Courage is an attribute Americans think a president should have, and I am not saying that Pawlenty lacks it. But a more accurate biography theme would be, "Well Adjusted Man From Loving Family Is Hardworking, Unlikely To Do Anything Terribly Objectionable, And Possessed Of More Wisdom Than Average." That ought to be more appealing than "courage" at this point.
I wonder if pressure to demonstrate courage caused Pawlenty to write nonsense like this: "I took the job of leading Minnesotans through one of the most trying and difficult periods of change the state has ever known." Really? More difficult than settling Minnesota? Worse than the Dakota War of 1862, or when the state sent 22,000 to fight in the Civil War? More trying than the aftermath of the Great Hinkley Fire of 1894? The Great Depression? The World War II years? The closure of the meat packing plants that Pawlenty saw during his own childhood? He led the state through a time far more prosperous by most measures than most of its history.
Similarly dubious is claiming that "courage" is what America needs to get back on track when your agenda is opposition to raising taxes, significant cuts to entitlement spending, and strengthening public education. These may well be the correct policy prescriptions for a more prosperous tomorrow. Unless you're poor enough to rely on entitlements, however, how does advocating them require courage? I don't see how, and least of all from the politicians involved. Come 2013, either Barack Obama or Tim Pawlenty, or possibly both, are going to have lost a presidential election... at which point they'll both return to a comfortable house, a loving wife, two wonderful daughters, a healthy bank account balance, lucrative opportunities in numerous professions, and every measure of security anyone could ever want. It's time to stop pretending that modern heads of state require courage. Riding into battle on the lead horse they ain't.
This is the most disappointing section of the book. A work of this length affords an opportunity to give expansive thoughts on policy, but we basically just find out that Pawlenty is a social conservative, adamantly opposed to raising taxes, favors free trade, and is vague on foreign policy, where he has the same weak criticisms of President Obama - he doesn't believe in American exceptionalism! He isn't tough enough in his rhetoric! - as the rest of the Republican field.
Here's a typical passage:
President Obama will not call this effort what it is. He has stopped using the phrase "war on terror." His administration never makes pointed references--or any references--to the real problem: radical Islamic terrorism. Apparently that isn't politically correct. The fact is, radical Islamic terrorism exists. Pointing that out doesn't condemn all Muslims. But there is an element of Islam that is radical and that has terrorist intentions. We need to call it what it is. We need to confront it, and we need to defeat it.
Pitted against Obama in a televised debate, where the president talks about killing Osama bin Laden, sending drones into Pakistan, "kinetic military action" in Libya, increased troop strength in Afghanistan, and whatever else is going on as Election 2012 draws near, the GOP nominee is going to need something better than, "You don't refer to all the things you're doing with the appropriate rhetoric." Especially if the opponent's foreign policy experience is limited to a few trade missions, attending military funerals, and commanding the Minnesota National Guard during a bridge collapse. I continue to think it makes more political sense to run to Obama's left on national security.