Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Decision 2012, GOP Reform, Politics, War on Terror, conservative reform — Rick Moran @ 11:10 am

Tim Pawlenty is a mainstream conservative governor in a traditionally liberal state. When I use the term “mainstream,” I mean simply that he is in the mainstream of Minnesota conservatism - decidedly less conservative than the heart of Republicanism in the south, but conservative enough for most of the rest of the GOP. This alone gives him a decent shot as an alternative to either Palin or Romney in the 2012 primaries.

Reading this long interview in Esquire, I was struck by the governor’s pragmatism and unflappability. Esquire’s Mark Warren threw enough bait into the water that Pawlenty could have easily blundered in his responses. Instead, the Minnesota governor coolly maneuvered through the minefields and came off looking reasonable, and thoughtful.

One thing is for sure; Pawlenty has a very good idea of where the GOP went wrong during their time in the majority:

“The Republicans had their shot not long ago to address the real needs and concerns of everyday Americans, and they blew it…. Over the time that they were there and had the leadership opportunity, they blew it. We got fired for a reason.”

“The party got into a whole bunch of corruption and personal scandals that weren’t compatible with the principles it claimed to stand for.”

“We just lost our way. You can’t say that your hallmark issues are that we’re going to control spending, keep taxes low, and make government accountable, and then go to Washington and do the opposite…. Let’s face it, when Republicans had total control over it, they didn’t do what they said they were gonna do.”

“The marketplace measurement in politics is something called an election…. And in 2006 and 2008, the marketplace was telling the Republicans, We prefer the products and services of your competitors.”

That may still be the case in 2010 if the GOP tries to recycle an agenda better left in the 1980’s. Conservative principles may be deathless, but issues are not. Compared to Palin, Pawlenty has a lot going for him in this regard. Where Palin has a laundry list of resentments that resonate with the base, Pawlenty has a record of achieving concrete results by applying conservative principles to governance. That puts him lightyears ahead of Palin in my book.

Like most GOP governors, Pawlenty is a font of new and innovative ideas when it comes to applying conservative principles to a governing philosophy. Education, health care, mass transit, and other issues important at the state level were addressed to varying degrees by Pawlenty by growing government as little as possible. He also addressed budget shortfalls by generally cutting spending and not raising taxes, although he did raise the cigarette tax and tuition at Minnesota state schools among other “fee” increases to close the budget deficit.

Along with Indiana’s Mitch Daniels, and now Ambassador to China, former Utah governor John Huntsman, Pawlenty represents a new kind of Republican governor - pragmatic leadership buttressed by maintaining good relationships with the legislature, and plugging in conservative policy ideas to address the problems of ordinary people.

If this be the future of Republicanism, bring it on.

This pragmatic conservatism comes through in the Esquire interview as Pawlenty addressed what he would have done about the financial meltdown, a stim bill, and the bailouts:

Whether the threats or doomsday scenarios that were painted were real or partially real or not real at all. We won’t know the answer to that, but we do know that some very bright people said that we faced doomsday, and there were other very bright people who said that, at the very least, the danger was overstated, and this notion that they were too big to fail was untested or untrue.

I’ve argued, at least as it related to the stimulus bill as opposed to TARP, that there were things that we could have and should have done, but it should have been much more targeted. For example, instead of spending $800 billion in a stimulus package, I think we would have gotten much more bang for the buck if we would have done two simple things: focused on tax cuts that would have put cash immediately into the average citizen’s pocket, and two, put money into bread-and-butter infrastructure projects like roads and bridges that could be done quickly. Of the $800 billion stimulus package, only about $50 billion, give or take, actually went into roads and bridges. It was a paltry amount compared to the overall size of the bill.

