Apparently former Gov. Tim Pawlenty thinks that shutting down the government and slashing spending for everyday Americans as he did in Minnesota is something to brag about and a reason to want to vote for him for president. Given the completely irresponsible rhetoric coming from the Republicans in Congress right now and his fellow Minnesotan and presidential candidate, Michele Bachmann, I guess it shouldn't be surprising that Pawlenty thinks this would be appealing to Republican primary voters.
MR. GREGORY: Here's something from the Los Angeles Times that's about style, frankly. "Tim Pawlenty's presidential campaign rests on this question: Will Republican voters itching for confrontation with President Obama deliver their nomination to a man who tends toward sort-spoken and bland?" Are you too dull to be president?
GOV. PAWLENTY: Well, look, if people want the entertainer in chief, they should vote for somebody else. But we've had three years of a president of soaring rhetoric, gave all these false hopes and false promises to the country. If you want somebody who's had executive leadership, who has not just rhetoric, but results on taxes, on spending, on health care, on jobs and the like, then vote for me. And the other thing I would say, David, I've got the record of toughness better than anybody else in this race. My goodness, I was the first governor in Minnesota's history to shut down the government. I set a record for vetoes. I took more money out of the budget using an executive authority than all the other governors combined in my state. So in terms of...
MR. GREGORY: Let me just stop you there for a second...
GOV. PAWLENTY: So in terms of demonstrating fortitude...
MR. GREGORY: Right.
GOV. PAWLENTY: ...I'm an old hockey player. I've been in more fights than the rest of these candidates combined.
MR. GREGORY: Well, that's great that you've got a fighting spirit, but look at how the American people are looking at Washington right now. We nearly had a government shutdown. We can't have a deal on, on cutting the debt because the town is so politically polarized. Do you think the fact that you shut down the government in Minnesota is something to brag about? You think that's what the American people want?
GOV. PAWLENTY: Well, I think what they want is results. And I've got the best results, the best record of any candidate in this race. And when it comes to principle, these dramatic moments, whether they're setting veto records, whether they're shutting down government, you--we have to have transformational reform in this country. The country is sinking. We need bold and courageous actions. And now is the time for the Republicans to stand up and fight for these values.
MR. GREGORY: When are we...
GOV. PAWLENTY: And the last time they had the majority in Congress, they didn't do that and they got thrown out. And now they need to walk the walk.
GOV. PAWLENTY: This isn't just about cutting everything. You know, I got criticized for having an aggressive economic plan. We need an aggressive economic plan. We have to get this economy growing if we're going to get out of this hole.
MR. GREGORY: But what about the question of what you have to be willing to cut or willing to raise? This is what David Brooks wrote in his column, I'm sure you've seen this week, about the Republican Party: "The struggles of the next few weeks are about what sort of party the GOP is - a normal conservative party or an odd protest movement that has separated itself from normal governance, the normal rules of evidence and the ancient habits of our nation. If the debt ceiling talks fail, independent voters will see that Democrats were willing to compromise but Republicans were not. If responsible Republicans don't take control, independents will conclude that Republican fanaticism caused the default. They will conclude that Republicans are not fit to govern.
"And they will be right."
GOV. PAWLENTY: Well, with all due respect to, to David Brooks, this is not the time for Rockefeller Republicanism. We've got a country that is sinking. We've got a country that is on the verge of a crisis in the debt ceiling issue, and that's just one symptom of much larger problems. And so, if the answer is just to split the difference with the Democrats and be for tax increases, be for more spending, but just a little less than the Democrats, that's not what I believe.
MR. GREGORY: But that's actually...
GOV. PAWLENTY: That's what Barack Obama believes.
MR. GREGORY: But that is not factual. That's not the deal on the table. There was an opportunity for $4 trillion in spending cuts, a few hundred billion dollars in terms of revenue increases. But there is this purity test which is no tax increases, no revenue increases at all. The Treasury secretary says that's just not a balanced approach. Is that good governing for Republicans who control the House to say, "Sorry, no tax increases period," even when they're looking at getting potentially $4 trillion in spending cuts?
GOV. PAWLENTY: Well, David, we don't know what the deal was because we haven't seen the details. But if you look at how we got in this mess, and you look at the growth of the private economy, and you look at the relative growth of government spending vs. the growth in, in tax revenues...
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
GOV. PAWLENTY: ...the revenues are not what's out of balance. It's the spending that's out of balance. You can't be a fair-minded person and say look at this thing over the last 10, 20 years and say that it is the revenues that have somehow not kept pace with the private economy. What's happened is government spending has gone up way beyond that. That's how we got in the hole.
MR. GREGORY: But...
GOV. PAWLENTY: So you have to define balance in context.
MR. GREGORY: All right, but are you saying--would you be open to any revenue increases if it would help you get a deal on the scale of trillions of dollars of spending cuts?
GOV. PAWLENTY: The United States federal government is not undertaxed. It spends too darn much.
MR. GREGORY: So your answer is no, you would not entertain that.
GOV. PAWLENTY: That's, that's right. We shouldn't raise taxes.
MR. GREGORY: So even if it means that the debt ceiling is not raised?
GOV. PAWLENTY: That's the approach I took in Minnesota. We have to draw the line in the sand. That's why I shut down government in Minnesota.
MR. GREGORY: You're willing to face the credit rating dropping and the catastrophic effects that the Treasury secretary describes?
GOV. PAWLENTY: What I'm willing to do is tell the president of the United States that if he wants the debt ceiling raised, then he should do those things I described earlier. And he's the one who should slow down the spending and get the thing back under control. The reforms that I mentioned earlier are the right reforms, and there--there's no objection to them in terms of the president's willingness or desire, I should say, to do those, and he won't do them. But why, why is he opposed to a constitutional amendment to balance the budget? Why would he be opposed to that?