We have right now at CPAC, a parade of midwestern politicians. As I write, in a few minutes Mitch Daniels will give the keynote speech at the banquest honoring Ronald Reagan.
Tim Pawlenty is therefore, almost by definition, just one of many Midwesterners vying for a voice in this presidential season. But his speech was --almost-- a caricature of the Midwestern sensibility.
He's a rock-ribbed Minnesotan from St. Paul, running for office.
God bless him!
I tried to evaluate him on life, marriage and social conservatism, but in this speech at least social conservatism was mostly biography, not policy.
"Back in the 60s, when I grew up there, it was home to some of the world's largest stockyards and meat-packing plants. Many families in my hometown relied on those big plants for their paychecks, for their family’s well-being and for their future. But those plants shut down, and so did a big part of the spirit and the soul of my hometown.
My mom died when I was 16 and not much longer after that, my dad, who worked for a trucking company, lost his job for awhile. The foundations of my hometown and my family were shaken hard.
At a young age, I saw up close the face of loss, the face of hardship, the face of losing a job and I saw in the mirror the face of a very uncertain future. I know many Americans are feeling that way today. I know that feeling – I’ve lived it.
But in those moments, we learn some things. We see some things. We remember what’s important. One of the most important things that we should always remember is the motto of our country "In God we trust.” And we should stand on that foundation as our founders intended."
He also drew from biography a lot of homespun, elemental wisdom, such as:
"But if you don’t, here’s all you really need to know about government reform. On a given weekend, go to two weddings. Go to one where there's an open bar where the drinks are supposedly free. Then, go to another wedding with a cash bar where people pay for their own drinks. You’ll see very, very different behaviors.
Now, I said this on Wall Street not long ago and somebody said, "Well, who the heck has a cash bar anymore?" That question right there from a Wall Streeter tells you about all you need to know, doesn’t it?"
I think that's the closes he came to a reference to marriage.
I have no doubt that Tim's a good man. His record is pro-life and pro-marriage. But at least in this one speech, he really did not say anything about what he would do to be pro-life, pro-marriage, or a social conservative, as president.
Grading Tim Pawlenty's speech
On Life: D
On Marriage: D
On Social Conservatism: D+