As for the other bailouts, I did not support the car-company bailout, either. They should have been allowed to go bankrupt — in fact, they [entered] bankruptcy, most of ‘em. That’s the way that they’re going to get most effectively restructured. And I think the same could be said for many of the financial institutions. The idea that we’re gonna bail out every major bank in the country with the exception of Lehman Brothers is ridiculous. Why let Lehman fail and not all the others? These markets have to correct. And the answer can’t be for every problem that emerges as a result of reckless behavior, the government’s gonna come in and bail everybody out. I was talkin’ to people this morning who run small businesses. Where’s their bailout?

The narrative as it is presented today - the trillions we spent on TARP, bailing out the banks, the auto takeover, and the stimulus package - is that without these measures, we would have had a catastrophic, worldwide depression.

As Pawlenty says later, “We’ll never know” if that scenario would have played out if we had allowed the banks to go into bankruptcy, along with the GM and Chrysler (who, as the governor points out, went into bankruptcy anyway), or if the stim, bill had been smaller and more targeted in its spending and tax cuts. Yes, there are many economists who agree with Paul Krugman that Obama saved the world, but there are also many others who disagree to one degree or another. Why their criticisms should be any more or less valid than the dominant narrative that has emerged about these government actions mitigating a crisis is a mystery.

Nor do I believe that the choice was between doing nothing and having the government massively intervene the way it did. That’s a political take on what might have been accomplished short of the trillions in bailout monies advanced by the Fed and the government. The fact is, there was talk at the time of managed bankruptcies, forced mergers, and other measures short of simply handing over money to companies that it was claimed were “too big to fail.” It was never tried, so it is impossible to say if it would have accomplished much of the same thing; i.e., an economy in the toilet but a ruinous depression avoided.

I think Pawlenty is the man to make that case. He supports regulation of the banks, a modified stimulus bill, health care reform, but a firm belief in the idea that market forces are what underlies the American economy:

I think both sides have people who have genuine feelings and beliefs about what they think the proper direction of the country should be. I just think the other side’s wrong. I don’t question motives or assign some sort of label. But I think what President Obama and the Democratic Congress are offering is a dangerous direction for the country. Not just because it’s gonna cost us more, not just because taxes are gonna go up, not just because it expands government, but because of what it does to the American spirit. As I view it, there is an American spirit that is associated with the kinds of attitudes about taking risk, about taking responsibility, about a sense of respect for the private market and the power that it has in creating and rewarding wealth. The government doesn’t do that — the government redistributes, but it doesn’t actually create wealth or prosperity. And the health-care debate is a pretty good proxy for this struggle between these two views. And in the case of the Republicans, what they see and what they’re rightly concerned about is that it’s another increment down the road toward government taking over more and more things. And it worries people.

Is Obama a socialist?

You know, I don’t think name-calling is helpful. I’ve done my share of that, so I’m not Pollyannaish about how the political process works. But as a general proposition, I think these are serious times, the country’s in significant danger, and I think we need people who are thoughtful. We’re gonna have sharp differences, but we need to debate those in a way that’s constructive and civil. I think President Obama is governing as a movement liberal. I don’t think that rises to the level of being a socialist.

This puts Pawlenty in the mainstream of conservatism in about 75% of the country - and proves that he can handle a hostile interviewer. (Warren spent a lot of time making statements that defended Obama, much less time asking Pawlenty any questions that might reveal something about the man.)

Beyond that, note that he makes a classic defense of conservative principles against the onslaught of liberal orthodoxy on growing the size of government to meet challenges. And he frames this argument in terms of American exceptionalism - the “American Spirit” he calls it - while clearly delineating between the role of government and the role of private citizens.

Clearly, Pawlenty has given these issues and concepts a great deal of thought. This comes out in his statement on why he might run in 2012:

I think the country’s in trouble. And I think I have a pretty clear sense of the values and principles that have made this country great. I’ve had a chance to govern and lead with those in mind, with some significant success in Minnesota. And I think the country needs that kind of leadership and insight and perspective. So through my PAC, I’m going to share my beliefs across the country. And I’m gonna take the next year to see how that goes and make my decision late in 2010 or in early 2011.

