Thursday, May 26, 2011
Another politician who doesn't get it...
If Tim Pawlenty intended to tell his audience something they didn't want to hear during his speech at the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute Thursday, he did so in his response to a question about reducing Pentagon spending.
"I'm not one who is going to stand before you and say we should cut the defense budget," said Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor and current Republican presidential hopeful, when asked by an audience member why the U.S. has 170 military bases around the world.
Cato officials vigorously support cutting from the Pentagon's expenditures, which are just under $700 billion in the current fiscal year. So do many of the Republican party's leaders who are most popular with the Tea Party, such as Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.) and Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.).
But whether he intended to or not, Pawlenty continued his nascent campaign's pattern of making statements in locales where they'll be especially unpopular. Prior to Wednesday, it had been by design. In Iowa on Monday, he endorsed phasing out ethanol subsidies over the next few years. In Florida on Tuesday, he said Social Security and Medicare have to be dramatically overhauled.
But in this case, Pawlenty's stance on Pentagon spending might put him at odds with the view that has the most energy and intensity among the conservative grassroots. It certainly did not sit well with Cato's president, Ed Crane.
"There is a difference between military spending and defense spending," Crane said in a statement e-mailed to The Huffington Post after Pawlenty's speech. "The constitution provides for a military to defend the U.S -- not to democratize the world. One would hope that presidential candidates would consider America's commitments overseas very seriously before endorsing those commitments."
Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) made the idea of cutting from defense less sacrilegious to conservatives during his 2008 run for the GOP nomination. And while Paul's hard line view that the U.S. should basically shut down all of its foreign bases and withdraw the military from the rest of the world is not accepted by a large number of voters, the belief that the U.S. is overextended has certainly become a mainstream idea. And the examples of waste, fraud and abuse within the Pentagon contracting system have been well documented.