Conference call: Tim Pawlenty and the Freedom First PAC

We had an opportunity to talk with Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty to discuss the launch of his Freedom First PAC.  Pawlenty says that he’s worried that freedom is being corroded by a “tyranny of a creeping bureaucracy.”  Pawlenty wants to re-elevate the principles of freedom and liberty, including an effort to educate people on their value and to impact current policy.  Pawlenty plans a particular effort to reach out to younger voters and a “purposeful outreach” to urban areas.

The measure of this will be the ability to grow small business without getting smothered by government regulations.  That will create jobs and economic freedom.  Pawlenty plans to push school choice as part of the Freedom First PAC.  We should be free to choose our own doctors and medical care without government making those decisions for us.  The founding fathers understood the importance of individual choice, but those principles have been diluted over the last several decades.

Freedom First PAC will be supporting like-minded political candidates.  They will have a large New Media contingent and experienced political hands on its board.

Questions:

  • What will be the focus of Freedom First PAC? — Mainly economic freedom.  Are we being true to the notion of a limited government?  Measures: How much we spend, how many regulations we have to enforce, etc.  Average budget growth in MN had been 19% before Pawlenty, under Pawlenty, it’s been 2%.  The last budget decreased spending 7.6%, which is the first time that has happened in Minnesota history.  We need that on a national level.
  • What will be the role of FFP in Pawlenty’s future plans? — Pawlenty says “it cannot be nor will it be about a future presidential campaign.”  Pawlenty “feels very strongly” about the need to speak out on these issues.  He’s vice chair of the Republican Governors Association and has to focus on New Jersey and Virginia this year and a number of races next year.
  • His thoughts on popular resistance to Obama’s agenda — Did the Obama election represent a significant shift in the political poles of the country?  That question has been answered by the negative reaction to the stimulus, the bailouts, ObamaCare, etc.  This confirms that the country remains center-right and that the pendulum is swinging back.  However, conservatives have to have more than a hope that the “other team will kick the ball into the dugout.”  That’s why FFP is important.  Education and intellectual support for conservative principles have to use freedom and liberty to push back against the “free stuff” sales pitches of statists and progressives.
  • “Tyranny can come in many forms … even in a well-meaning bureaucracy.”
  • Cap and trade – Pawlenty opposes cap and trade.  We can support the general goal of reducing pollution, but we have to do that in a way that follows “good science” and without wrecking our economy.  There are more reasonable ways to reduce pollution, especially by “massively expanding nuclear energy.”  He supports R&D through private-market efforts in energy production and usage.  Encourage basic research and let the private market make the rational decisions on application.  Carbon and natural gas are tremendous resources; the latter alone could provide our baseline power needs for 75 years.
  • The first order of business for federal government is national security.  We can’t be a free nation unless we feel secure.  FFP will include foreign policy as part of its portfolio because freedom and liberty depend on it.  Pawlenty is very concerned about the softening of our national security posture in this administration, and deeply troubled over the change on missile defense in eastern Europe.  The abrupt change and the betrayal of our allies has damaged our standing there, to the point where Lech Walesa says publicly that Poland cannot trust the US to stand up for them.

My thoughts:

Most readers know that I consider Pawlenty a strong potential candidate for Republicans on the national level for the next several cycles, should he choose to pursue office.  This is the next logical step for those ambitions, although it could also be a way for Pawlenty to shift to an activist track instead, like Newt Gingrich did with American Solutions.  FFP would allow him to become an influential player on a national basis through fundraising and speechmaking, both critically important to building credibility as a national voice for the GOP.  He has already begun that work with the RGA and with his increasing appearances on national television on policy issues.

Pawlenty correctly asserts that we need better foundations for arguing on behalf of freedom and liberty, and the last election shows that we need to do a better job of educating the public on these principles and how they apply to public policy.  We’ll see how FFP plays a role in that effort over the next three years, and especially in next year’s midterms.

Update: My good friend Scott Johnson of Power Line was also on the call, and has his thoughts here.