His bid is still a very long shot. He will not generate the kind of excitement that Sarah Palin would if she chooses to run, nor will he possess the bottomless resources of a Romney should Mitt choose to throw his hat into the ring again. He will not capture much of the Republican base, nor attract much interest in the south generally speaking. He is not an inspiring speaker by any means.

But Pawlenty is a candidate brimming with ideas, and an idea of what kind of leadership the country needs right now. How far that will take him is anyone’s guess.


  1. I wish people would stop even joking about Romney or Plain in 2012.

    Comment by Jenn of the Jungle — 2/15/2010 @ 12:11 pm

  2. So according to Pawlenty, I’m curious what the difference is between a “movement liberal” and a “socialist”. Other than the spelling, that is…

    Let me guess: one wears a Che Guevara T-shirt, and the other actually knows who he is?

    Comment by Garnzo — 2/15/2010 @ 1:50 pm

  3. Having lived through Pawlenty’s reign, I’ve seen him work up close and personal. From a distance, he may seem like a reasoned, thinking leader. In reality, he’s not. He’s simply done what the Federal government has done–pushed the responsibility for funding programs that people want/need to the local level. Income taxes have not gone up, but property taxes (the major funding source for cities and towns) have. Like most states, the cost of a higher education has skyrocketed, infrastructure is in dire need of repair, and healthcare is a mess (part of his solution to the current fiscal crisis was to “unallocate” funding for the healthcare program for the poor, whose costs are now borne by county taxpayers and, utlimately, property owners). He’s kind of a one trick pony: lower taxes/cut spending. And that’s he’s weakest characteristic: I’ve not seen any great, creative solution to the myriad of problems facing state and local governments. He really doesn’t try to govern and find compromise, he tries to bully. He’s not as bad as Jesse Ventura in that way, but only because he does it with a smile and without the gravelly voice.

    Comment by Larry, your brother — 2/15/2010 @ 2:05 pm

  4. “The point is that we’re doing a 1937 — or actually worse, since unemployment had in fact fallen dramatically before FDR made his big mistake. Fiscal support for the economy will be pulled away with the economy having barely begun to recover.”

    “I’m with Simon Johnson here: how is it possible, at this late date, for Obama to be this clueless?”

    Just some quotes from Paul Krugman’s blog on the same day that you write: Yes, there are many economists who agree with Paul Krugman that Obama saved the world.

    I fail to see how it is that you claim that Paul Krugman thinks that Obama saved the world. He has criticized Obama repeatedly.

    Are you ignorant or do you simply not wish to be truthful?

    Krugman has consistently defended the stim bill, TARP, and the auto bailout as essential to keeping the US from falling into a catastrophic depression.




    Comment by Richard Bruce Cheney — 2/15/2010 @ 2:15 pm

  5. Wow, what a hostile interview. Pawlenty acquitted himself rather well; I like the way he responded.

    If “controlling spending, keeping taxes low, and making government accountable” are his stock in trade, I am willing to listen to more of what this guy has to say.

    Comment by Spider — 2/15/2010 @ 4:52 pm

  6. He did do well with the interview. If he is seriously considering a run he is doing it the smart way; set up a PAC, stay low key, accept tough interviews, and quietly build up his network and big money sponsors.
    Definitely one to keep an eye on.

    Comment by Brad — 2/15/2010 @ 6:11 pm

  7. “I wish people would stop even joking about Romney or Plain in 2012.”

    I think Palin will run out of steam by 2012 as well as the realization she cannot get the big money backing she will need for a serious campaign.

    Romney may run but at least he brings a good voice to the primaries about economic matters which is good for all the aspiring nominees.

    Comment by Brad — 2/15/2010 @ 6:15 pm

  8. example

    Comment by Anonymous — 2/15/2010 @ 7:34 pm

  9. I’m still not sold on Pawlenty. These “conservative enough” candidates (like McCain, Graham, Snowe, and Collins) have left a bad taste in my mouth. Still, I liked some of what Tim had to say.

