In a solo interview on NBC's Meet the Press Sunday morning, Gov. Tim Pawlenty held his own but avoided some direct answers to questions. Both results probably help the governor.
Host David Gregory asked whether he "expect(s) people to take you seriously" when he used Elin Woods' window smash as a rallying cry.
"I think people still enjoy a sense of humor," Pawlenty responded.
The governor described the economic stimulus package as "incoherent" and says it didn't work.
GREGORY: What about 12,000 jobs created in your state?
GOV. PAWLENTY: They are mostly government jobs.
GREGORY: You didn't need those?
GOV. PAWLENTY: We appreciate every job, but the idea that government grow it is economy when all they do is extract money from taxpayers, put it back on a political agenda is not growth. That's transferring money.
Pawlenty also said he supports "Don't ask, Don't tell," acknowledged that the climate is changing but ducked (as he has before) declaring whether the change is man-made and gave his standard "I don't know what I'm going" next answer to a 2012 question.
One more note: the governor, who has joked that he sometimes comes close to sporting a mullet, seemed to have a new, fancy haircut.
Here's the rush transcript, via TVEyes. What springs out at you as you read it?:
DAVID GREGORY: and we're back. he has spent the past seven years as minnesota's governor introducing a long list of conservative initiatives. many of those including a constitutional amendment to cap spending and reinstate the death penalty didn't come to fruition. he was on the vice presidential short list for john mccain. he made what some consider his national debut of sorts at this peek's cpac convention here in washington.
GOV. TIM PAWLENTY (Video Clip): i have a message for president obama. my message is this -- mr. president, no more apology tours and no more giving miranda rights to terrorists in our country. [ applause ]
GREGORY: he joins us now. welcome, governor tim pawlenty to ""meet the press.""
GOV. PAWLENTY: good to be with you, david.
GREGORY: at the gathering of conservatives in washington, vice president cheney said he considers president obama a one-term president. do you agree?
GOV. PAWLENTY: i sure hope so. you never know. the statistics is when you have a president who was elected after the other party was in power they tend to get re-elected but the forces at work favor the republicans and conservatives very obviously.
GREGORY: do you think the republicans stand to gain the majority again in congress this fall?
GOV. PAWLENTY: it looks good. we don't want to be projecting ahead and take things for granted but the country is saying through massachusetts and all the elections since the president has been in office, this isn't what we bargained for. this is a destination we weren't planning on going. it's overreach by the federal government and the american people are saying in massachusetts and aa cross the country, enough. i think the republicans will do well in 2010, but anyone who says they can say with certainty what will happen in 2012, people don't know that far ahead.
GREGORY: you have been critical of the republican party and gave an interview to esquire magazine. the republicans had their shot not long ago to address the need and concerns of everyday americans and they blew it. over the time that they were there and had the leadership opportunity, they blew it. we got fired for a reason. so what makes you think the republican party has turned itself around?
GOV. PAWLENTY: as i travel the country, i talk to republicans. i talk to conservatives. everybody acknowledges we have learned our lesson. if given the opportunity to lead again, i think everyone is committed to learning from those lessons and doing it right. the last eight years when republicans were in charge, the spending wasn't where it should have been. we had a number of opportunities to change it and it didn't happen. you look at the real problems of the country, these are serious times with serious challenges. there is a republican or conservative approach to fixing the health care system. it's needed. there is a conservative and republican message on growing the economy and it's needed and down the list. we need to be not just the party saying we hope president obama continues to kick it in the dugout. that's not a strategy, a plan, a vision for the future. we also have to offer ideas and alternatives to solve and address these needs.
GREGORY: you have talked about running for president. when will you make a decision?
GOV. PAWLENTY: i don't know what i'm going to do of after i'm done being governor. i will probably decide in early 2011.
GREGORY: what will go into that? under what circumstances would you decide not to run?
GOV. PAWLENTY: i haven't decided to or not, david. but i will use 2010 to help the cause, try to help candidates with similar views and values as i do. of i have started a pac and i'm traveling, speaking to these issues, but as to the future, we'll see what it holds.
