DES MOINES – The loudest applause Monday followed the sentence that everyone saw coming: “I’m Tim Pawlenty, and I’m running for president of the United States,” and Pawlenty officially joined the 2012 presidential race.
He said as much in a video posted on his website the prior afternoon, and last month, when he told CNN interview host Piers Morgan he was not running for vice president, he had to clarify that it was not a formal announcement.
But now it is done, and Tim Pawlenty is a presidential candidate.
“Time for truth“ is now the slogan featured on Pawlenty’s website and with it is a more somber tone—in his video and in his speech. When Pawlenty spoke at the Iowa Tea Party rally a month earlier in front of the capitol, he delivered fiery zingers, cutting Democrats, liberals and leftists.
Monday in Des Moines, his wife, Mary, depicted Pawlenty as America’s man of responsibility: “He is a man who speaks truth to power, but always with a great fullness of grace.”
On the sun-drenched roof of the Des Moines State Historical building, in front of a couple hundred older Iowans, Pawlenty didn’t criticize his Republican competitors and instead took aim at what he described as President Obama’s “fluffy promises of hope and change.”
“He won’t even tell us the truth about what it’s going to take to get out of the mess we’re in,” Pawlenty said of Obama.
Pawlenty said he is not afraid to declare all areas of government spending in question in order to balance the budget, including energy and agricultural subsidies.
Last week, immediately following Obama’s speech to the State Department on the Middle East and Israel, Pawlenty decried what he saw as the president’s lack of support for Israel. This issue became a new theme to Pawlenty’s speech, beginning with his wife’s reference to “a country that is particularly dear to our hearts, Israel.”
During the “town hall” session that followed Pawlenty’s speech, one man said he was disgusted at “President Obama [for] throwing Israel under the bus,” and asked what Pawlenty would do as president to “ensure that Israel continues to exist as God promised.” Pawlenty said there should be “no daylight between our words or our deeds or our actions between the United States of America and the country of Israel.”
The audience was welcoming to Pawlenty, and at least one man was particularly familiar. “You and I have spoken several times before,” he said and went on to ask about the kind of appointments Pawlenty would make to the Supreme Court, “like Scalia or…”
“Yes,” Pawlenty replied before the man could finish, referring to the arch conservative Justice Antonin Scalia. He went on to describe the type of people he would appoint to the Supreme Court by alluding to his record as governor of Minnesota.
“I appointed strict constructionists,” he said. “I wanted to make sure that the people I put on the court respect the fact that they are suppose to interpret the law as written and not according to what their political views are.”
After the questions from the audience, Pawlenty signed a few autographs and posed for a picture before going inside without taking questions from reporters. Next on his schedule is New Hampshire, another primary hotspot; then next week to New York City where Pawlenty said: “I’m going to tell Wall Street that if I’m elected, the era of bailouts, handouts, and carve-outs is over.”
(Jon Stefonek is graduate student in the University of Iowa Master of Arts-Professional in Journalism program)