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In D.C. speech, Pawlenty is business evangelist, purveyor of hope

WASHINGTON – He stood on the stage a business evangelist, preaching the gospel of small government to a room full of Republican politicos who ate it up and prominent national journalists who took it all down.

Here at the National Press Club, where Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter and John F. Kennedy each kicked off a presidential campaign, Tim Pawlenty didn’t. But he sounded for all the world like someone who will in just a few months’ time.

“This is not a matter of Right versus Left,” he said of the ballooning federal deficit, his voice rising like a country preacher’s, “this is a matter of common sense. This is a matter of 8th grade math!”

And then the zinger.

“Just because we followed Greece into democracy does not mean we have to follow them into bankruptcy!” The crowd roared. Pawlenty beamed.

Press Club president Alan Bjerga spotted the 600-pound gorilla in the room and pointed it out. Pawlenty likes to say it’s a book tour, Bjerga said, that officially began today. Later stops include Iowa, and New Hampshire, so “we will let you draw your own conclusions.”

The crowd, the journalists, and perhaps even the man standing at center stage did just that. One senses they came to the same conclusion.

Hope, version 2.0
Pawlenty began with a tale of hope, much as the man he hopes to replace once did.

“The American sense of hope is diminished,” he said to start, and later, “a sense that the American dream is slipping away. And I want to talk to you about restoring the American dream through restoring American common sense.”

When asked about their values, and what’s important to them, Pawlenty said most start out with faith or family, saying those things are most important in their lives. After that though, they continue on to their goals.

Finishing a basement. Paying off some debt. Maybe going to a Vikings game or taking a son or daughter fishing.

“You can’t do any of that unless you have money,” he said, “and the pathway for most Americans to have money is to have a job.”

For long-time Pawlenty watchers, there wasn’t much new the rest of the way, either in the speech or Q&A. There was a call to listen to businesses and entrepreneurs for economic advice, rather than bureaucrats.

Pawlenty blasted teachers unions, stumped for teacher merit pay and wholly embraced former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, a move that went over well with the local, largely Republican crowd.

Pawlenty was asked twice about Sarah Palin, and in defense of her drew a parallel.

There’s a double-standard at play with Palin, Pawlenty said, unlike if “you went to, say, a certain, more prominent school in a different part of the country or you were the law review editor of some journal or something then all of a sudden that’s more valuable to the discussion than if you were in a place like Alaska or Minnesota, because there’s a little bit of a sense that maybe that’s not quite up to our standards.

“I don’t buy that.”

He also fielded a question on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal, in which the man who might one day be commander in chief responded that his concerns weren’t assuaged by a survey showing that the military overall doesn’t mind gays and lesbians serving openly, because of an increased level of concern from front-line, combat troops.

His international message was the same as ever. Stand firm by Israel and other key allies. Show strength to bullies. Pass pending free trade deals with Colombia, Panama and South Korea while looking for more. And don’t be afraid to call out trading partners — China by name — when they don’t live up to their end of the bargain.

“I’m for free trade, but I’m not for being a chump,” he said to the approval of the crowd.

The very model of a modern presidential candidate
In fact, one could be forgiven for thinking this was a stump speech (and one might be naïve to say it wasn’t a rehearsal for one).

“In times of crisis, leaders need to step forward,” he said. And boy, this week has been one big example of Pawlenty stepping forward.

Pawlenty has been seemingly everywhere this week — from “Good Morning America” to “The View” and the editorial board of the New York Times. His camp was so happy with the results of Wednesday night’s interview with “The Daily Show’s” Jon Stewart, sometimes a tricky interviewer for conservatives, that they spent part of this morning forwarding on links to the video replay.

This evening, Pawlenty flies to Florida, the biggest and most critical swing state on the map. His book tour takes him to Iowa, site of the first presidential caucuses and a state in which he’s already hired a paid staffer. He also flies to New Hampshire, site of the first presidential primary.

The final question was a twist on the familiar: What would make you decide not to run?

Pawlenty’s two considerations, he said, were the needs of the country and whether he fit them, and the “personal, impactful decision” about the effect a bid would have on his wife and children.

It’s a decision he said he’d make sometime before the end of March, but those in today’s crowd thought they knew the answer.

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Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 01/13/2011 - 05:31 pm.

    Let’s see — business and evangelism are the two constituencies he needs for the nomination.
    Good call.

  2. Submitted by Norman Larson on 01/13/2011 - 10:18 pm.

    It seemed to me that Mr. Pawlenty’s opening remark, “Thank you or as President Obamna would say, ‘You’re welcome'” went over like a lead balloon. Could someone please explain the joke to me?

