Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty presented himself as the "leading hawk" in the GOP presidential field on Tuesday, accusing President Obama of turning his back on the pro-democracy activists leading the Arab Spring uprisings. Pawlenty also indirectly criticized his leading GOP rivals, many of whom are urging a swift withdrawal from Afghanistan, calling that a sign of "weakness." Instead, Pawlenty said, we should be intervening more directly in Libya, and ousting President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Will Pawlenty's aggressive foreign policy proposals spark new interest in his flagging campaign? (Watch Pawlenty's criticism of Obama.)
No. Pawlenty is destroying his own credibility: His "hawkish" grandstanding is "so obviously untrue," says Daniel Larison at The American Conservative, "that it badly undermines Pawlenty's already limited credibility on this subject." His bluster might be a "welcome change if even one party were dedicated to prudence and restraint, but at the moment the leadership of both parties remains intent on recklessness and aggression."
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Actually, this strong message will help Pawlenty: "Barack Obama is more distrustful of American power than any president since Jimmy Carter," says John Hinderaker at PowerLine. And "weariness with foreign policy has infected many Republicans, too." As such, Pawlenty has a lot to gain by defending America's right to lead, and staking out "a position as the inheritor of Ronald Reagan's foreign policy mantle." This was a "good speech," and Pawlenty deserves respect for grappling openly with such tough issues.
Big talk doesn't make Pawlenty a leader: "It makes sense that Pawlenty would want to try to pass the 'Commander in Chief Test,'" says Steve Benen at Washington Monthly. "Unfortunately for him, he appears to have a long way to go." He gave a major address on the Middle East but barely mentioned America's two ongoing wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan. By dodging the real issues, Pawlenty only reinforced his image as a lightweight, which hardly did his campaign any favors.
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