Saturday, March 10, 2007

Pawlenty: Despite Travels, He Isn't (Yet) V.P. Material

by Christopher Truscott

Gov. Tim Pawlenty should be commended for his recent visits with Minnesota troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan, but if, as pundits have suggested, his travels are also intended to serve the dual-purpose of raising his national profile and puttingsome foreign policy experience under his belt, he's got a long way to go.

The governor's willingness to visit with troops stationed in harm's way shows he's a good guy and genuinely cares about U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines serving our country.

However, his unwillingness to articulate a foreign policy beyond echoing Republican talking points shows he's a small-state governor not lately ready to be a heartbeat away from the presidency. The latter half of that sentence is hardly hyperbole either. Presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain, whom Pawlenty is supporting, will turn 72 in August 2008. Given his age, McCain's pick for the No. 2 spot on the ticket could be one of the most important V.P. selections in modern American history.

Pawlenty shouldn't stop visiting the troops since by all accounts they seem to appreciate it. But if he really wants to beef up his foreign policy credentials it's about time he map out his view of the world beyond the Upper Midwest.

As governor Pawlenty has been a big proponent of ethanol and other alternative fuel development, noting correctly that our addiction to oil has us "funding both sides of the war on terror."

But what about the war on terrorism more broadly, governor? Attacks are up worldwide. The people who blew a whole in the side of the Pentagon and toppled the Twin Towers are running free and we have more U.S. troops in Iraq, which didn't strike us, than we do in Afghanistan, which harbored our attackers.

How do we address that? Do we, as McCain and your allies in the White House have suggested, keep sifting through sand in Iraq or do we get smart and pressure our "allies" in Pakistan to crack down on the extremists who have gone unmolested in the lawless western region of that country, right along the border with Afghanistan?

Do we set a deadline for leaving Iraq, forcing the government in Baghdad to take responsibility for its affairs, or do we continue on with an open-ended commitment to a country that so far shows all the dedication to handling its security situation as the South Vietnamese did 40-plus years ago?

Minnesota Reps. John Kline and Michele Bachmann voted against implementing more of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations. Aren't they wrong? Shouldn't we prepare for the possibility that no matter how hard we work overseas terrorists will again try to attack the American homeland?

We're finally talking with Iran – if only a little bit. Shouldn't diplomacy have been a part of our arsenal from the beginning? Even while deriding the Soviet Union as an "Evil Empire," Ronald Reagan didn't break off talks with Mikhail Gorbachev – and the Russians had nuclear missiles pointed at us.

You've talked about cracking down on illegal immigration, but isn't it true that if we build a 50-foot fence, someone will come along with a 51-foot ladder? If we want to stem the tide of illegal immigration, shouldn't we look at the conditions in Mexico and Central America that serve as the catalyst for northward migration? Perhaps a modern-day Monroe Doctrine is in order.

Governor, some have called you a different type of Republican. It would be great if you proved them right between now and next summer, when the presumptive presidential nominees start picking their running mates. Until then, keep supporting the troops and start thinking outside the Neoconservative-Republican box that has got us into this terrible mess.

Christopher Truscott can be reached at
He thinks Pawlenty is more qualified for the vice presidency than
George W. Bush was (and is) for the presidency.

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