    Comment by KevinQC — 2/15/2010 @ 7:51 pm

  10. As a Minnesotan, I agree with (Larry, your brother — Comment #2) that Pawlenty’s policies have managed to push up our property taxes, etc… But I have to say that as a Republican govenor facing a liberal democratic controlled legislature, he often has his hands tied. I have often gotten the impression that Gov. Palwenty would LOVE to cut spending and entitlements. However, the liberals simply won’t allow it. They insist on increasing programs…even if that means our property taxes, etc.. increase. Pawlenty stands his ground as much as he is able — he is not in control of all three branches of MN government, and can not produce miracles.

    Comment by Kris — 2/15/2010 @ 9:10 pm

  11. What? Romney not an inspiring speaker? You got to be the only one who thinks so. You obviously missed his Faith in America speech which was very inspiring. His speech to the Heritage Foundation, Foreign Policy Council, campaign stump speeches. He is ridiculously brilliant and wonderfully inspiring. Something to which Pawlenty can only hope to be equal. Pawlenty, now he is somewhat inspirationally challenged. Right on the issues, but so is Mitt. That is not enough. Romney is intriguing and compelling, the virtual opposite of Pawlenty.

    Comment by Lori — 2/15/2010 @ 9:47 pm

  12. “Like most GOP governors, Pawlenty is a font of new and innovative ideas when it comes to applying conservative principles to a governing philosophy. Education, health care, mass transit, and other issues important at the state level were addressed to varying degrees by Pawlenty by growing government as little as possible.”

    That just lost my vote. If his experience is in education, health care, mass transit and are addressed with growing government as little as possible, I do not want him any where near the levers of power in the Federal government.

    Education, is a local issue, at worst case scenario the state could be involved at the college level, but should not even be looking at the k-12. Any spending by the state should only come in the form of buildings at the most and never under any circumstance cover any salaries, upkeep and never ever come with any strings for what the school teaches. Anything more than that, and you are not talking about a conservative, even if you live in California or Massachusetts.

    Health Care, again, why is this a government issue at all? At the federal level the only thing the government should thinking about on the issue of health care is Veterans. That is all, not even for federal workers, wages should pay federal workers, the few that there should be, enough to pay an insurance company for coverage. If you are talking about anything more than this, then you are not talking about a conservative, even if you live in California or Massachusetts.

    Mass transit in all ways shapes and form = socialism. Do I even have to say anything more than this to prove that if you are talking about mass transit, you are not talking about a conservative, even if you live in California or Massachusetts.

    If there is any talk about growing government, you are not talking about a conservative, even if you live in California or Massachusetts.

    My, what a great conversation we had here. It is obvious when you talk about ‘conservatism’ in your state that you are not you are not talking about conservatism. What you are talking about is socialism, and I think Americans on a whole are already completely sick and tired of that direction of movement. I have heard Pawlenty enough on this person to know that I will sit out another election if he is in the same position as McCain was on November 4th, 2008.

    Comment by astonerii — 2/15/2010 @ 10:13 pm

  13. Want to clarify, if those are his issues on a federal level, then my argument stands. If on the other hand, he wants to take the federal government out of all those issues, I am willing to look at him closer.

    Comment by astonerii — 2/15/2010 @ 10:17 pm

  14. Larry - spoken like a true DFLer (democrats to you non-Minnesotans). You imply that property taxes went up under T-Paw as a result of his pushing stuff on the local level. What utter bull! The cities, counties and school districts had more to do with that than anything the state or the Feds “dictated”! They built massive monuments to themselves (see the Prior Lake Savage High School for example) and then cry because they don’t have the money in the budget to teach our kids math! Again - utter bull!

    T-Paw did a very good job in the interview and as a conservative in a very liberal state. The one thing that the interview touched on is just how personable T-Paw is. He sits down and listens to people who approach him on issues and takes their concerns into account. He will connect with voters in Iowa and New Hampshire easily.

