RUSH: We welcome for the first time to the EIB Network Republican presidential candidate former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, who announced just today that you’re in, you’re going for it. Welcome to the program, Governor.
PAWLENTY: Great to be with you, Rush. Yeah, we’re in Des Moines and we made that announcement just about an hour on and so we’re locked and loaded and heading forward.
RUSH: Let me ask you as just a general set-the-table question. You obviously want to be president because there are things you want to accomplish, and you want to see the country accomplish. You gaze out across the country, what do you see? What’s the American situation today? What about it needs to be improved or changed?
PAWLENTY: Well, a few things, Rush. You know, as I travel the country there’s a sense amongst people that the America that we knew and love is perhaps slipping away and that the future may not be as bright; and so people describe that in different ways, but it comes back to one thing: The government is getting so heavy, so expensive, so discouraging, so slow that it’s suffocating the American spirit — and if you believe this country isn’t about government but it’s about people and individual responsibility and industriousness and hard work and faith and family and the like, government’s crowding that out, and people are discouraged. And so we’ve gotta get the government under control, back into its limited original role and get the deficit and the debt fixed and get this economy growing. Those are the big issues facing the country — and, of course, we gotta be secure and focus on national defense and security as well.
RUSH: Okay, now, I’m not trying to stir anything up here — seriously — but I do have a 2006 quote of yours and I want to run by you and in advance to preface the quote. Within the Republican Party and the conservative wing of the Republican Party, there are many disagreements about how the Democrats should be fought and how they should be opposed, and one of the prevailing points of view in inside-the-Beltway conservatism is that big government is not all that bad with the right president. There are people that believe in an active, powerful executive — an engaging government that’s big enough to handle the requests and demands of the people. These conservatives are saying, “The American people have spoken. They do want government benefits. They do want this.” In 2006, if I have it right, you said, ‘The era of small government’s over,” that the government has to be “more proactive, more aggressive,” which is somewhat similar to what I’ve been hearing not recently, within the past year from the inside-the-Beltway Republicans. What you just said seems to be in conflict with that, though.
PAWLENTY: Well, actually I’m glad you brought that up, Rush, because it gives me a chance to clarify. The other side has pushed that falsely for a number of years. What happened is in the Minnesota Star Tribune — not exactly a conservative publication — I made reference to an article that David Brooks wrote which was entitled, “The Eera of Small Government is Over.” I didn’t say those words myself; I was referencing his article.
RUSH: He is one of the guys I was talking about. You’re right.
PAWLENTY: Yeah, and so the next day — the very next day — the Star Tribune, after a big battle, printed a clarification or a correction in their correction page. Of course, the main article was on page one and the correction was buried in some footnote in page three, but that incorrect quote has haunted me — and I’m glad I had a chance in this big national forum on your great show to clarify, because if you go to the next day’s newspaper you’ll see the clarification in the Star Tribune. But beyond that, look, I governed for eight years and people don’t care about words or failed amendments in Congress; they care about what you got done. There’s only four governors in the country that got an A grade from the tough-grading libertarian Cato Institute. I’m one of them and the other three aren’t for running for president. They’re from Louisiana, South Carolina, and West Virginia. So I’ll put my record up against anybody. It’s not perfect. Like everybody, I got a few things I did I wish I didn’t; but the fact is, I’m a conservative in a blue state and I got the record to back it up.
RUSH: That’s your proudest achievement as governor? I mean, you ran a liberal state; you’re a Republican. You had to do certain things to get elected there. What are you most proud of?
PAWLENTY: Well, I’m proud of the fact that I brought Minnesota spending down from over 40 year, two-year average to 21%, down to barely zero — and then, for the first time in the state’s history, actually cut state spending in real terms. So if I had to pick one thing: It was getting Minnesota, a very liberal place, to come to terms with its excesses. It wasn’t easy, Rush. I had a government shutdown, first in 150 years. I set a record for vetoes in my state. I used executive power to un-allot more money out of my budget in my eight years of the state’s budget than 142 years of governors preceding me. So I drew lines in the sand, I had big battles, and I won most of them, and we put Minnesota on a more conservative path.
RUSH: What kind of relationship did you have with public employees, the unions?
