'Law & Order' star considers real Oval Office role

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WASHINGTON -- Not enough "star" power for Fred Thompson in a GOP presidential field that includes some of his friends? Whatever the case, the actor and former Tennessee senator is considering getting into the 2008 race.

Thompson, who plays district attorney Arthur Branch on NBC's drama "Law & Order," said Sunday, "I'm giving some thought to it, going to leave the door open" and decide in the coming months. "It's not really a reflection on the current field at all," he said.

"I'm just going to wait and see what happens," Thompson added. "I wanted to see how my colleagues who are on the campaign trail do now, what they say, what they emphasize, what they're addressing, and how successful they are in doing that, and whether or not they can carry the ball in next November."

Thompson, 64, said he was pondering a run after former Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker and other Tennessee Republicans began drumming up support for his possible GOP candidacy, citing his conservative credentials.

"I think people are somewhat disillusioned. I think a lot of people are cynical out there. I think they're looking for something different. ... and I think that they're going to be open to different things," he said.

"It will be interesting to me as I listen to people and learn and watch what's going on and what's the reaction, and the poll numbers and so forth, as to whether or not my instinct on that is right."

On the issues, Thompson said he:

* Is "pro-life," and believes federal judges should overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion rights decision as "bad law and bad medical science."

* Opposes gay marriage, but would let states decide whether to allow civil unions. "Marriage is between a man and a woman, and I don't believe judges ought to come along and change that."

* Opposes gun control, and praised last week's 2-1 federal appeals decision overturning a long-standing handgun ban. "The court basically said the Constitution means what it says, and I agree with that."

* Supports President Bush's decision to increase troops in Iraq. "Wars are full of mistakes. You rectify things. I think we're doing that now," he said. "Why would we not take any chance, even though there's certainly no guarantees, to not be run out of that place? I mean, we've got to take that opportunity and give it a chance to work."

* Would pardon former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's conviction for perjury and obstruction of justice now, rather than waiting until all his appeals are exhausted. Thompson is a fundraiser for Libby's defense.

Thompson said he was not setting a deadline to make a decision and believes he won't be at a disadvantage if he waited until summer. "The lay of the land will be different in a few months than it is today, one way or the other."

He added, "One advantage you have in not ... having this as lifelong ambition is that if it turns out that your calculation is wrong, it's not the end of the world."

Thompson, the minority counsel in the Watergate investigation, was elected to the Senate in 1994 to fill the unexpired term of Vice President Al Gore. He was chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee and left the Senate in 2003 to resume his acting career.

Thompson has acted in films such as "The Hunt for Red October," "Cape Fear," and "In the Line of Fire."

Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, who is pursuing the Democratic nomination for president, said Thompson was as qualified as anyone "to credibly throw his hat in the ring." Added Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina: "I think he makes a great president in the movies and he might make a great one in real life."

Thompson was interviewed on "Fox News Sunday"; Biden and Graham spoke on CNN's "Late Edition."
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