Thompson Revisits bin Laden Comments
Fred Thompson learned first-hand Friday how carefully people parse his words now that he's officially running for president.
In a morning interview with reporters as his bus rolled through Iowa, Thompson reacted to the discovery of a new Osama bin Laden video by playing down the importance of catching and killing the terrorist leader.
Bin Laden, he said, "is more symbolism than anything else. I think it demonstrates to people once again that we're in a global war. [He] is not as important as there are probably al-Qaeda operatives inside the United States of America."
The comments were meant to signal Thompson's belief in the breadth of the threat against the United States, aides said. But it signaled something else to his critics, who pounced. Democrats accused him of being weak on terror and his rivals for the GOP nomination immediately issued statements.
"Osama bin Laden and his henchmen must be hunted down, and as president, I will," said Arizona Sen. John McCain. Former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani said of bin Laden that as president he would "take him out."
By the evening, Thompson had gotten the message. In a rally in Mason City, Thompson repeated his belief that the war on terror was bigger than one man, but then went further to make sure there was no mistaking his intentions.
"Apparently Osama bin Laden has crawled out of his cave long enough to send another video and he is getting a lot of attention," he said. "He ought to be caught and killed."
--Michael D. Shear
September 8, 2007; 12:43 PM ET
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