Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who is weighing a run for president in 2012, is on a book tour
. I caught up with him for a quick interview Thursday morning. We discussed a wide range of topics, from Afghanistan to the Minnesota Vikings. Here are some excerpts from our discussion:
- On rumors Michele Bachmann might run for president
: "Well, it's a free country. Anyone can run that's over the age of 35. I have respect for Michele Bachmann. I've had a cordial and positive relationship with her."
- On House Speaker John Boehner: "I like John Boehner a lot. I think he's got a blue-collar background. Gotten his fingernails dirty. He knows about the grit and stuff of real life. I think he's going to be a great speaker."
- On Afghanistan: "I've been to Afghanistan three times. I normally don't agree with President Obama, but there's one thing he did do which I did agree with, [which] was when he decided to have a surge of troops in Afghanistan. . . . . There isn't a lot of historical hope in the notion that there's going to be a Western-style government run out of Kabul for Afghanistan. . . Has there been 'mission creep'? Yes -- that's because it's been warranted by the facts on the ground. And the facts on the ground are -- we've got a problem in western Pakistan."
- On the "drug war": "I support law enforcement's view that we need to remain aggressive and vigilant in enforcing drug laws, and that we should not legalize drugs in this country."
- On repealing "Don't ask, don't tell": "I publicly supported maintaining 'Don't ask, don't tell.' "
- On Michael Steele: "I think the RNC needs to perform better. We certainly appreciate the election outcome. But I think if you look at the memo written by [former RNC political director] Gentry Collins, it reveals some pretty severe internal problems at the RNC that need to be addressed."
- On titling his book "Courage to Stand"
: "I think the real question for the Republican Party and the conservative movement is going to be who has -- not pretty speeches or offering failed amendments -- but who can get stuff done and who has the record to back it up? It speaks to fortitude."
- On the cover of his book (which some thought looked too much like the cover of Sarah Palin's "Going Rogue"): "It was coincidental. . . I think it had some similarities to Sarah Palin's book
- On having reporters abbreviate his name to "TPaw": "I like it. It fits better on a bumper sticker."
- On his parents: "My dad, for much of his life, was a truck driver. My mom died when I was 16, and she was a homemaker. [I] came from a meat-packing town -- blue-collar kind of lunch-bucket place. And I think that's important because, you know, who we are depends, in part, on where we come from. And when you go out to talk to people about sitting at the kitchen table and trying to make ends meet and what it's like to worry about whether you can afford even a half a tank of gas in your car or . . . how you might pay for college, it helps to actually have lived that, to directly have confronted those fears, those anxieties and challenges, and to have lived that. And, you know, there's a bunch of people running the country all these years from Harvard and Yale and Wall Street. You know, they screwed it up." (Pawlenty attended the University of Minnesota for both his undergraduate and law degrees.)
- On advice to new parents: "Increase your caffeine level. And get clothes that you don't care if they get puked on."
- On leaving the Catholic Church: "I love and respect and admire the Catholic Church. I still attend Mass once in a while there. The church I now attend is an inter-denominational church which has got many former Catholics in it, and so we share the Christian faith and the Bible. I had to reconcile my faith life with my wife so we could have a consistent, integrated family faith life."
- On being labeled too "boring" or "nice": "I think people, particularly now, are going to look for substance; they're going to look for results. The entertainment quotient is interesting, but it isn't what I think people are going to decide on ultimately."
- On life's simple pleasures: "I'm pro-beer and pro-hockey."
- On the best hockey player ever (next to Wayne Gretzky): "Gordie Howe: He was not just a finesse player, he was a scrapper and a fighter."
- On new Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier
: "It's early, yet, but so far, so good. He's poised, calm, thoughtful . . . seems to have high values, high character, setting high expectations for the team. So I think it was a good pick."
- On his favorite music: "U2, Stones, John Mellencamp, Springsteen, Bob Seger."