    As a conservative he is the real deal. Yeah I know he had the cigarette tax/health impact fee - something I hammered him hard on. But all in all he is the real deal - fiscally and socially. Given the choices we have in front of us today it’s an easy choice - T-Paw all the way.


    Comment by The Lady Logician — 2/15/2010 @ 10:49 pm

  15. “If this be the future of Republicaism, bring it on.” While I think he aquited himself fairly well, I think we may need to hear more of what he has to say. Its hard to get a feel for him from just this interview, however, if this interview is to be any indication, he seems far better than Sarah Palin.

    Anyone who runs on “resentments” as Mrs. Palin appears to be doing will likely be rejected by the American people. Most people are interested in solving real world problems rather than focusing on such things.

    I would be very interested to know what Mr. Pawlenty’s position is on things like drilling for our own oil and gas and building more refineries. If we do this, this would likely create large numbers of highly compensated union jobs in a fairly short amount of time (a good thing) and it would be hugely beneficial to our national security as it would mean less money from us in the hands of those who oppose interests. Perhaps in time we will learn his position on this.

    Comment by B.Poster — 2/15/2010 @ 11:05 pm

  16. He doesn’t come across as “brimming with ideas” to me. He has the rhetoric that’s considered “mainstream” but does very little to address the fundamental concerns conservatives have about the role of government.

    Instead, he advocates Obama Lite, or essentially the same stances as John McCain.

    The enemy of your enemy isn’t necessarily your friend.

    Comment by John S — 2/16/2010 @ 12:14 am

  17. I see Pawlenty is getting the Palin treatment when it comes to transcribing his speech: “most of ‘em.”, “I was talkin’ to people” You never see Joe Biden or Barack Obama transcribed this way.

    Comment by Otasan — 2/16/2010 @ 12:29 am

  18. My brother has shared some horrifing story of this govenor’s political tactics. Not my idea of
    “Presidential” hope! As others in this comment section have stated he is a “SELF-SERVING BULLY”!

    Comment by J.H. — 2/16/2010 @ 12:39 am

  19. As an extra to my last comment I “Trust” know one who has Senator John McCain”s support!
    Senator John McCain needs to be voted out this November!

    Comment by J.H. — 2/16/2010 @ 12:46 am

  20. The Governor has never impressed me on televised interviews. In todays pop culture media circus any candidate in the national spotlight needs at least a hint of inspirational charisma and so far I have seen none from him. Sad but true.

    Comment by CZ — 2/16/2010 @ 6:57 am

  21. As you are well aware, Rick, the TARP program and the auto industry bailouts were created during my misadministration. That means: before Obama. Not his programs. The article which you link to from McArdle is not source material, why not follow the link in it to the actual source where Paul Krugman writes: “From the beginning, I argued that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a k a the Obama stimulus plan, was too small.”

    Really, there is no way that an honest person can write that “there are many economists who agree with Paul Krugman that Obama saved the world,” so no apologies here for questioning your intelligence or ability to be truthful. The truth is that you are incapable of describing liberal or Democratic policies or thought accurately.

    Comment by Richard Bruce Cheney — 2/16/2010 @ 7:31 am

  22. Lady Logician–

    I realize I’ll never take your blinders off, but I think you mischaracterize a few things. “The cities, counties and school districts had more to do with that than anything the state or the Feds “dictated”!” Probably not true. As an example, the federal government dictates that schools provide special education services so that childeren can be “mainstreamed.” At heart, this isn’t a bad idea. It’s unfunded, though. The federal governement has never provided enough funding for those services that they dictate. I don’t know about the recent past, but I know for certain a few years ago that the deficit in the Mpls. school district was exactly the size of the funding for special ed. that the federal government promised when the enacted the mandate but didn’t provide. In the past, some of this shortfall would have been made up from revenue sharing from the state (which is a more progressive system than property taxes) but the state’s share of education funding continues to drop. To say that the state’s decisions don’t contribute to my increased property taxes is wrong. I understand that schools are not managed as efficiently as they could, but it’s beginning to feel like we’re beginning to cut muscle, not fat. As I mentioned in my first comment, healthcare funding for the poor is something else Pawlenty is cutting that will end up on my property taxes when the county needs to fund its shortfall from providing those services.

