It all depends on what the meaning of the word “will” is. Or the phrases “I am committed” and “that’s what I’m going to do.”
If someone says they “will” do something, and it is within the person’s power to do the thing, and they decide not to do it, has the person lied? Broken a pledge? Is it a blot on the person’s escutcheon, whatever an escutcheon is?
What? Please ponder that question for a moment, decide what you think, and we’ll come back to it in a second.
Top pick or tied
Yesterday, on “Meet the Press,” Tim Pawlenty rose to No. 1, or tied for it with South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, in the speculation of likely running mates for John McCain.
Moderator Tim Russert went around his table of insiders and asked for names for the Repub veepstakes. Conservative columnist Robert Novak mentioned two names, neither of them Pawlenty or Sanford. National Review Washington Editor Kate O’Beirne gave three names, including Sanford and Pawlenty. Liberal columnist Mark Shields mentioned a couple of senators whom no one else mentioned, then ended: “I’d probably bet on Pawlenty at this point.” Bloomberg News’ Margaret Carlson mentioned Sanford and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. Al Hunt, also of Bloomberg News, went last and mentioned only Sanford and Pawlenty, making them the two speculatees (not a real word) mentioned by three of the five designated mentioners (and, if you need a tiebreaker, none of the Capital Gang members offered to bet on anyone other than our own TPaw).
McCain and Pawlenty, when asked about it, demur, asserting that they’ve never discussed the idea and any such discussion would be premature.
Now, back to the meaning of “will.”
Pretty clear statement
On May 31, 2006, as he announced his candidacy for a second term as Minn Guv, Pawlenty said:
“As to my future, if I run for governor and win, I will serve out my term for four years as governor.” (That “if I run” is pretty funny, coming as it did during his announcement speech. But he did run and win.)
On Jan. 15, 2007, after winning reelection, Pawlenty said:
“I am committed to serving out my term as governor. That’s what I am going to do.“
My former co-blogger from Strib days of yore, Doug Tice, and I co-blogged about this several times, most recently, at least with my name on it, here and here, with the same quotes as above and the same basic point. Are we so comfortable with the idea that these guys are lying to us about matters like this that it isn’t even worth discussing?
It’s certainly premature to say that Pawlenty has broken his pledge to serve his full four-year term as governor. One year done and on he serves. It might be unfair to blame him for the fact that almost everything he says and does is interpreted as further evidence that he is burnishing his credentials to be McCain’s choice (except that he could end the speculation if he chose to remind people that he can’t run because he promised to serve his full term).
On the other hand, if “I am committed to” doing something and “that’s what I am going to do” means what my mother taught me it means, how is it possible for the TPaw veep speculation to be this sturdy with so little discussion of the admirably clear pledge he made not to do it?