Friday, January 14, 2011

Tim Pawlenty, a social conservative extremist, just like the rest

Think Minnesota Gov. and likely GOP presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty is a sensible Midwestern moderate, an old-school sort of Republican, an antithesis to the Sarah Palins of the party?

Think again.

As Pawlenty told right-wing hatemonger Bryan Fischer on Wednesday, he's not just a fiscal conservative but a social one as well. He's "a strong supporter of the family, pro-life positions, traditional marriage positions" -- in other words, he's anti-abortion and anti-gay, the proponent in Minnesota of an amendment that would ban same-sex marriage, the proponent of conservative judicial activism ("strict constructionists") and the repeal of Roe v. Wade.

And, he said, he would reinstate Don't Ask, Don't Tell, misleadingly claiming that "the combat commanders and the combat units" are against gays being allowed to serve, even though a huge majority not just of the American people but of the men and women in uniform supported DADT repeal, including not just Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but perhaps America's most revered current military commander (and conservative wunderkind), Gen. David Petraeus.

Sure, Pawlenty may just have been pandering to the right-wing GOP base, and appearing on right-wing shows and playing up (or exaggerating) one's conservative bona fides is de rigueur for Republicans, but there's really nothing to suggest that he isn't the sort of social conservative he claimed he is. Really, it's just that most of the media's attention has been on his similarly conservative economic views, and that he doesn't come across as an unhinged extremist on social issues the way other leading Republicans do -- the way, say, Palin and Huckabee do. And in presenting himself as a credible social conservative, he's clearly distinguishing himself from another moderate-seeming fiscal conservative, Mitt Romney, who has tried so desperately to flip-flop himself into conservatives' hearts while failing miserably to overcome his decidedly un-conservative past (health-care reform, anyone?).

However sincere he may be, it's just so transparent what Pawlenty is doing, and it's telling that he'll even pander directly to a bigot like Fischer. In today's GOP, that's just what you have to do to get anywhere, particularly at the national level, with presidential aspirations driving you ever further to the extreme right.

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