an opportunity to really stand out in the Republican field. He may even talk about the possibility of running as an independent.
INSKEEP: Well, if he does run, how would a candidate like that affect the rest of the field?
WILLIAMS: Well, I think that what he would do is challenge them in terms of their unified support for President Bush on the war. So far, among Republicans as well as the general public, there's not much satisfaction with the president's performance on the war at the moment. More than 60 percent of Americans are saying that, you know, they're opposed to the continuing U.S. presence in Iraq. Sixty-four percent say now it's not even - was never worth fighting for. Fifty-six percent oppose the new troops.
So you see there's an opportunity there. The question is whether or not he would be the one who would stand out as the lone opponent of the president's policies in Iraq.
INSKEEP: To what extent, Juan, is this campaign at the moment about the troubles of a person who's not running, President Bush, who had yet another bad week last week by some accounts?
WILLIAMS: Well, I think in large part now it's becoming much more of a referendum on President Bush, Steve. And in large part that's because, you know, he's not a help to any candidate in the field. He's not running, obviously, for reelection. Neither is his vice-president, Vice President Cheney. Nobody in his Cabinet. And so now people are beginning to react to him on the Republican side and that's the challenge. How does the Republican Party hope to fashion itself going into the '08 election, given the lack of popularity for this president, lack of support? They've got to create an image that would allow them the possibility of winning the White House.
INSKEEP: And very briefly, Democrats are positioning themselves as well in relation to the most important initiative the president had, the war in Iraq. They're trying to get support for a budget that would set a deadline to withdraw troops.
WILLIAMS: This week there will be discussions in the House Appropriations Committee about funding for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And Democrats are trying to get 218 votes - the majority needed - to express their opposition going forward on the war and to say that the president has to set some sort of deadline. They're looking at the Iraq Study Group deadline of March '08.
INSKEEP: Analysis from NPR senior correspondent Juan Williams. Juan, good to talk with you this morning.
WILLIAMS: Always, Steve.
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