GREGORY: you have said people don't know you and they are beginning to know your views and you are making appearances to become better known. you spoke at the gathering of conservatives and one of the things you said raised eyebrows. you were comparing the federal government's performance to tiger woods and his troubles on the very day he had a press conference. this is what you had to say.
GOV. PAWLENTY (Video Clip): now, i think we can learn a lot from that situation. not from tiger, but from his wife. so she said, i have had enough. she said, no more. i think we should take a page out of her playbook and take a 9 iron and smash the window out of big government in this country. [ applause ] we've had enough.
GREGORY: with that kind of rallying cry do you expect people to take you seriously?
GOV. PAWLENTY: well, i think people still enjoy a sense of humor and if we have got ton the point where you can't make a joke, we're in trouble. we have serious problems and the country is saying, this isn't a matter of doing business as usually. they are on the verge of a great movement rising up in this country saying, this is not a matter of being right or left. it's a matter of math. the country is in a position where we are close to meeting our obligations. we are borrowing money from china and when they own our debt they own parts of us in other ways as peggy noonan wrote this morning.
GREGORY: let's talk about ways you would lead the country. in economic recovery, do you think the worst of the crisis is over?
GOV. PAWLENTY: i think we'll see a stabilization of the economy for a while. but i worry in 2011 and 2012 the private economy doesn't pick up, you will see the possibility of this double-dipping. i don't guarantee or assure that the worst is over. there is still a possibility of a double dip.
GREGORY: what about the stimulus program? do you think it worked?
GOV. PAWLENTY: well, the definition of the stimulus program is we'll take a dollar from you in the private sector, bring it to government, spin it around, take 5% to 20% for overhead and redeploy it in the economy and call it growth. economists call it transfer effects. we need to grow the private economy. the stimulus bill was outsourced to the united states congress. it came back in an incoherent fashion. we could have gotten more bang for the buck for less money if they would have focused on things that would target growing small businesses and jobs. for example, cutting the payroll tax. it was largely a waste of money that's sustaining government at a time we need to shrink government.
GREGORY: do you think it worked?
GOV. PAWLENTY: as measured by the administration's own goals and objectives, no.
GREGORY: what about 12,000 jobs created in your state?
GOV. PAWLENTY: they are mostly government jobs.
GREGORY: you didn't need those?
GOV. PAWLENTY: we appreciate every job, but the idea that government grow it is economy when all they do is extract money from taxpayers, put it back on a political agenda is not growth. that's transferring money.
GREGORY: would the economy have been in worse shape without the stimulus?
GOV. PAWLENTY: well, they said if they didn't pass the stimulus bill unemployment could go as high as 8%. it went to 10%. they promised four million jobs created or saved. you know the math is fuzzy. everybody agrees. they have failed on that objective as well. the economy and government is going to need to focus on growing the private sector. what the stimulus bill mostly did is sustain government.
GREGORY: but you don't disagree with economists including an economist who advised the mccain campaign which you vouched for and could have been on the ticket of, indeed, there is somewhere around two million jobs that have been created by the stimulus. it could have been worse without it.
GOV. PAWLENTY: david, i don't disagree that we need to stimulate and grow the economy, but the way to do it is take the tax code, extend bush tax cuts, cut the payroll tax, encourage growth in the economy by reducing capital gains burdens. don't put more burden on the economy like this grotesque health care bill. don't put on cap and trade legislation. the stimulus bill as a concept, stimulating the economy is a good idea, but they did it the wrong way. they should have stimulated private sector growth.
GREGORY: we have a huge deficit, $1.4 trillion. you have talked about spending caps. as you talk about dealing with a deficit let's look at your record in minnesota balancing the budget. this is what your hometown paper said in minneapolis about your efforts to deal with the budget. governor pawlenty's budget is bad news for low income minnesota yans who rely on state health care and mayors struggling to balance the budget but good news for corporations paying high taxes. is that your vision for america's social service cuts but lower taxes on business?
