After his awful speech today, Pawlenty is receiving praise for his “principled” stand from the usual suspects. Now that Republicans are dividing more sharply over foreign wars, and a substantial part of the party base is growing weary of the policy of perpetual war, it is becoming a mark of “principle” for politicians who have spent the last two years pandering to national security hawks to keep pandering to them. Pawlenty is supposed to be the generic, broadly acceptable candidate, but practically the only people expressing any strong interest in his candidacy are neoconservatives. He has been dubbed “the most serious candidate on foreign policy” at Commentary, which should be sufficient warning to stay away from him. Pawlenty’s call for a return to the worst of first-term Bushism may be part of the reason why he is doing so poorly in every early primary and caucus state.
One of the stranger things about the GOP presidential contest is that Mitt “No Apology” Romney has managed to let Tim Pawlenty outdo him in ignorant hawkishness. After spending the better part of the last two years berating Obama on foreign policy, and despite going out of his way to embarrass himself by jumping on board with the anti-START crowd, Romney is now lumped in with the rest of the field because he expressed modest reservations about permanently occupying Afghanistan. Considering public discontent with both Libya and Afghanistan, this is probably the best thing that could happen to Romney. If Pawlenty becomes the most aggressive hawk in the field, Romney will able to appear almost reasonable by comparison. Pawlenty could do what McCain did for Bush on foreign policy in 2000 by providing a neoconservative foil for a slightly more realist-oriented campaign, but only if he lasts long enough to remain a major contender. As things stand right now, Pawlenty won’t be Romney’s problem, and by fully embracing a Bush-like agenda of hegemonism and democratism he might be driving away voters that would otherwise support him.