PAWLENTY: Well, I took ’em on before it was popular. You know, we shut down the whole transit system, for example, for 44 days. I think it was the third or fourth … longest transit strike in the history of the country because the bus drivers, the government bus drivers wanted to work 15 years, and then have the government pay for their health insurance for the rest of their life. Of course it was financially out of control and I said. “We’re not doing that anymore.” So I had all the protests, the signs out my window. I had one person holding a sign that said, “Pawlenty is a weapon of mass transit destruction,” but we won. They came back on Day 45; we got that benefit shut off. I also reformed public employee pensions in my state and salaries before it was popular and cool to do it. I did it five years ago.
RUSH: I know you’re not in the statehouse any longer, but there’s an issue roiling the state right now and that’s the Vikings and their new stadium and how much of it should be publicly financed. The usual threats are being made: If the public doesn’t chip in and build a new stadium the Vikings are gone. They’ll move to LA or someplace.
PAWLENTY: The rumor is you’re gonna buy ’em and move ’em. Is that true?
RUSH: (laughing) Well, uh, this interview is about you. (laughing)
RUSH: I’ll keep it focused on you.
PAWLENTY: (laughing) All right.
RUSH: What’s the…? Are you apprised? What’s the status of that in Minnesota?
PAWLENTY: Well, the legislature ends today and they didn’t pass that bill. There’s probably gonna be a special session, so it will probably come back up. But the public doesn’t support it. Of course people appreciate the Vikings as an asset in Minnesota, but when I was governor, we didn’t get that done for a reason because they wanted a bunch of money from the state. We did build a baseball stadium in Minnesota for the Twins, but there was no state money involved in that. The Twins and a local county paid for that. We didn’t put any state dollars into that.
“You’ve got to keep telling the truth. The American people are fed up. They are not going to put up with it. Too many people are going to tune out. The situation in this country is so dire, the current administration is simply destroying — whether by accident or by design, they are destroying — the engine of job creation,” and my point is I run into this a lot. People genuinely, Governor, believe that. It’s not just opposition rhetoric to a sitting president. There are people who are genuinely afraid of what the future holds for their kids and grandkids in terms of something that used to be traditionally American — and that was an opportunity for prosperity. People think it’s being whittled away, and by the time their kids and grandkids reach the age they might have a chance at it, the chances are gonna be slimmer and slimmer — and they’re scared. They’re not just opposed to the Democrats and Obama; they’re really scared. Do you get that when you talk to people?
PAWLENTY: Absolutely — and, you know, that’s why I started that at the top of this interview. The American spirit is being crushed and discouraged by this president and the direction he’s taking this country — and when the government pushes things into things that used to be the province of families or faith — or places of worship more broadly — or community or neighborhood or charity or private markets or entrepreneurial activity, and they shove us aside, or worse yet, say, “We’ll take it over,” or they make it more expensive or they slow it down or they make it more difficult, they not only grow their budget — theynot only grow their footprint — but they do something else. They say to that American spirit, basically, “No, thank you,” and people are worried because the country is slipping away in that regard, and I think this is the last best chance we’re gonna have. Now, you said something else called “telling the truth.” I just gave a speech an hour ago here in Des Moines, Iowa, that was entitled, “Time for the Truth,” and we took on directly, Rush, what it’s gonna really take to solve the debt and the deficit; and we called out for the phasing out of ethanol subsidies. I’m coming down to Florida tonight to give a speech tomorrow about really reforming Social Security and —
RUSH: Wait a minute! Wait a minute. You, in Iowa, called for the end to ethanol subsidies?
PAWLENTY: Yes, I did.
RUSH: What was the reaction you got to that?
PAWLENTY: Nobody applauded at this particular moment in the speech, but I gotta tell you: It has to be done, and if we’re not willing to tell the truth and we’re not willing to actually do it, then we’re all wasting our time and I’m gonna go down there and play golf with you because we’re just a debating society and wasting our time. Because this is it. It’s gonna be mathematically irretrievable to get this thing back after this next election. So I’m swinging for the fences, not because I wanted to get elected but because we’re gonna save this country and we’re gonna do it bit telling the truth, and the American people —
RUSH: Now —
PAWLENTY: Go ahead.
RUSH: That’s politically gutsy because the theory is in a campaign for the nomination, you gotta get the base. I mean, you’ve gotta say what it takes to get elected, and certainly questioning ethanol subsidies in Iowa is not the way to do that. The theory is, “Say what they want to hear in Iowa, say what they want to hear in New Hampshire, get the nomination, and then go for that.” What’s your…?
