Tim Pawlenty and the Truth

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 23 2011 12:41 PM

Tim Pawlenty and the Truth

Tim Pawlenty's announcement speech is titled "A Time for Truth." In the prepared text, Pawlenty uses the word "truth" 16 times.

- Barack Obama "won't even tell us the truth about what it's really going to take to get out of the mess we're in," whereas Pawlenty is "going to tell you the truth. The truth is, Washington's broken."

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.

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- Pawlenty will head to Florida to tell seniors "the truth" -- we need to reform entitlements. (The truthy piece of this is "means-testing" Social Security, not voucherizing Medicare.)

- Pawlenty will oppose ethanol subsidies. He lays this on particularly thick:

Conventional wisdom says you can't talk about ethanol in Iowa or Social Security in Florida or financial reform on Wall Street. But someone has to say it. Someone has to finally stand up and level with the American people.  Someone has to lead.

This is actually standard stuff for an announcement speech. Barack Obama hit on similar themes four years ago, when he announced:

What's stopped us from meeting these challenges is not the absence of sound policies and sensible plans. What's stopped us is the failure of leadership, the smallness of our politics - the ease with which we're distracted by the petty and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our preference for scoring cheap political points instead of rolling up our sleeves and building a working consensus to tackle big problems.

For the last six years we've been told that our mounting debts don't matter, we've been told that the anxiety Americans feel about rising health care costs and stagnant wages are an illusion, we've been told that climate change is a hoax, and that tough talk and an ill-conceived war can replace diplomacy, and strategy, and foresight. And when all else fails, when Katrina happens, or the death toll in Iraq mounts, we've been told that our crises are somebody else's fault. We're distracted from our real failures, and told to blame the other party, or gay people, or immigrants.

And here's Howard Dean, eight years ago.

We have slavishly spewed sound bites, copying each other whilesaying little. We raise millions of dollars and each year make lofty promises,while every year the struggles of ordinary Americans increase and fewerAmericans vote. Our politicians, many of them good people, have been paralyzedby their fear of losing office. Our leaders have developed a vocabulary whichhas become meaningless to the American people.

There is no greater example of this than a self-described conservativeRepublican president who creates the greatest deficits in history of America.

Both of those candidates, Obama and Dean, framed their campaigns as honest crusades against party establishments -- Obama's was a bit more particularly, and carefully, an answer to Clintonian compromise. Pawlenty has an easier task, especially in Iowa. He's the guy who has to be more believable than Mitt Romney. Not the hardest task.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.