‘Meet the Press,’ Pawlenty chat at U

Gov. Tim Pawlenty sounded off on a number of controversial topics last Thursday in an interview with “Meet the Press” host David Gregory at the University of Minnesota.

Meet the Press host David Gregory, left, interviews Minnesota Govenor Tim Pawlenty, right, on Thursday at the University of Minnesota in the Ted Mann Concert Hall.

Jules Ameel

Meet the Press host David Gregory, left, interviews Minnesota Govenor Tim Pawlenty, right, on Thursday at the University of Minnesota in the Ted Mann Concert Hall.

Luke Feuerherm and Mukhtar Ibrahim

Gov. Tim Pawlenty sounded off on a number of controversial topics last Thursday in an interview with âÄúMeet the PressâÄù host David Gregory at the University of Minnesota. The focus was on PawlentyâÄôs views and his possible 2012 presidential bid. Pawlenty said he supports the Tea Party movement and said those involved are âÄúmostly folks who are average Americans who want the country and the government to return to American common sense.âÄù The interview in Ted Mann Concert Hall was the showâÄôs first stop on its âÄúAcross AmericaâÄù tour. Pawlenty also defended his recent decision not to apply for up to $175 million in federal Race to the Top education funding, saying he believes strongly in the program, but Minnesota would not have been competitive nationally unless the Legislature passed K-12 education reform. âÄúThey, in my view, bowed to the teacher unions âĦ and are more interested in hugging them than dealing with reforming education in real, effective ways in Minnesota,âÄù he said. âÄòMeet the PressâÄô The University was selected to start the âÄúAcross AmericaâÄù tour because of a personal recommendation made by former Minnesota U.S. Rep. Vin Weber and was organized by the Humphrey Institute for Public AffairsâÄô Center for the Study of Politics and Governance. âÄúItâÄôs wonderful for the University of Minnesota to be profiled on the premiere public affairs news show in the country,âÄù Larry Jacobs, the centerâÄôs director, said. âÄúWe were the first place selected and they said we set the bar high.âÄù The University was selected on three criteria, according to âÄúMeet the PressâÄù Executive Producer Betsy Fischer. For one, NBC had a strong Minnesota affiliate in KARE 11. Also, the program was looking for a university to host a public forum. The third criteria âÄî and most important âÄî was that Pawlenty was willing to make himself available. âÄúWe wanted someplace where we had an interesting political figure, and we had that in Tim Pawlenty,âÄù Fischer said. The University was selected because it is easy to work with, Jacobs said. âÄúFor them it was like make-believe,âÄù he said. âÄúThey came to town and everything was set up.âÄù The 40-minute interview was followed by a 20-minute question and answer segment when a dozen audience members asked Pawlenty about issues ranging from gay marriage to the state budget deficit. âÄúGov. Pawlenty did quite well,âÄù Jacobs said. âÄúIt was hard not to be impressed.âÄù Immigration The governor voiced support for ArizonaâÄôs new immigration law, which allows police to check the immigration status of those they suspect have entered the country illegally. However, he said media coverage has mischaracterized the new law. Pawlenty denied that the law is an invitation to commit unlawful racial profiling. Health care reform When asked if he would repeal the new federal health care reform, Pawlenty said he would. âÄúI donâÄôt like âÄòObamacare,âÄô âÄù he said, calling the reform âÄúone of the most misguided pieces of legislation in the modern history of the country.âÄù Pawlenty said he was concerned over the health care law, which he said reflects 1940s thinking that comes from a one-size-fits-all bureaucracy in Washington, D.C. He said the system should âÄúlook more like an iPhone.âÄù He claimed the law will be a failure if the intention was to reduce health care spending. âÄúAll they did is expand access to a broken system,âÄù he said. Oil spill and AIG Some of the conversation focused on the federal governmentâÄôs handling of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which Pawlenty criticized. He said itâÄôs too early to place blame, adding that âÄúwe need to hold this administration and BP accountable. But as we do that, we need to make sure we have good information and good facts.