Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a likely candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, tells Newsmax that President Barack Obama “needs to go” and vows to do “everything I can” to make that happen.
He also asserts that legislators should draw a “line in the sand” against spending by refusing to raise the ceiling on federal debt, says Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s battle with public employees unions is a preview of things to come elsewhere, charges that Obama’s lukewarm support of Israel “invites danger,” and says the president’s failure to support the opposition to Iran’s government is a “missed opportunity” that demonstrates his lack of leadership.
Pawlenty served two terms as Minnesota governor, beginning in 2002, and before that served as Majority Leader of the state House. He announced the formation of a presidential exploratory committee on March 21.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV on Tuesday, Pawlenty says “all indications” are that an announcement regarding his candidacy for president will come in the next few weeks, “or I’ll give it a couple of months just to be safe. No later than that.”
Asked if can beat Obama, Pawlenty flatly declares: “Yes, I can beat him. I sure hope he’s a one-term president. He’s taken this country in a very dangerous direction. We have nearly $5-a-gallon gas, we have unbearable unemployment, we have a federal government that’s out of control. He needs to go, and I’m going to do everything I can to get him out of there.”
Pawlenty allowed a government shutdown during his tenure as Minnesota governor. He was asked if he was pleased about House Speaker John Boehner’s agreement with Obama to cut $39 billion in spending to avert a shutdown of the federal government.
“I’ve been through a shutdown,” he responds. “People thought it was a really big deal at the time. But it was important in my state that we drew a line in the sand as it related to things like taxes and spending.
“So I knew that was a big hurdle for the folks in Washington to face. But it was really important that we got the right result, which is to slow down and reduce spending. I think Speaker Boehner got the best deal he could under the circumstances, and now we’re in a position to get on to the bigger debate, which is what to do with the long-term financing of the country.”
Pawlenty discussed House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s plan that would cut $6 trillion in 10 years, reducing federal outlays for Medicare and Medicaid but leaving Social Security intact.
“In the coming months I’ll have my own plan for getting finances back on track. But in terms of the direction and the diagnosis that Rep. Ryan has pointed to, I agree with him.
“He didn’t address the Social Security issue. I wish he would have. I’m openly talking about the need to gradually and slowly raise the retirement age for new entrants into the program, talking about the importance of means testing the cost of living adjustment for wealthy people. Addressing Social Security is going to be a big part of my campaign going forward.”
On another issue related to government spending, Pawlenty was asked if he favored raising the ceiling on federal debt.
“No. We have to draw the line in the sand and say, we’ve got to get our house in order,” he tells Newsmax.
“We’ve got a country that’s going broke. We can’t afford what we have, much less adding anything new to it. The debt ceiling limit is really a spending limit.
“President Obama has set up a false choice, saying either raise the debt ceiling or we’re going to default. He could by executive direction order the Treasury, or Congress could pass a law ordering the Treasury to sequence our bill payments with the existing cash flow to make sure that our outside creditors and places like the military get paid first so there is no default.
“That would buy more time to have the fuller discussion about the structural reform that we need in Social Security and Medicare and other entitlement programs.”
Regarding Gov. Walker’s battle with public employees unions in Wisconsin, Pawlenty says: “It’s really a flashpoint and in many ways a preview. Just like General Motors, across the country at all levels of government we have examples of management and labor running up the costs so far, so high, so fast, that no reasonable assumptions about revenues and people’s ability to pay can keep up.
“Gov. Walker has taken a real pounding from some in Wisconsin, but I think he’s been courageous and strong. He’s identified the problem and he’s been willing to tackle it and take some hits. That’s the kind of leadership we will need.”
Asked if President Obama has tilted American policy away from Israel and more toward the Muslim world, Pawlenty responds:
“Yes. Israel is one of our best allies not only in the region but in the world. We need to stand with Israel.
“There was some uncertainty around President Obama’s position in that regard early on in his administration. People were wondering, is he shoving Israel to the side?
“I don’t think that’s the right course. It invites danger. When people see the United States and Israel being separated, that could invite their enemies, our enemies, to exploit the situation, and I really strongly disagree with President Obama disrespecting and shoving Israel to the side early on.
“He may be trying to make up for that now, but I hope that his administration understands that we need to stand with Israel shoulder to shoulder — no daylight between us and them.
Pawlenty is also critical of the Obama administration’s failure to strongly encourage democracy in Iran. He called Obama’s policy “very disappointing. Iran is one of the most troubling countries in the region. In 2009 when they had the green revolution, they had people standing in the street with signs printed in English saying, where is the United States, where is President Obama, and he stood silent.
“At the very least the leader of the free world should be able to give voice to people everywhere who seek freedom, who want democracy, and he stood silent then. A tremendous missed opportunity in my view, an underutilization of the office and a sad statement about his lack of leadership and view of America’s role in the world.”
Pawlenty was also asked if he views Donald Trump as a viable candidate for president in 2012.
“He’s successful, he’s smart, he’s entertaining,” he says. “I think he can be somebody who can liven up the race. I think he’d bring a lot to the debate.”
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