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« Mike Pence: Fiscal Hawk, Socon | Main | Mitch Daniels Digs In On His "Truce on Social Issues" Statement? »
December 27, 2010

Second First Look At Tim Pawlenty?

At Hot Air's Green Room, Mitch Berg has an introduction to Pawlenty, for the many who have dismissed him as some sort of RINO. Quoting the Pioneer Press:

“This is a state that was on a spending binge for a long time with a liberal-leaning political culture that goes back decades or generations, and to try to change the direction of the state was a big undertaking. But I think we did that,” Pawlenty said during an extended interview Tuesday with a group of Capitol reporters.

Making that change was not easy, the Republican governor said. He had to call a predominantly Democratic Legislature into special sessions, issue a record number of vetoes in one year and use a government shutdown to force the changes.

“This will be known as the time Minnesota finally came to terms with its excesses and got itself on a more sustainable and responsible path,” he said.

That legacy, he asserted, is more significant than any new program or building he might have created.

And then Mitch Berg:

Poli-sci prof Steven Schier from Carlton College provides the key caveat that the U of M’s Jacobs didn’t, pointing out that Pawlenty “never had a fully cooperative Legislature”. That’s putting it lightly. When the DFL took complete control of the Legislature in 2006, DFL Senator Cy Thao famously remarked “When you people [Republicans] win, you get to keep your money; when we win, we take your money!”. Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller said in 2008 “it’s silly to think that people can spend their money better than government can”.

It says a lot that prominent liberal politicians are permitted to say that in Minnesota. Even hardcore liberals like Nancy Pelosi shy away from saying "it's silly to think that people can spend their money better than the government can." She thinks that, certainly, but she avoids saying it, because that would hurt her caucus. And yet here's a Senate Majority Leader who says it.

So that's the battlefield he's on. That's the political culture he's confronting.

So when Salisbury quotes Jacobs…:
A governor must build coalitions to get things done, Jacobs said, but Pawlenty had a hard time finding “honorable compromise” with DFL legislators.

…one can forgive him for not adding “because the DFL had no interest in compromise, and were largely not honorable”.

But I will.

My real point is that Pawlenty’s legacy goes waaaay beyond simple, material things like programs and departments and government real estate. Tim Pawlenty did something that’s needed doing since long before I came to Minnesota. Because for all of my hard-core paleocon friends’ grousing about “impact fees” and “travelling with Will Steger”, it’s a simple fact that Pawlenty’s political leadership helped drive the Minnesota GOP to the right; it helped the GOP provide a real policy alternative to the DFL for the first time in recent memory.

Many may deem him to have governed not conservatively enough, but I always read that like this: If a guy governed as conservative as possible in a state's liberal culture, or even more conservatively than most believed possible, does that mean his Comfort Setting for his own personal politics is where he actually governed or further to the right of what he was permitted to do?

As an analogy: Many conservatives call Obama a socialist. (I agree.) But liberals point out that most of what he's done is not actually socialist per se (socialist light or socialist-tending, but not actually socialist).

That may be true, and yet I still say he's a socialist. Why? Because I know what his impulses are. I know where he'd take the country if he were allowed to, what he'd do if he didn't face so much push-back and hostile public opinion and panicking Democratic legislators and Republican delay and obstructionism.

I always laugh at liberals who make the claim that Obama isn't a socialist based on, say, the tax cut deal. Okay, people making that argument: If the Congress were dominated by liberals, and they'd won even more seats in 2010, do you imagine he'd be angling for the same deal? Or do you think he'd be looking to increase taxes not only above Bush levels but possibly above Clinton levels, too?

In other words: Can you imagine Obama putting his political capital on the line, defying Congress, and vetoing a bill that he considered too leftwing?

I can't. I don't think many can, either. I think his governing philosophy is as left as the road will allow.

At any rate, analogizing that to conservative-leaning governors in blue states: Doesn't this sort of thinking work in reverse, to their advantage, too? If we say Obama's a socialist based on what he would do if permitted, can't right-leaning governors, thwarted by tax-and-spend legislatures, be said to be strongly conservative, based on what they almost certainly would do if permitted?

I don't really think Pawlenty is going anywhere, but I think it's a bit of a shame that he's not even seriously considered at all. Like Duncan Hunter, he's one of those guys you really think should be seriously considered even though in your heart you know they won't be.


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posted by Ace at 01:19 PM

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