âÄù The crisis is likely to reveal shortfalls in the current administrationâÄôs reaction, he said. âÄúWhy did they rely just on BP early on to tell us what the volume of the leak was?âÄù Pawlenty asked. âÄúWhy didnâÄôt we independently verify that using government sources?âÄù He said he is glad that President Barack Obama is âÄúassuming responsibility and accountability,âÄù though the government should have reacted more quickly. Obama promised Tuesday âÄúto investigate what went wrongâÄù as he appointed former Florida Senator and Gov. Bob Graham and former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator William Reilly to lead an inquiry to investigate the nature of the oil spill, which he called âÄúthe worst oil spill in the U.S. history.âÄù Economy Gregory asked Pawlenty whether he would give the Obama administration credit if the economy recovers. âÄúYou canâÄôt put this much money into the economy in the near term and not have it have some effect,âÄù Pawlenty said. âÄúBut what I would suggest to you is its phony effect.âÄù Gregory pressed on, asking, âÄúif there is a continued job growth on the pace we have seen so far this year, do you think that is a phony turnaround?âÄù Pawlenty said growth is not worth the price of potential national bankruptcy, adding that America will be buried in debt and may go the way of Greece. Gregory responded that itâÄôs fallacious to assume the country will go bankrupt. âÄúUnlike Greece, the United States can print its own currency,âÄù he said. Gregory prodded Pawlenty to name one painful choice that he would make in order to cut the deficit and bring the fiscal house in better order for the federal government. âÄúYou are talking to somebody who, with the exception of military veterans, public safety and K-12 schools, has cut everything,âÄù Pawlenty said. âÄúI like his conviction, his courage,âÄù said Paul Hamilton, a Coon Rapids, Minn., financial consultant and self-proclaimed Democrat who was in the audience. âÄúI donâÄôt like his policy, but that is a personal choice,âÄù he said. âÄúThat is why we have a democracy.âÄù Gregory asked Pawlenty how champions of small government legitimize situations like the banking crisis and the recent oil disaster, in which the government can play a big role. âÄúWe need a limited and effective government,âÄù Pawlenty said. âÄúSo you have to prioritize and focus what you do, and those things that you do do, you need to do well.âÄù âÄòCreeping tyrannyâÄô When asked about the âÄúcreeping tyrannyâÄù of the federal government under Obama âÄî a term Pawlenty used in a speech in May âÄî he responded, âÄúThe more the government does, the more it usurps traditional space in the private economy.âÄù The governmentâÄôs method of taking money from citizens âÄî using it for management and oversight and then reinserting a portion of it back into the economy âÄî is not efficient, he said. He said it also extinguishes entrepreneurial spirit, individual responsibility and the need for innovation. âÄúIt is a form of tyranny,âÄù he said. âÄúItâÄôs not an overstatement to say that.âÄù When asked if he would ever raise taxes, Pawlenty said, âÄúThe people of Minnesota know the answer to that: No.âÄù New Hampshire trip Pawlenty announced last Tuesday that he will attend the Strafford County Republican Committee summer picnic in Dover, N.H., on July 10. This will be PawlentyâÄôs third trip to New Hampshire âÄî the first state to hold a presidential primary âÄî since he announced he would not run for a third gubernatorial term. Pawlenty is rumored to be a potential 2012 Republican Party presidential candidate. He has long evaded questions about his potential candidacy âÄî and did so again Thursday âÄî but said he would decide early in 2011. A survey conducted by Rasmussen Reports in March found that 49 percent of the 500 Minnesota voters interviewed would not vote for Pawlenty for president in 2012. Another 35 percent said they would, and the final 16 percent were unsure. The poll also found that Pawlenty holds a 22 percent job approval rating, while ObamaâÄôs is at 36 percent. Pawlenty was happy to participate in the event, Brian McClung, PawlentyâÄôs spokesman, said. âÄúHe appreciates chances to have longer discussions,âÄù he said, âÄúas so much of the political news coverage these days is a 10-second sound bite on the news or a 140-character tweet from a reporter.âÄù The show aired Sunday and is available online. -Devin Henry contributed to this report.