(Article first published as A Little Pawlenty Is Plenty on Blogcritics.) If you’re one of the millions who doesn’t have a clue about Republican Presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty, and you want to change that, watch this. It’s a video from a Sunday news show recorded earlier this month featuring an interview of the former Minnesota governor. In it, Pawlenty bobs and weaves his way through defending his questionable “Better Deal” plan for fixing our deep national debt problems. He also repeatedly ducks pointed questions about his alleged fiscal failings when he was at Minnesota’s helm, preferring, instead, to expound on Obama’s shortcomings. All in all, the Republican candidate comes across as a smarmy politician. Heaven knows we have enough of them already.
But, does Pawlenty’s performance in a single TV interview accurately portray the candidate? Or, is he even worse than he seems? Of course, smarmy is enough to cost him the nomination as outward appearances have outsized importance in our 24 x 7 video world. Digging for substance is simply too much work. In Pawlenty’s case, digging won’t make a difference because what you see isn’t as bad as what you get.
Let’s start with Pawlenty’s self-laudatory autobiography, Courage To Stand, published just in time for his presidential campaign. In it, and in speeches since, he takes credit for steering a liberal Minnesota down a conservative fiscal path. His biggest claimed accomplishment is balancing budgets through spending cuts rather than tax increases.
Unfortunately for TPaw, both Republicans and Democrats in the Gopher State dispute his claims and the disputes ring truer than the claims. Budget balancing was done, in part, with $2.7 billion in cuts later invalidated by the Minnesota Supreme Court including its Chief Justice, a Pawlenty appointment. Meanwhile, there were fewer costs to fund at the state level, but property taxes were hiked by $2.5 billion to cover the shortfall locally.
Later, necessary revenue increases were financed by upping cigarette taxes which Pawlenty called ‘fees’. He was also helped by $2 billion in federal stimulus money. Today, only months after his departure, Minnesota is facing a $5 billion deficit. So, yes, the numbers on the sheet did balance. But, it was done with smoke and mirrors and federal funds rather than hard choices.
Then there is Pawlenty’s Google gaffe in his Better Deal spiel. In order to make up for reduced revenue from his proposed tax cuts, Pawlenty would eliminate any government service also provided by private industry. He would find those competitive private services through Google. No wonder Pawlenty remains at the bottom of candidate polls. Substituting the world’s most popular Internet search engine for deliberative strategic decision–making is for losers.
These days, Pawlenty believes his road to success is paved with the carcasses of his opponents. At the beginning of his campaign, just a little while ago, he refused to criticize Romney and others. He believed his autobiography and Better Deal plan were all he needed to capture the lead. Now, he’s ripping into other Republicans like a greedy kid with his Christmas presents.
While criticizing the opposition is, of course, standard campaign fare, Pawlenty’s shots at Romney should backfire big time. He is busy filleting the former Massachusetts governor for RomneyCare, the precursor to the hated ObamaCare. And Romney is very vulnerable on that score. But, Pawlenty is similarly susceptible to attack. In his gubernatorial days, he was a huge environmental activist.
In 2007, he signed cap and trade legislation, calling global warming one of the most important issues of our time. Later, he appeared in an ad with Janet Napolitano, urging congress to pass similar legislation. Now, as a national candidate, he’s confessing the error of his ways. To distance himself from his activist days, Pawlenty claims he was never that enamored with going green, characterizing his ardor as a mere ‘flirtation’. But signing cap and trade into law sure seems like going all the way.
Pawlenty’s spine is so weak, he can’t help but flip-flop. Since the GOP’s current frontrunner is an expert at the triple backflip himself, the Party doesn’t need another flailing aerialist.
See you on the left-side.