Pawlenty and the Libertarians

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 25 2011 2:20 PM

Pawlenty and the Libertarians

Tim Pawlenty regularly got strong ratings from the Cato Institute, the libertarian think tank, which grades governors every year on how adroit they are when it comes to cutting government. It made sense for him to continue his campaign launch week with a speech there; a speech that hit the same notes as everything else on his tour, with added wonkishness. It was in the Q&A section of the event that Pawlenty learned the true joy of answering libertarians.*

Question one: Why the hell does the United States have more than 170 military bases? 

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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"I'm not one who's going to stand before you and say we need to cut the defense budget," said Pawlenty, who up to that point had been pounding the table about austerity. Get rid of the bases that sound like wastes of space and you risk American supremacy. "You'd see a massive realignment of the strategic relationship towards China and away from America in Asia," he said. "This is not where we're going to get six months, six years warning about the next conflict. I'm not for shrinking America's presence in the world. I'm for making sure America remains the world leader."

A more dangerous question was next: In the wake of NY-26, what did Pawlenty make of the Ryan plan? This elicited the safe, smart, tapioca answer that Pawlenty's been giving for weeks.

"In general," he said, "I think the direction of it is positive, but I'm going to have my own plan."

Issue, dodged. Pawlenty pointed into the crowd again.

"We'll take the guy in the purple tie," he said. "That's a Vikings color!"

Unfortunately, the wearer of Vikings colors worked for the Marijuana Policy Project, who asked Pawlenty how he could be taken seriously on health care since he had opposed "my group" on medical pot.

"What was it?" asked Pawlenty? "Marijuana? Yeah. Well... I stood with law enforcement issue on this issue... we just have a respectful difference on this issue."

End of audience questions.

*I should note that I was not at the event, having committed to some other interviews, but caught this on Cato's feed.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.