PAWLENTY: Well, I — I —
RUSH: This is your truth agenda, I guess?
PAWLENTY: Yeah, and I also, Rush, when I was in Minnesota at governor, also a bigrenewable fuels state, I cut ethanol subsidies there when we had financial difficulties. So this isn’t something new for me, but in my heart and in my gut this is the deal: We have to tell the truth and campaign like we’re gonna govern, and govern like we campaign, and there is no way we can dupe the American people with all this lofty rhetoric and fluffy speeches and think that’s gonna get the trick done. We need leadership. I’m coming down ot —
RUSH: We are —
PAWLENTY: — Florida tomorrow to talk to seniors about Social Security. I’m going to New York to tell them the bailouts and the special deals are over and we’re gonna —
PAWLENTY: — continue down that road.
RUSH: Where are you gonna be in Florida?
PAWLENTY: We’re gonna be in Miami, I think, for a town hall meeting — a Facebook town hall meeting — and the topic’s gonna be Social Security reform.
RUSH: Well, if you get up here by 3:30 we can probably 12 holes in. (laughing)
PAWLENTY: I said if I can’t get this done then I’m gonna waste my time and go play golf.
RUSH: We’ll take a break. We’re talking to presidential candidate, Republican candidate Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota. We’ll be back right after this.
RUSH: Okay, we’re back with former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who is in Des Moines today, one hour ago announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination. I don’t know if you know this today since you’re out of town, your hometown paper, the St. Paul Pioneer Press has the story of your announcement on the obituary page, which leads me to a question I have for you. The headline is: “Pawlenty Offers ‘Tell the Truth’ Theme for Race,” and right next to it is today’s obituaries.
RUSH: It is funny, but I gotta tell you something. Mitch Daniels, he pulled out, and we all know why. His wife doesn’t want what Sarah Palin got. She doesn’t want any part of it. You and I both know that whatever Democrat seeks to run, the media is not gonna question their authenticity or their legitimacy, but you will be. You’re gonna be called every cliched conservative name in the book: racist, sexist, bigot homophobe, all of these things. How are you going to deal with that?
PAWLENTY: Well, the same way I dealt with it in Minnesota, Rush. That’s the land of McCarthy, Mondale, Humphrey, Wellstone, Ventura and now US Senator Al Franken, and I got pummeled. It’s a deeply blue and probably the most liberal state in the country, and that’s why you gotta have the fortitude for this job. I’m not Pollyannish about what’s coming and all the hits we’re gonna have to take, but Mary and I, my wife Mary, you know, we’re very wide-eyed about this but we believe in this cause, and I think we’re steeled and prepared for what’s coming, and I got a lot of good practice getting the you-know-what beat out of me in Minnesota. if we can do this there, we can do it anywhere.
RUSH: What about money? Mitt says he’s gonna be able to put his hands on a billion dollars. Obama’s throwing that figure around. Do you believe that’s what it’s gonna cost to win the presidency this year?
PAWLENTY: Well, the president’s backed off that number somewhat, but on the Republican side in the early days, you know, Mitt will be, my friend Mitt will be the unquestioned money champion. I mean he’s just got the national network and all of that —
RUSH: Is Mitt really your friend or do you guys just say that stuff?
PAWLENTY: No, he’s my friend. I know him, we served together and, you know, we don’t agree on everything, but he’s a good guy. He is my friend. I try to take Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment seriously. But, look, we’re not gonna be the Mercedes campaign or the BMW campaign when it comes to fundraising but we’re gonna have a good steady Buick and we’re gonna have enough to be competitive and win in these early states and whoever the Republican candidate eventually is it’s gonna be me, I think is gonna be able to match Obama, but early on, Mitt will be the unquestioned money champion, there’s no question about that.
RUSH: You feel qualified to debate Obama on foreign policy?
PAWLENTY: Yeah, I think I’m gonna have, with the possible exception of Jon Huntsman, the most international experience of the field, mostly because they’re all governors, but I’ve been to Iraq five times. I’ve been to Afghanistan three times. I’ve been all over the Middle East, including Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, meeting with world leaders. I’ve been to Bosnia, Kosovo. I’ve been all over Europe, led trade missions to South America, Asia, India, so I’ve got a lot of international experience for a governor, and I feel strongly that Obama’s headed in a very dangerous direction. I’ve spoken very forcefully about that. I should say, Rush, on the money thing and the campaign more broadly and the Facebook town hall from Miami tomorrow, I hope people will check out our website at TimPawlenty.com. That will give them all the information they need about our campaign.
