Political Animal


June 28, 2011 2:15 PM Pawlenty tries his hand at foreign policy

By Steve Benen

After President Obama’s speech last week on U.S. drawdown in Afghanistan, Republican presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty was one of the first figures to go on the attack. The problem, as Joe Klein explained, was that Pawlenty’s assessment was “utterly absurd.” Klein added, “[I]t’s fine to disagree with the decision Obama has made…. But to have any credibility at all, you have to show some indication that you understand the decision he has made.”

Pawlenty had a chance to help bolster his faltering credibility on foreign policy today, but I’m not sure he did himself any favors.

In a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, Mr. Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, offered himself as the foreign policy hawk in the Republican race, swiping at his rivals for what he said were their “isolationist sentiments” in the face of the president’s failures.

“America already has one political party devoted to decline, retrenchment and withdrawal; it does not need a second one,” Mr. Pawlenty said, according to an advance copy of the speech provided by his campaign.

Reading the prepared text, most of this seems pretty boilerplate. Pawlenty, who assumes he has foreign policy experience because Minnesota borders Canada, loves Israel, hates Obama, hates Iran, and cares about “the freedom deficit.” The former governor apparently looks at his rivals, doesn’t see a Kristol/McCain/Graham-style candidate, and figures he might be able to fill the void — his speech was littered with tired, shallow neocon talking points.

But what I found odd about the speech was Pawlenty’s focus. The bulk of the address — billed as the candidate’s “major foreign policy speech” — was focused on the Middle East, but it only made one passing reference to Iraq. Perhaps more important, Pawlenty also only made one passing reference to the war in Afghanistan.

Last week, Pawlenty was eager to slam U.S. policy in Afghanistan, but given a chance to speak about foreign policy and national security in depth, at the Council on Foreign Relations no less, the former governor took a pass.

What kind of presidential candidate gives a big speech on foreign policy and the future of the Middle East but forgets to talk about two ongoing wars? I guess the kind of candidate who confuses Iran and Iraq.

It makes sense that Pawlenty would want to try to pass the “Commander in Chief Test.” Unfortunately for him, he appears to have a long way to go.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • c u n d gulag on June 28, 2011 2:22 PM:

    Looks like "Pandering" Pawlenty is desperate for attention.

    Uhm, listen there, Pawlenty "Stupid," you might want to consider getting a chin before you stick your chin out like a tough guy.

    You look like the kind of kid even his friend used to mug for his lunch money.

  • Danp on June 28, 2011 2:22 PM:

    but it only made one passing reference to Iraq.

    Are you sure it's not his accent? He pronounces Iraq more like AYNRAND.

  • Anonymous on June 28, 2011 2:28 PM:

    So of course, the message is . . . invade Canada for its freedom deficit in mandating individual participation in its health care system! Now is not the time for retrenchment in imposing . . . oops, I mean, sharing our values abroad!

  • Roger the Cabin Boy on June 28, 2011 2:41 PM:

    Four words that will never appear together:

    "Republican presidential nominee Pawlenty"

    He's not a stupid as "Frothy" Santorum but that's damning with faint praise, isn't it?

  • Roger the Cabin Boy on June 28, 2011 2:51 PM:

    So of course, the message is . . . invade Canada for its freedom deficit in mandating individual participation in its health care system!

    Blame Canada!

  • hell's littlest angel on June 28, 2011 3:07 PM:

    I think it is very kind of Steve to pretend to take Pawlenty seriously. Tim is going to have some really hurt feelings as he staggers down the road ahead.

  • T2 on June 28, 2011 3:17 PM:

    The recent Iowa polls, and national polls, show Timid Tim at or near the bottom with Sanitarium, Huntsman and several other losers. Those guys are all done. Right now the GOP has three choices...one a Mormon guy they don't like, and two crazy people (Bachmann and Perry). That's the field folks, and in the interest of my country, I hope somehow Mitt wins the nomination. I don't think he will. That bodes evil. The only scenario I see giving Mitt the nomination is if Perry doesn't run, leaving the choice either Mitt or Bachmann. I think Perry knows this too.

  • Mr. Serf Man on June 28, 2011 3:49 PM:

    You just Know he got picked last for the team and suffered inumerable wedgies in high school

  • Roger the Cabin Boy on June 28, 2011 4:07 PM:

    Yeah, but I'd bet he was also a cowardly little backstabbing shit who talked about you behind your back but wouldn't say it to your face.

    Oh wait, he still is!

  • AndThenThere'sThat on June 28, 2011 6:57 PM:

    swiping at his rivals for what he said were their "isolationist sentiments"...

    If only we had kept our "isolationist sentiments" instead of arming and equipping half of the middle east these last 40 years in order to play all sides against one another. Oil is so yummy.