Pawlenty for president? He won't deny it

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Photo by Jim Greenhill
This weekend was a GOP governor frenzy on national TV shows as possible 2012 contenders came out to criticize President Obama's stimulus package. While they talked our ears off about the stimulus, we all couldn't help asking ourselves: are these dudes just lining up for their presidential run in 2012? Totally.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty likes keeping the suspense though and won't confirm it. On Fox News Sunday, Pawlenty didn't deny a 2012 run as an option, but insists he is focused on the economic crisis right now.

Here is a clip of the panel interview on Fox News. The clip doesn't include Pawlenty discussing his presidential bid. A transcript of Pawlenty's comments during the show:
WALLACE: Governor Pawlenty, you have criticized -- I'll get to you in a minute, Governor Sanford. You have criticized the bill that Congress passed, but you say you are going to accept all of the $4 billion in the stimulus package that Minnesota would get. Why don't you share your Republican colleague Governor Sanford's concerns about the long-term negative effects of this spending?

PAWLENTY: Well, I do. I don't like this bill, but it is now the law. It's not the bill that Mark and I would have crafted, but it's now our responsibility and opportunity to try to implement it. In Minnesota's case, we are a major net subsidizer of the federal government, and that's unlike some other states. For every dollar we send in, we only get 72 cents back. So we're paying the bill either way. We're going to take our share of the money. We also don't have some of the same impediments as some other states. In the unemployment area, this is a time to try to help unemployed people, and most of the enhancements that the federal government is requiring the states to undertake on this bill we did years ago. So it doesn't impinge us or hurt us in that regard in Minnesota.

...

PAWLENTY: Well, just -- the unemployment part of the stimulus bill is 2 percent of the bill. Ninety-eight percent of it is other stuff. And each state is different as it relates to the unemployment part of it, Chris. And so in -- the $25 increase, in our view, is clearly temporary under the face of the federal law. The other enhancements as it relates to improving eligibility determinations, part-time employment, the so-called trailing spouse requirement -- those vary from state to state. So each analysis is different state to state. In Minnesota, we've already done most or all of those things.

WALLACE: I want to go down the line here. And we'll start with you, Governor Rendell, and just go down. How quickly do you plan or do you think you'll be able to start spending this money? How soon will it get out into the economy? And secondly, President Obama made it clear that he is going to call out any mayor, any governor, who wastes this money, who spends it on political purposes. How are you ensuring in your state that's not going to happen?

...

WALLACE: Governor Pawlenty?

PAWLENTY: We're going to put it to work as fast as possible. Some of the infrastructure dollars can be turned over and ready to go this spring for sure. Other parts of it are going to string out over the next year or so. But I concur with what Mark said. This bill was a missed opportunity on a number of fronts. One of the fronts is you saw Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in China a few days ago thanking, with great passion, the Chinese for continuing to buy U.S. Treasury debt instruments. That's another indication of the risk that our country faces by going deeper and deeper and deeper into debt. And the day where the Chinese and the sovereign wealth funds start to stop buying our debt, they're going to have the government equivalent of the mortgage crisis and the savings and loan crisis and the tech bubble occur, because we are not coming to terms with the fact that we're spending out of control. ...

WALLACE: And finally, Governor Pawlenty, for this segment, some people would argue that you're rewarding bad behavior, but you know what, you have to do it because if homes get foreclosed in a neighborhood, everybody's property values go down.

PAWLENTY: There's a better way to do this, Chris, and that is to make low interest rates available to people and allow them to choose to refinance. But this notion where the government's going to step in and forcibly reconfigure the terms of an existing contract should scare us. In Minnesota and in many other states, there's a constitutional prohibition against impairing existing contracts, and there's a reason for that. You can't have the heavy hand of government come in and affect those rights retroactively.

...

WALLACE: Where do you come down on the auto bailout?

PAWLENTY: Clearly, the auto industry needs to be restructured. It cannot continue on its current platform in its current form. And the reason that the unions and the other stakeholders have not cut a deal with the automakers is because they...

