It was a big day yesterday for Minnesota’s new favorite son. The timing was right, the day was gorgeous, and it was the perfect opportunity for our very own T-Paw to declare his candidacy for the presidency…In Iowa, not his home state.
Yes, America, like pestilence or an STD, the leadership of Tim Pawlenty is threatening to spread across the country. We recommend you get yourself checked.
For those of us stuck here in the landlocked frozen tundra, we all know about his achievements, incompetencies, self-invented accomplishments, ruses and self-congratulatory rhetoric. But for those of you who don’t reside in fly-over land, let me share some of the selected highlights of his meteoric rise with you.
We begin before the beginning, where we find that T-Paw has been a nearly lifelong politician, having held office or worked for campaigns for 22 years. The humble beginnings that he trumpets long and loudly on his website and in his candidacy speech just show what can happen when someone goes to a public university and then goes to law school: work in the business world for three years, and then you too can jump ship to join the Republican party to begin your reign of terror.
Oh wait…That may be unfair.
I’m sorry. I’m not a fan. The kindest thing I can say about him is that he really knows how to play the game of politics and plays it very well. He knows how to compromise on some issues, not compromise on others, and still announce to the world that everything in the agreement were his doing. He knows how to ignore things that make him look like an idiot, and play up areas that make him look like he was trying to lead. In short, he knows how to keep his political image above water, even though the reality is anything but. But honestly, his eight years as governor were largely not very memorable.
I do need to begin, though, by pointing out when he really kicked his career into high gear: in his last year in the legislature, he was the House Majority Leader, and during the budget debate between the Republicans, Democrats and the Independence Party’s Jesse Ventura, Pawlenty somehow emerged as the voice of reason, authoring a plan to take what was at the time a huge state surplus and turn it into a $6 billion deficit in about nine years by simply using accounting tricks, money shifting, and kicking difficult decisions down the road to let someone else handle them. Now granted, everyone else helped formulate this plan and signed off on it, but he was the primary author on at least one part of the plan which managed to use an accounting trick to balance the budget without actually cutting spending or raising more money.
In his years as governor, he reinvented tax increases that were labeled as fees simply so he could claim that he never raised taxes. He mastered the art of finger pointing, saying that the Democratically controlled legislature was responsible for the financial problems the state is having right now. And this is partially right, because in the end, he needed to negotiate, present a budget plan, and ultimately sign the spending bills or use his unallotment powers.
But he can’t have it both ways, as he is trying to do: he blames the president for the financial crisis on the federal level, basically claiming that as leader of the government, he hasn’t done a good enough job of leading. But we all know this whole morass started under Bush, and has been passed along through a variety of Democratic and Republican leaderships for many years. And, if memory serves, there was a great fear in the ’80s about how federal deficit spending would eventually land us where we are today…Good to know we listened.
He’s proud that he was the first governor in a hundred years or some such thing to oversee a state government shutdown, because, he claims, that shows just how much he stuck to his principles and how much the Democrats don’t want to compromise. Yet, his conservative base bristles and complains over current governor Mark Dayton doing the same thing while calling for the other side to negotiate over the budget while the Republicans have refused to come to the table to meet with Dayton.
The immediate bottom line is this: Pawlenty has morphed into the candidate he presents himself as today in a very short time. Candidate Pawlenty is substantially different from the governor he was, who also was different from the house representative he was. He changes his skin to speak to what he considers to be his best chance at political success. So now, instead of the moderate he modeled himself as during his governor’s races, he’s offering himself as a fiscal and social conservative, denouncing the evils of liberalism, while completely ignoring the fact that for at least six years of his run as governor, he clearly held positions and beliefs that were at odds with the rest of his party (remember his stand on energy conservation and renewable fuels?).
Politics these days, especially if you’re a conservative, seems to involve less representation, and more lip service to play to your base. And I’m a little surprised that T-Paw is reducing himself to this level. And because that’s what he’s willing to do to get into office, we should all be afraid of what he’d do once he actually gets there.
See you tomorrow.