On this 21st day of March Tim Pawlenty just announced in a video posted to Facebook that he is forming an exploratory committee for the 2012 presidential election. Pawlenty joins Buddy Roemer and Herman Cain in the list of officially announced GOP contenders. He reminds me of one of favorite classic movies to watch in March, The Quiet Man. Tim Pawlenty does not sound a loud trumpet. A louder trumpet gets sounded by another Minnesotan, Michelle Bachmann. After four years of all the hype, hysteria, and noise surrounding Obama maybe this country will be ready for a quiet man. I also recognize, unfortunately first impressions do matter.
The movie is about an Irish-American man going to his parent’s country to start a new quiet life. He is so quiet that the first impression he has on people is that he is just a coward. As the movie unfolds he gradually comes to realize the importance of showing courage, and this movie has one of the best fight scenes of any movie evah. My comparison of Tim Pawlenty to Trooper Sean Thornton is that a first impression about a quiet man is not always a true impression. I am not going to rule Tim Pawlenty out of becoming President because of his quiet demeanor. He has to win the good people in New Hampshire and in Iowa.
Kimberley Strassel wrote an excellent column in the Wall Street Journal, A Governor and His Veto Pen. Governor Tim Pawlenty played his liberal legislators like a snare drum in a budget brawl that occurred during his last year in office. Mr. Pawlenty deftly (and amusingly) outmaneuvered his Democratic opposition, not only saving his state from huge tax increases but clearing the way to cut government spending. Call it a refreshing break from the financial-crisis norm.
Like most states, Minnesota has been facing a huge budget shortfall — an estimated $4.6 billion over two years. These dire financial straits didn’t deter the DFL-controlled legislature (the DFL is Minnesota’s chapter of the Democratic Party), which got to work on big new spending bills. Included were not just the usual increases in appropriations but gems like $1.2 million in grants for TV and film producers and $200,000 for a youth environmental education program. Recession? What recession?
The legislature sent Mr. Pawlenty one large spending bill after another. The assumption was he’d veto them, be forced to call a special session, and then be negotiated into tax hikes.
Upon receiving the last spending bill, he announced that he would exercise the power of “unallotment,” which has been on the books since 1939 and which has been used four times. Under it, the governor is allowed to “unallot” (take away) any state spending for which there is no money to pay. Panicked, the DFL passed tax legislation to cover its blowout spending bills, 10 minutes before the session’s end. Too late. The governor said he’d veto the bill and would not be calling back the legislature to do any more mischief.
Mr. Pawlenty is now free to strip $2.7 billion from state spending to balance the budget. Tax hikes are dead. He tells me this will be one of the first times in modern Minnesota history that the state will reduce the size of government in real terms, not just slow its rate of growth. “The correlation in recent history has been between job growth and states that have reasonable government cost structures,” he says. These cuts, he says, will position Minnesota to take advantage of the recovery when it comes.
A red-faced DFL is lecturing the public to be angry at the governor — and the governor alone — for any cuts in government services. Pawlenty critics have accused the governor of grandstanding, readying for a possible presidential run.
And? Voters elsewhere might wish for a little more such show. Mr. Pawlenty’s hardball has earned him glowing praise from the state’s job creators, in particular small businesses, who are relieved to be spared additional tax burdens in today’s economy. The governor’s message — that it is simply “inappropriate” for state legislators to keep spending like lunatics and raise taxes in a recession — has resonated with cash-strapped voters.
The Minnesota episode is also a lesson that leadership inspires. At one point in the session, Mr. Pawlenty did receive a tax bill, which he vetoed. The DFL has an override majority in the Senate and is only three votes shy of that in the House. Yet minority Republicans stuck with their governor to uphold his veto.
Pilgrim counts coup and calls this a BIG WIN for conservatives. I also think the good folks in New Hampshire will respond favorably to this kind of gamesmanship.
Now winning over the good people of Iowa may be a different undertaking, and I refer to a piece Ben Smith wrote at Politico, Pawlenty relaxes by watching hockey fights. I believe the piece is written as a means of mocking Tim Pawlenty, but it might trigger a different reaction from many who have ever played a team sport.
Pawlenty has often used hockey metaphors during his tenure as governor. He says in the book that there are “unwritten rules and traditions at play in those fistfights on ice.”
Hockey fights “don’t just break out without warning.” Players know they’re not supposed to take unfair advantage, he insists, like if someone’s hurt or really tired. Most hockey teams have “enforcers” who are responsible for “payback.”
“So there’s an order beneath the chaos,” Pawlenty said. “I apply some of the unwritten rules of the ‘code’ in negotiations and dealings with political opponents … if you give your word, you’ve got to keep it … sometimes it’s up to you to enforce those agreements … You want to win, but you don’t want to destroy your opponent. And if you’re the one getting pummeled, you also don’t want to show your weakness, because if people see you being pushed around, they’re going to know you’re someone who can be pushed around, and it won’t stop.”
The last paragraph again reminds me so much the movie, The Quiet Man, and I think he will be able to win over the good folks of Iowa once they know this about him.
One final note I want to make about Tim Pawlenty is his speech at CPAC. He included something in his speech that none of the other speakers brought up. The other speakers all criticized the economic policies of Obama, but not one of them said boo about Obama’s foreign policy. Tim Pawlenty did criticize the garbled incoherent mixed signals that Obama and different cabinet members said about Egypt. In matters of foreign policy there should be only one clear and unambiguous message for the rest of the world to hear. He said if he were the President he would insist that no members of his cabinet would say any policy statement that was different from his statement. I like that.
I hope you watch that movie if you have never seen it, and I hope you give Tim Pawlenty an open mind. Just like trooper Sean Thornton, Tim Pawlenty may be a fighter too. Please watch the video below and discover a man who loves our nation and what it has stood for
Cross-posted at The Minority Report