Tim Pawlenty's Rodney King moment

As plenty of political observers have already noted, Governor Tim Pawlenty struck an unusually conciliatory tone in his recent inaugural address. "On this occasion, and from this place," the governor announced, "I'm calling on every Minnesotan, especially our political leaders, to walk together down a new and better pathway: a path of civility and positive change...And let's be progressive as we improve and overhaul things that aren't working well or have us on the wrong course."

Given the tiny margin of his victory--and the utter thrashing of his many of his fellow Republicans at the polls--Pawlenty's statesman-like call for bipartisanship and civility was to be expected. But invoking the dreaded term "progressive?" That does represent a pretty radical departure from the no- bars-held, red meat conservative rhetoric he let loose at the Republican national convention this summer.

"I can tell you what your worst nightmare is," he said then. "It's one of the big-spendin', tax-raisin', abortion-promotin', gay marriage-embracin', more welfare-without-accountability lovin', school reform-resistin', illegal immigration-supportin' Democrats for governor who think Hillary Clinton should be president of the United States...We're fighting a tradition that is deeply liberal. But it's changing. It's changing. And we do not want to go back."