If you’re one of the millions who doesn’t have a clue about Republican Presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty, and you want to change that, watch this. It’s a video from a Sunday news show recorded earlier this month featuring an interview of the former Minnesota governor. In it, Pawlenty bobs and weaves his way through defending his questionable “Better Deal” plan for fixing our deep national debt problems. He also repeatedly ducks pointed questions about his alleged fiscal failings when he was at Minnesota’s helm, preferring, instead, to expound on Obama’s shortcomings. All in all, the Republican candidate comes across as a smarmy politician. Heaven knows we have enough of them already.
But, does Pawlenty’s performance in a single TV interview accurately portray the candidate? Or, is he even worse than he seems? Of course, smarmy is enough to cost him the nomination as outward appearances have outsized importance in our 24 x 7 video world. Digging for substance is simply too much work. In Pawlenty’s case, digging won’t make a difference because what you see isn’t as bad as what you get.
Let’s start with Pawlenty’s self-laudatory autobiography, Courage To Stand, published just in time for his presidential campaign. In it, and in speeches since, he takes credit for steering a liberal Minnesota down a conservative fiscal path. His biggest claimed accomplishment is balancing budgets through spending cuts rather than tax increases.
Unfortunately for TPaw, both Republicans and Democrats in the Gopher State dispute his claims and the disputes ring truer than the claims. Budget balancing was done, in part, with $2.7 billion in cuts later invalidated by the Minnesota Supreme Court including its Chief Justice, a Pawlenty appointment. Meanwhile, there were fewer costs to fund at the state level, but property taxes were hiked by $2.5 billion to cover the shortfall locally.
Later, necessary revenue increases were financed by upping cigarette taxes which Pawlenty called 'fees'. He was also helped by $2 billion in federal stimulus money. Today, only months after his departure, Minnesota is facing a $5 billion deficit. So, yes, the numbers on the sheet did balance. But, it was done with smoke and mirrors and federal funds rather than hard choices.