Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty (R), who is mulling a 2012 presidential bid, appeared on CNN’s Parker-Spitzer last night and said he had the “fortitude” to get things done in Washington. Yet that purported fortitude was not on display when he was pressed to name how he’d address contentious spending issues.
“The country is going to have to look for a leader who’s going to have an uncommon amount of fortitude,” Pawlenty said. “Not just to flap their jaw out, not just to offer failed amendments, not just to give a speech, but to get it done.”
However, when host Eliot Spitzer asked him repeatedly to show that fortitude by outlining how he’d deal with ballooning defense spending, Pawlenty offered few specifics good for only slim savings. Pawlenty embraced a proposal by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to peg DOD spending increases to inflation and to eliminate ineffective weapons programs for an estimated savings of $93 billion over five years, and suggested trimming the size underused military bases.
Spitzer then asked Pawlenty if he’d go further and support calls from several conservatives, including Obama’s deficit panel co-chair Alan Simpson, who’ve said defense should shed $1 trillion over 10 years. Pawlenty said he would not.
On entitlement programs, Pawlenty again struck a tough-talking tone.
“You can’t say you’re going to solve these problems without looking the American people in the eye and saying we’re going to have to restructure and reform the entitlement programs with particular emphasis on cost containment and health care,” Pawlenty said.
He suggested giving states more control of Medicaid to “innovate” and “experiment,” and proposed means testing the cost of living adjustments (COLA) for social security.
Spitzer wasn’t buying it.
“I admire you for using the word means testing. That’s a tough word to use,” Spitzer said. “But if you only do it to the COLA, you’re not going to save any real money on social security.”
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