RUSH: Okay. You’ve been to China, too, haven’t you?
PAWLENTY: Several times, yeah. Yes, I have.
RUSH: The question — I actually misphrased it. I know you’re qualified. You have the guts, too. One of the things that frustrates Republicans is that there seems to be this reluctance on the part of everybody in this party to take President Obama on. Frankly, the reason Donald Trump excited people is because he took it straight to Obama. Netanyahu on Friday, there’s some negative blowback which you can expect, but people were cheering that because Republican voters in this country for two and a half years have watched their party act afraid of President Obama, afraid of the media, afraid of what people are going to say about them. You’re debating Obama. You’re gonna have the ability to say, “Mr. President, you’re just flat-out wrong about the way you’ve gone about creating jobs,” if you think he’s wrong. Are you gonna be able to say that to his face?
PAWLENTY: Of course, Rush. If you look at my comments on foreign policy, as an example, we blasted him on the 1967 boundary comments. I’ve been pounding on him relentlessly on foreign policy, on Libya, on the Middle East, and I think I’ve been the first and hardest hitting opponent of his of anybody in the field. And those — you know, that’s all on the website again, too, and other places. So there’s no hesitancy on that front, and as I get better known and more visibility those will be more widely distributed, obviously, but don’t mistake any sort of, you know, unfamiliarity with my record with a hesitancy to attack Obama. We do that all the time. We do it hard. And I’m an old hockey player, you know, I still play some hockey. I know exactly what it takes to go dig the puck out of the corner, take some elbows, give some elbows, and we’ll make sure that that gets done. But don’t confuse people and your listeners with being loud with being strong, either. I mean there’s a lot of people in bars who shoot their mouth off and usually they’re the ones who can’t back it up. You look at my record, I back it up.
RUSH: I want to play for you one 30-second sound bite from your video that you released on TimPawlenty.com. This is a segment of the video where you talk about the American dream, and you can expand on this when it’s over.
PAWLENTY (VIDEO): I know the American dream ’cause I lived it. And I know for it to be there for the next generation we’re gonna have to do more than give fancy speeches. We’ve had three years of that and it’s not working. Join me tomorrow and around the country in the days and weeks ahead. You won’t hear empty promises. You’ll hear solutions. Together we’ll change our country. And this time, it will be for the better.
RUSH: People really want that. They really want somebody to do that, Governor.
PAWLENTY: Well, Rush, it starts with making sure you understand what made America great. You know, the way forward isn’t complex. It’s not some big mystery. All we gotta do is go back to the things that made the country great. The Founders gave us the road map, they put it in the Founding Documents, you can look back at the chapters, the success of this country, and see what made us great. We just gotta bring those forward and remind each other of what they are and apply ’em to the challenges of our time. And for the last group that’s gonna decide the election we’ve gotta have a candidate who can connect at a heart and gut level. You know, I got great white papers on Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank and health care reform and we’ll have those online, but you also got a make a heart and gut connection.
I grew up in a meatpacking town. My mom died when I was young. My dad was a truck driver. He lost his job not too long after my mom died for a while and he got promoted later to dispatcher. My brothers and sisters couldn’t go to college, not because they didn’t have the capability, they just didn’t have the opportunity. And I’ve lived the American dream, and through hard work and a lot of other help and a loving family and many other things, but when you share that story, I know when people say, “Hey, you Republicans, you don’t know what it’s like not to be able to afford gas in your car or pay your health care or worry about college costs or how you’re even gonna pay the mortgage,” I said, “Yeah, I can, because I’ve walked in your shoes,” and that gives me the chance then to convince them why being a conservative, why joining our team is better, ’cause they just don’t stiff arm us right out of the gate.
RUSH: Governor, thank you. You’re good. You closed with 15 seconds left in the segment and you didn’t know it. Your instincts are right on the money. Thanks so much for your time. Great to talk to you, and best of luck in your quest.
PAWLENTY: Thanks for the opportunity, Rush. I appreciate it and hope people check out TimPawlenty.com.
RUSH: TimPawlenty.com. Governor Tim Pawlenty, our guest, and we will continue after this.
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