The war hawks on the right seem to like GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty. Since he launched his campaign, Pawlenty has fired off all the right rhetorical lines and the neocons are impressed. Jen Rubin at the Washington Post called him “forceful and precise on national security.”
While Pawlenty may be the neocon favorite, he’s had some trouble getting his views in order. In May, the former Minnesota governor got confused when a reporter asked him about what he’d do about the threat from Iran and — after he clarified that the reporter was indeed talking about Iran — began discussing his policy in Iraq, while referring to citizens of that country as “Iranians.”
Last night during the GOP presidential debate, Pawlenty criticized President Obama’s Afghanistan withdrawal timeline, saying he would have instead, accepted the advice from Gen. David Petraeus and Adm. Mike Mullen — whom Pawlenty referred to as “General Mullen” — “and drawn them down a little slower.” But in an interview this morning with Politico’s Mike Allen, Pawlenty said Obama’s timeline is too slow. “Has the president been too slow with is Afghanistan drawdown?” Allen asked. “Yes,” Pawlenty said. However, he later pivoted back to his talking point from last night:
PAWLENTY: Gen Petraeus and Adm Mullen make a recommendation that said we understand the need to draw down from the surge level of troops and Barack Obama didn’t accept the recommendations. He’s drawn it down faster and quicker I think because of the election next year. It coincides very coincidentally to his needs on the electoral calendar next year.
While Pawlenty was most likely simply confused with Allen’s (fairly clear) question, confusion and incoherence are becoming the hallmark of his foreign policy views thus far in his campaign.
In a major foreign policy address in June, Pawlenty said that the United States should recall its ambassador from Syria as punishment for the government’s brutal crackdown on pro-democracy activists. Yet in the same speech, he said “we should press every diplomatic and economic channel to bring the Assad reign of terror to an end.” Apparently using “every” diplomatic channel available to persuade Assad to change course doesn’t include using America’s top diplomat to Syria.