In the upcoming edition of Esquire, Gov. Tim Pawlenty sounds like he's turning his back on the teabaggers, not to mention Michele Bachmann. In a wide-ranging interview he unloads a volley of criticism at the White House and Democrats -- and at his own party for failing to address the nation's needs when it had its own governing majority -- but when he's asked point blank whether President Barack Obama is a socialist, T-Paw takes a sharp departure from the Fox News playbook:
You know, I don't think name-calling is helpful. I've done my share of that, so I'm not Pollyannaish about how the political process works. But as a general proposition, I think these are serious times, the country's in significant danger, and I think we need people who are thoughtful. We're gonna have sharp differences, but we need to debate those in a way that's constructive and civil. I think President Obama is governing as a movement liberal. I don't think that rises to the level of being a socialist.
That puts him at odds with a group of Republican insiders polled -- anonymously -- by Esquire:
Do you consider Barack Obama a socialist?
- 78% Yes
- 22% No
Pawlenty does -- of course -- think Obama's ruining the country:
ESQ: Was spending going too far and government growing too big before Obama became president?
TP: It certainly was, but he has pushed the gas pedal to the metal and exploded it in ways that were previously unheard-of. I mean, he's taken the national deficit in one year and tripled it. So we now have a $1.4 trillion deficit just in the past year. That is three times as large almost as it's ever been. That is larger than the entire economy of India. That one-year debt is larger than the entire cumulative debt of the entire nation for the first two hundred years of our existence.
Of course, Esquire asks the obvious question:
ESQ: Let's talk about 2012. Why would you run?
TP: I think the country's in trouble. And I think I have a pretty clear sense of the values and principles that have made this country great. I've had a chance to govern and lead with those in mind, with some significant success in Minnesota. And I think the country needs that kind of leadership and insight and perspective. So through my PAC, I'm going to share my beliefs across the country. And I'm gonna take the next year to see how that goes and make my decision late in 2010 or in early 2011.
In that anonymous poll we mentioned above, Esquire asked GOP insiders who they'd like to see at the top of their ticket in 2012.
- 12% Former governor Sarah Palin
- 13% Governor Tim Pawlenty
- 31% Former governor Mitt Romney
- 8% Former governor Mike Huckabee
- 36% None of the above/Other
- Notable Write-ins: Ron Paul, David Petraeus, Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels (twice).
On the Republicans blowing their chance with health care:
ESQ: Do you think the Republicans should have fixed the health-care problem -- which you acknowledge is a problem -- when they had hegemony in Washington?
TP: Oh, the Republicans had their shot not long ago to address the real needs and concerns of everyday Americans, and they blew it. I think that's mitigated by the fact that we had a terrorist incident, there is a war, and there was a lot of proper focus on those issues, but over the time that they were there and had the leadership opportunity, they blew it. We got fired for a reason.
Then there's the matter of the long-gone majority:
ESQ: Let's go back in time a little bit: five short years ago, after the general election of 2004. People were talking in terms of a permanent Republican majority. What on earth has happened to your party? And what are you going to do about it?
TP: Well, we got our cans kicked -- for two election cycles in a row. The marketplace measurement in politics is something called an election. It's a pretty good barometer -- it's transparent, it's numerical, it's objective. It gives you a pretty good measure of what your customers think of you. And in 2006 and 2008, the marketplace was telling the Republicans, We prefer the products and services of your competitors. And so when you're losing market share, you step back and say, What can we do differently?
This is not an instance of saying that we've got principles and values and we're just gonna throw them out the window and pretend like we're Democrats, but we just lost our way.