Tim Pawlenty on Sarah Palin's target cross-hairs, Jeb Bush, Hispanic voters, and high speed rail
Buzz chatted a few minutes ago by phone with Tim Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor and likely presidential candidate, who will be in Miami Thursday to address the Hispanic Leadership Network and Tampa Friday to sign copies of his memoir, "Courage to Stand: An American Story" (Barnes & Nobles, North Dale Mabry 7 p.m.). The book is said to focus on his humble background growing up in a meatpacking town, his rise to prominence, faith, and conservatism in a Democratic-leaning state. Excerpts from our chat:
Q: So what do we call this? Is it a book tour or a pre-presidential campaign tour?
Pawlenty: Well, I'm not going to be cute about it. I'm seriously considering running for president. I'm going to make that announcement in a few months, but in the meantime I just finished up eight years of governor, I 've had a lot of other interesting experiences and life challenges - some successes and some challenges - and you learn some things along the way. So I wanted to put that in a book and try to share it. It's a book not just about problems but about the conviction and fortitude it takes to stand up to them, whether it's in your personal life, whether it's in politics, whether it's in your career more broadly.
Q: Is there a lesson offered in the book for what's needed by Republicans?
A: I don't think the conservative or Republican agenda is a mystery of even difficult to discern, but it is remembering what made the country great and trying to apply it to our time. More importantly, the leaders who hold themselves out as the people who are going to do this can't just give speeches or offer failed amendments, we;'ve got to get it done. And that's going to take in the coming years a historic and probably epic measure of fortitude and courage....
Q: As an example of getting things done versus making a political point, is it smart for the House to vote to repeal ObamaCare altogether even though it looks like that has no chance in the senate?
A:I think it really is, because I think it's important from a credibility standpoint for people to campaign like they're going to govern and govern like they campaigned. If you don't you're a hypocrite and that's why people don't like politicians.
Q: If you do run for president, is it your life story primarily that would set you apart from the other candidates?
A: Whether it's me or somebody else who runs I don't think there's going to be enormous differences between the various candidates on the issues of pro-growth economic policies, education reform, health care reform, terrorism, other issues. I think an equally important question of these people who really has the life story and the record that demonstrates the fortitude to stand up, say what needs to be said, and fight the fight, and get it done.
Q: You obviously come from a semi-blue state...
A: The record that I have in Minnesota is noteworthy for a number of reasons. One if that it's in Minnesota...It's one of the most liberal states in the country, the land of McCarthy and Humphrey, Wellstone and now Al Franken. When I talk about conservative leadership it's in the context of getting it done in Minnesota, which i think makes it more challenging and impactful. ... There's only four governors that got an A rating from the CATO Institute and I'm one of them....
Q: I read somewhere that Minnesota is facing a deficit of more than $6-billion, which is massive. Don't you bear some of the responsibility?
A. Forty nine out of 50 states - the exception being North Dakota face the same or similar circumstances. And the primary culprit in the states' deficits across the country is the largest downfall in the economy since World War 2, that's number one...
Q: Well, we're in terrible shape in Florida, but our deficit is about half yours and we're a lot bigger state...
A: Yeah. Number two, it's really not a deficit in the current sense. The two years we're in now which ends next summer, our budget is not only balanced it will end in the black. It's a projected deficit for the two year period that begins next summer and it's premised upon a 27 percent increase in spending, which is ridiculous...There is a deficit projected but it's based on a preposterous assumption and I don't buy that at all.
Q: You're heading to Miami for the Hispanic Leadership Network Thursday where you'll see Jeb Bush. He is a very conservative Republican who obviously does very well with Hispanics. He's been very disappointed with and critical of the Arizona immigration law. What's your message and what's your take on that particular law?
A: I have a great deal of admiration for Jeb Bush. He's one of the brightest, most courageous leaders that we have for the country, particularly for the conservative movement, so I'm honored to spend some time with him...Number two, as we talk about immigration and the Latino vote, we shouldn't;t make the mistake of thinking the only thing they care about is immigration and jump to that first and only. As I talk to the Hispanic community and Latino community, they've got a lot of other concerns as well, which is are they going to have a job, are they going to get a good education, are they going to be able to afford college, are they going to be able to buy health care, what's the economy going to be like. They have national security concerns, so one of the messages I'm going to deliver down there is we don't need to have every discussion start and continue and end with just immigration and not pigeonhole either them or their concerns just in that last. As for immigration itself, we're a country based on the rule of law and we've got to have a country where the law is respected and enforced. ...
Q: Does the Arizona approach give you any heartburn or concern?
A: It really doesn't in the sense that what it says has been mischaracterized. I've read the law. Early on i think the president of the United States, Barack Obama, I think misrepresented what the law actually says and unnecessarily scared people. I think that was a disservice to the debate...If you read the Arizona law what it says at its core is if the authorities have you detained or stopped for another reason, a different reason unrelated to immigration, and then they have a reason to believe you're here illegally then they can ask for your documents. The notion that what I just stated in summary allows you to pull someone over based on how they look is not accurate.
Q: I have to ask you about the horrible tragedy in Arizona that is on everybody's mind. One of the issues that's come up is Sarah putting congressional districts, including that congressional district, in target cross-hairs. Was that appropriate and what's your takeaway from this awful situation?
A: First of all our thoughts and prayers go out to those who were killed or injured or are fighting for their lives. We need to make sure we stay focused on that. Number two, it's really important that people not jump to conclusions based on incomplete information.....What we know so far is that this is an act perpetrated by someone who was mentally deranged, mentally imbalanced. In many cases we sadly have people who are mentally imbalanced people doing irrational and senseless things. To draw some broad judgment or condemnation or conclusion based on the acts of a madman, particularly when all the facts aren't even in, is I think premature and unfair....There's no indication at present that this gentleman did anything that he did because of what Sarah Palin did or didn't do."
A: We've got a debate here in Florida about high speed rail. There's billions of dollars in stimulus money being targeted toward a high speed rail project. Is that a waste of money in your view?
Q: Well it really depends. There's high speed rail, there's light rail, there's commuter rail, there's passenger rail..I don't we want to say all rail is terrible, but these are extremely expensive projects, and if they're not well thought out, well analyzed, well-planned and a sharp pencil isn't applied to them some of them can be boondoggles....The approach I've used as governor of Minnesota was say here's the test we're going to use, whether it is rail, whether it was highways, whether it was Star Trek Transporters: Number one, how much is it going to cost to build. Number two how much is it going to cost to subsidize. Number three how many people it it going to move, and how does that compare to the alternatives...