    “He sits down and listens to people who approach him on issues and takes their concerns into account.” Seriously. Were you here last spring? I realize there’s enough blame to go around on the budget issue, but to veto the budget, not call a special session, and then begin to “unallocate” funding to various agencies is hardly “personable.”

    And by the way, I’d be careful in calling MN “liberal” anymore. It may seem that way to some, but we’ve been pulled toward the middle like most of the country. Remember, this is the state that’s produced Michelle Bachman and John Kline.

    Comment by Larry, your brother — 2/16/2010 @ 8:43 am

  23. Thanks for pointing out the interview and for your assessment of it, which I mostly agree with. I still don’t know much about Pawlenty, but I like what he’s had to say so far enough that I’ll keep listening.

    I hope Republicans will take to heart the first quoted box (the section in the interview called “On the State of the Republican Party”). I’ve voted >95% GOP for over 30 years, and I’ve finally had it up to my eyeballs with their cronyism, corruption, and hypocrisy. If they don’t start putting forth candidates who mean what they say, I’m prepared to start sitting out elections.

    Comment by Anonymous — 2/16/2010 @ 9:01 am

  24. “Where Palin has a laundry list of resentments that resonate with the base, Pawlenty has a record of achieving concrete results by applying conservative principles to governance. That puts him lightyears ahead of Palin in my book.” This is BS.

    Yes, Palin is the Republican who is most effectively attacking the policies of the Obama-led Democrats. (That is bad?) Her effectiveness is enhanced by her overall positive, happy, witty message.

    Furthermore, Palin accomplished more during her abbreviated time as governor than many governors accomplish in several more years. She negotiated a massive cng pipeline infrastructure project that had been hung up for years. She saved billions for Alaska during good times for times like now. She prepaid her state’s entire education budget two years in advance. Palin cut hundreds of millions in wasteful spending. She spent hundreds of millions on energy renawables, heating oil rebates and weatherization projects before Obama did anything about these things. Palin made her state billions with investments with her state’s PDF fund. She kept her state’s unemployment on par with its normal historic levels during an economic disaster everywhere else but in her state. Palin kept her state’s taxes America’s lowest. She reduced earmarks by 85% and medical backlogs by 83%. Palin ended energy dealings in the backrooms, making officials and legislators deal with big oil on camera in public. She passed the strictest ethics reforms laws in Alaskan history. How much more than that did Pawlenty accomplish during his years as governor?

    Heed this, supporters of Romney and Pawlenty. When you take pot shots at Palin, you are turning people who respect her into active opponents of Romney and Pawlenty.

    Comment by Truthteller — 2/16/2010 @ 9:12 am

  25. Larry - I spent the last 14 years in MN. I know exactly what it is like. Let’s not forget that Minnesota gave us Keith Ellison AND Al Franken AND Betty McCollum AND Amy Klobuchar!

    When you spend money on green roofs over police and fire protection, when you spend money on Trees and shrubbery instead of roads and bridges, your priorities as a City, a county AND a state are well screwed up beyond ANYTHING. And never forget that the bonding bills ALL ORIGINATE in the Minnesota House of Representatives which is held by who???? Say it with me kids….THE DEMOCRATS!


    Comment by The Lady Logician — 2/17/2010 @ 6:19 pm

  26. …yeah, but the guy is a freakin’ creationist!!

    can we pretty pretty please get at least one republican candidate who has at least a tentative grasp on what the scientific method IS?

    Comment by K_McLoud — 2/19/2010 @ 6:53 pm

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