GOV. PAWLENTY: my vision for america is people have jobs. the way you create jobs is to get businesses who provide the jobs to make it more likely that they are going to start a business, grow a business, buy equipment, build buildings, kugt research, commercialize the results and grow jobs. hopefully in my state and across the country. we need to do the things that will make minnesota and the whole country more pro-job and more competitive.
GREGORY: what's the priority -- jobs or deficit reduction?
GOV. PAWLENTY: they go hand in hand. if you grow the economy and grow revenues it helps with the deficit in my state and federally. it won't solve it.
GREGORY: what would you do today to bring the deficit under control?
GOV. PAWLENTY: i would cut a lot of things, but we have to come to grips and tell the truth with government spending, particularly with entitlement programs but nondefense spending will have to be reduced. david, in minnesota --
GREGORY: wait a minute. the big drivers are the entitlements. would you cut benefits, medicare, raise the age for social security or cut benefits for social security?
GOV. PAWLENTY: here's the math. the federal government takes in $2.2 trillion a year in revenues, all sources for all purposes. their total unfunded liabilities including entitlements, pensions, the whole bill is $65 trillion. there is no way to make the math work. the truth of the matter is we'll have to reform entitlement programs. i have done it in minnesota with the bus drivers and the twin cities. they had post retiree benefits and the premise is this, if we made a promise to you, we'll keep it. we won't cut off pensions but for people new to the system coming on where we can give them notice and change expectations, the system is going to change. and we did it.
GREGORY: let me ask you about a few issues. is america winning the war on terror?
GOV. PAWLENTY: great progress has been made. if you look at the progress just in afghanistan in the last month or so, at what's happened in iraq since the surge, great progress has been made. i don't think we are at the point where we can see we have won, but we are headed in the right direction. we're making progress.
GREGORY: is climate change real?
GOV. PAWLENTY: the climate is obviously changing, david. the more interesting question is how much of it is man-made and how much is as a result of natural causes and patterns? of course we have seen data manipulation and controversy or at least debate within the scientific community.
GREGORY: three years ago you said anyone who questions it is not right.
GOV. PAWLENTY: there is no question the climate is changing. the more interesting question is how much is man-made versus natural causes and the way you address it is we should all be in favor of reducing pollution. we need to do it in ways that don't burden the economy. cap and trade, i think, would be a disaster in that regard. the real breakthrough is transformative technologies, moving forward with nuclear, with technologies that will give us batteries to move forward with fuel cell technology or hybrid technology for battery-powered cars. we also need to have is an appreciation for clean coal.
GREGORY: what about don't ask don't tell? should it be repealed?
GOV. PAWLENTY: i support don't ask don't tell. i saw the general's comments in response to that and anecdotally there is a great portion of the military community that is concerned about it. they believe don't ask don't tell worked. if it's not broke don't fix it -- if it's not in need of fixing, you don't need to repair it. i'd leave it alone.
GREGORY: what about health care reform? do you think it's necessary? what would be your specific proposal?
GOV. PAWLENTY: well, health care reform is a great issue for this country. it's -- the system we have is currently broken. we need to fix it. but the answer isn't to have the federal government take it over. so there is a great opportunity for our country to do this in a way with consumers in charge and markets in charge. the premise in minnesota is this -- people spend money differently when some of it is their money. we need to pay for performance, not volumes of procedures. we need medical malpractice reform. we need limitations on pre-existing conditions. we need portability, but we don't need the federal government to take over this much of our economy and have them run our health care system. they will goof it up like they do almost everything else they take over.
GREGORY: finally, i heard your remarks this week and something caught my attention. you are an evangelical christian and you said what comes first for you is that god is in charge. describe your relationship with god.
GOV. PAWLENTY: well, the founders of this nation embraced the same perspective. they said, we are endowed by our creator. they didn't say by washington, d.c. or the local or state government. i believe there is a divine power. i believe there is a god and that god is in charge. if it's good enough for the founding fathers of this country, it's good enough for me.
GREGORY: tim pawlenty, thank you very much.
GOV. PAWLENTY: thank you.