Governor Tim Pawlenty On Obama’s Libya and Syrian policy, and Questions His Domestic Agenda, Too
HH: Pleased to welcome back former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. Governor, always a pleasure, Happy Easter to you.
TP: Same to you, Hugh.
HH: I want to talk Syria and Libya with you, but first, what’s your reaction to Haley Barbour’s announcement today that he will not be seeking the GOP nomination?
TP: Well, I think he would have brought a lot to the debate and the race. He’s done a lot for the conservative movement and the Republican party over decades. I worked closely with Haley on the Republican Governors Association activities and other things, and he’s a very capable leader. He’s somebody that’s got a great concern for the country, and I think he would have brought a lot to the table. But you know, his decision has been announced, and we thank him, and I hope we can get him on board my campaign, exploratory at the moment. And hopefully, if we finalize that decision, we can get him to support our effort. But he’s going to be a sought after commodity, both politically and on policy levels, for a lot of years to come.
HH: I was just talking with Fred Barnes on air, Governor, and he said the moment you picked up Nick Ayers for your campaign director, he thought that meant Haley Barbour wasn’t going to run. Does the same apply to Mitch Daniels and other governors who might have worked with Nick when he was at RGA?
TP: Well, we’re very fortunate to have Nick Ayers. He’s kind of a prodigy talent politically in the country in many a people’s eyes, certainly my eyes. And we were fortunate to get him on board as my campaign manager. Everybody wanted him, we got him. We feel great about that, but you know, that won’t be the only variable as to whether other people do or don’t run. But I think we’ve got a huge talent in Nick Ayers running our campaign.
HH: Well you know, he’s from Georgia, so obviously you have a football gap on your staff. Who from Ohio is going to give you all the talking points on college football?
TP: (laughing) Well, we’ll be in Ohio a lot, but you know, our Minnesota Gophers and the Big Ten are not exactly on the positive upswing there. We’ve got a lot of work to do. Our new coach’s name is Jerry Kill, Hugh. Think about that.
HH: (laughing) Okay, I will. We might need a new coach in Ohio. I hope you’ll get there and do something about NCAA. Let me go to foreign policy now, Governor. In the new issue of the New Yorker, there’s a long piece about President Obama’s foreign policy that includes this quote from Zbigniew Brzezinski about the President. “I greatly admire his insights and understanding,” said Zbig. “I don’t think he really has a policy that’s implementing those insights and understandings. The rhetoric is always terribly imperative and categorical. You must do this, you must do that, this is unacceptable.” Brzezinski added, “The President doesn’t strategize. He sermonizes.” Do you agree with that, Tim Pawlenty?
TP: I do, and I think it’s a reflection of a number of things, one of which is his role as a professor. You know, and part of what his experience is in his formative years were in academia as a lecturer and a professor. But now, he’s the leader of the free world and president of the United States. And words have meaning, and they have consequences. So for example, when you say as the leader of the free world Gaddafi’s got to go, then Gaddafi’s got to go, Hugh. It’s not acceptable to have him linger. And what’s particularly galling to me, and I know most other Americans is he subordinated our decision making and our options relative to Libya to a U.N. resolution and an international body, tying our hands to do the kinds of things that would actually make Gaddafi go in a timely and efficient manner. And it’s an untenable position for a U.S. president to be in, but that’s an example of, I think, the uncertainty, the tardiness, the equivocation, and the sermonizing that we see from a president, rather than leadership.
HH: At the end of this Lizza article in the New Yorker, he quotes one of President Obama’s aides as saying, “The President’s actions in Libya are ‘leading from behind.’” Again, it seems very accurate, Tim Pawlenty, but also very different from what we’re used to in a president.
TP: Well, you know, when you have Nicholas Sarkozy leading the world on security and defense issues, it tells you we’ve entered a new era, and not a good one for the United States, not that he’s our enemy. He’s an ally, but you know, the fact that he’s out on the point on these issues should tell you something. I think I was the first national figure on March 7th, Hugh, to call for the establishment of the no-fly zone in Libya. But it needed to be done quickly and decisively, because at that time, the rebels had the momentum, they took over most of the geography in Libya, there were news reports about Gaddafi openly going voluntarily. And I think the threat of, and certainly the imposition of it quickly, decisively, in that moment, would have pushed him out and nudged him out. But unfortunately, the President took another three or four weeks, and now we’ve got what we’ve got, and it’s an untenable, and I think a very bad series of events for President Obama when he says Gaddafi’s got to go, but now he can’t make him go, because he’s handcuffed by a U.N. resolution.
HH: Would you support the additional commitment of American resources up to and including Special Forces and ground troops to dislodge Gaddafi?
TP: I think when you say Gaddafi’s got to go, you need to, Gaddafi’s got to go. So you can’t have the President say he’s got to go, and then he lingers indefinitely. So I don’t think we want to put troops on the ground under these circumstances, but additional resources in terms of Special Forces, limited, as well as communications capability and other enabling technologies and people, I think, would be a good use of it. But he should have done it in early March when we had Gaddafi on the ropes.
HH: When we come back from break, I’ll continue the conversation with former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. Governor, what’s the website? Is it www.timpawlenty.com?
TP: Yeah, and thanks for asking. www.timpawlenty.com about our exploratory committee. I hope people will check it out.
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HH: Governor, back on March 29th when you were on the show with me, you pronounced President Obama’s Syrian strategy a crock. I think it’s gotten worse since then. What’s your assessment of his effectiveness, vis-