Pawlenty May Be Weak, But He's the Best Hawk the GOP's Got

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Tim Pawlenty is one of the few 2012 candidates articulating a clear foreign policy position, and it's a hawkish one. At the Council on Foreign Relations Tuesday, he attacked the emerging Republican dovishness, saying, "America already has one political party devoted to decline, retrenchment, and withdrawal. It does not need a second one." Ahead of the speech, Randy Scheunemann, former senior foreign policy adviser to John McCain, said that Pawlenty "is the heir to the McCain-Reagan active, internationalist foreign policy that has characterized Republicans for a couple generations." But recent events show that Pawlenty isn't much of an heir--despite months of campaigning, he gets little support in the polls. His recent debate performance was a flop. NBC News' First Read wonders whether Pawlenty even "belongs in the conversation as a top-tier candidate."

Scheunemann's statement, as reported by The Hill's Michael O'Brien, is indicative of how much the Republican party has changed on foreign policy in the last four years. Scheunemann served as Sarah Palin's foreign policy adviser until he quit earlier this year; he was replaced by a more dovish aide. Frontrunner Mitt Romney said in his debut debate performance that the U.S. shouldn't "try and fight a war of independence for another nation." Jon Huntsman wants a swifter withdrawal from Afghanistan; Ron Paul wouldn't have gone into Pakistan to get Osama bin Laden. That leaves Pawlenty, who David Frum speculated was setting himself up as "the most generic of all Republicans." Frum based that analysis on how Pawlenty was being embraced by the Weekly Standard's neoconservative editor Bill Kristol. But Kristol was dissatisfied with Pawlenty's debate performance; he's pushing John Thune to run, especially if, among other factors, "Pawlenty doesn't take off."

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And Pawlenty's not necessarily the most articulate spokesman for for classic GOP hawkishness, either, Ben Armbruster argues at Think Progress. At the Council on Foreign Relations, Pawlenty argued that Obama showed no "moral clarity" on Syria, which is brutally cracking down on protesters. "We should recall our ambassador from Damascus," Pawlenty insisted. But later, Pawlenty demanded, "To take advantage of this moment, we should press every diplomatic and economic channel to bring the Assad reign of terror to an end." Armbruster responds:

Later when taking questions after the speech, Pawlenty said the U.S. should “try to effectuate change within Syria.” So to recap: Pawlenty wants to press “every diplomatic channel,” including using assets “within Syria,” to bring about change. Yet, he also wants to recall America’s number one point of contact that is currently in Syria.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.