GRANHOLM: They have.

PAWLENTY: ... believe the federal government -- not enough -- federal government is going to bail them out. And so the best way to get...

GRANHOLM: All right.

PAWLENTY: ... this thing restructured, I believe, is in the bankruptcy court and to have the federal government...

GRANHOLM: I think that is...

PAWLENTY: ... continue to plow money into this...

GRANHOLM: ... utter baloney. I mean...

PAWLENTY: Well, Jennifer, let me just finish. So the unions and the auto companies have been unable to put a deal together that fundamentally restructures the industry. It needs to get done. The only way it's really going to get done is in bankruptcy court. They should have done it six months ago. They should do it now.

GRANHOLM: Governor Pawlenty, have you read the report that they have just submitted? I bet you haven't.

SANFORD: No, but can I...

GRANHOLM: They have -- wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Let me just respond to this, because the unions have made enormous concessions.

PAWLENTY: Not really.

GRANHOLM: They have -- starting wages have taken a 50 percent pay cut. Don't tell me that they haven't done that. And...

PAWLENTY: How about their...

GRANHOLM: Wait.

PAWLENTY: How about their...

GRANHOLM: Wait.

PAWLENTY: ... retiree health fund?

GRANHOLM: Well, and their retiree health fund -- so what do you want to do about this? Every other country is providing health care to their companies. We do not. So we are already asking our businesses, not just the auto industry, but other industries that are competing in a global economy, to start 50 yards behind everybody else. Is that fair? Let's get a uniquely American solution to the health care costs so that we're not asking our companies to compete in the global economy.

PAWLENTY: You want the government to take over the health care system.

GRANHOLM: I do want our government to provide a level playing field.

...

WALLACE: OK. I want to go to another subject, the fiscal responsibility summit the president's going to be holding tomorrow in the White House. And he's also going to unveil his budget this week. And we are told it is going to cut the deficit in half from where it is now to where it will be in 2013 from $1 trillion to $533 billion by letting the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy expire and by saving money by pulling troops out of Iraq. Governor Pawlenty, what do you think of the plan?

PAWLENTY: You asked earlier why don't the markets like President Obama's plans, and you outlined the series of bailouts he's unveiled. Wait till you see the markets' reaction to what he unveils later this week, which is increasing taxes on a -- in the middle of a deep, deep recession. I don't think it's going to be favorable. I also would concur with what was said earlier. If you believe they're going to take seriously the idea of cutting down the deficit when they are exploding spending at a historic pace, I've got some hunting land for you in northern Minnesota.

...

WALLACE: Is it something -- because there's obviously been a lot of talk, and especially given the strong line you've taken against the budget -- against the stimulus package -- well, he's setting himself up for 2012.

SANFORD: Well, if you go back to those days in Congress, I took a lot of lonely votes back then tied to spending, and this is not exactly a new pattern for me.

WALLACE: Governor Pawlenty?

PAWLENTY: I'm going to make news right here on "Fox News Sunday" and tell you I am going to run for president of my Eagan youth soccer association.

(LAUGHTER)

WALLACE: For a second there I was really excited.

PAWLENTY: Actually, I'm thinking about running for reelection for governor in 2010, and all of us are focused on this crisis. We've got people hurting across our states. And I would speak for all four of us and say we're not thinking beyond that and shouldn't be thinking beyond that. WALLACE: But you're not ruling out 2012.

PAWLENTY: I'm first thinking about running for reelection for governor in the state of Minnesota, and that's my focus. And if I do, you know, people would expect you to serve out that term.

WALLACE: I will take that as a...

RENDELL: As a maybe.

WALLACE: ... as a maybe, a definite maybe.

(LAUGHTER) (UNKNOWN): (inaudible) about that hockey association position.

WALLACE: Yeah. Well, just for a minute there, you got my heart started.

If you aren't sick of reading Pawlenty's comments on the stimulus package, check out this interview in the National Review. His stance: "I say, when you're paying to buy the pizza, it's okay to have a slice."


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