  3. Submitted by William Pappas on 01/14/2011 - 07:54 am.

    The Strib today ran a front page campaign add masquerading as journalism by Kevin Diaz. Apparently they are remaking Pawlenty’s persona into the down home, reasonable, affable and compromising politician he never was. The effort by Diaz and the Strib to serve as campaign-add- central is stunning in it’s misinformation. Just the speech from this one appearance has once again demonized the entire body of teachers in Minnesota. He has engaed in demagoguery and self persecution to manufacture hate for the eastern media elite and Ivy League educated (that’s where most of his free trade guru’s come from but those types of connections don’t mean a thing to demagogues). Somehow, with Minnesota’s long list of people who have been prominent in the nation’s political history, we’re to believe the eastern elite don’t take us seriously. That’s called manufacturing non-existant persecution so one can feel noble. It is self-serving and completely irrelevant, untrue and contributes nothing to the political discussion but resentment and demonization. It is exactly the kind of rhetoric Pawlenty has used to polarize Minnesota and freeze its legislative process. If anyone says Pawlenty is reasonable then you know they are stumping for him. Despite the Pawlenty Campaign’s attempt to remake his image yet again (remember the 9-iron smashing the White House windows as they tried to jazz up his milk toast personality) into the affable good old boy they are just not able to refrain from hate speech. Will this man never fade away from the public discourse so we can actually fix it?

  4. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 01/14/2011 - 10:48 am.

    Isn’t that cute! Little (former) King Timmy is running around the country claiming he has solutions for all the easily-recognized problems, anxiety, and angst of the poor, bedraggled general public just like he did here in Minnesota (problems which he had a massive role in causing)!

    But just as has been the case in Minnesota, the only solutions he will accept to those problems makes them worse. He did not, has not, and will never make the world a better place. Will NEVER help the average American with the issues that are causing their very understandable anxiety and angst.

    He will make those things and their lives far worse than they were before.

    But, as was the case here in Minnesota, the already fabulously wealthy will make out like the thieves and con men they are while paying a far lower percentage of the exponentially-increasing proceeds of their labors in taxes than those who have far less than they do (and yet they will be empowered and encouraged to continue their whining, keening and wailing about the “bad business climate.”)

    Apologies to my farmer friends, but there is a certain subclass of farmers for whom the weather is always too wet, or too dry, or too cloudy, or too sunny, or too hot, or too cool, with the prices of seed, chemicals, fuel, etc., being too high or too low or too unstable, for their crops to be growing well.

    Although they live what appears to be a very comfortable lifestyle (which they actually work very hard to accomplish) these types of farmers swear that they’ve never made a penny in their lives.

    In the same way, many of our state’s and nation’s wealthiest citizens can NEVER find a way to feel as if they have “enough.” If they could manage to grab every penny of resources in the nation and keep it for their own use, leaving everyone else penniless and thereby killing the ability of anyone and everyone else to buy anything, they’d simply whine about why all those lazy penniless people didn’t go out and get a (completely nonexistent) job in order to buy goods produced and sold by their commercial enterprises.

    Little (former) King Timmy is, of course, hoping to convince our entire nation to move in exactly that “better business climate” direction, then lead the charge down the hill and over the cliff into the abyss of third world status.

    But of course our national press, being owned lock, stock, and barrel, by those who share Timmy’s approach, has shed itself of anyone who could tell the difference between the effects of dangerous and damaging economic policy in favor of those who can only judge the appeal of a fresh new (and very pretty) face.

    I just can’t imagine that government of, by and for Scarlet O’Hara would or could ever serve us well.

  5. Submitted by Patricia Gundersen on 01/14/2011 - 12:17 pm.

    EEWWWWW and OMG!! This man is delusional. What a waste of time and money to stump throughout the country. When considering how Pawlenty would be as President, ask yourself, “What would Timmy do?” Hopefully, the Republican Party chiefs are smarter than Minnesota’s ex-Gov.

  6. Submitted by Patricia Gundersen on 01/14/2011 - 12:30 pm. answer your question, Pawlenty was making a mean comment re: our President. Timmy was verbalizing his thought that the President doesn’t say “thank you” for applause, but says “you’re welcome” instead. Ha Ha…isn’t that a funny one!

    Until Timmy’s hired personnel inform him that he cannot and should not run for office, you will be hearing many weird, off script statements.

    He was Gov. of Minnesota and strongly disliked by the middle class. Time for him to get a job in a non political position.

    Please read the above comment by Gregg Kapphahn, a resident of Minnesota.

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