So, Tim Pawlenty Walks Into Cato, and…


… I wasn't there. Neither was Delaware David Weigel, but that didn't stop him from monitoring the awkward audience Q&A online:

Question one: Why the hell does the United States have more than 170 military bases?

"I'm not one who's going to stand before you and say we need to cut the defense budget," said Pawlenty, who up to that point had been pounding the table about austerity. Get rid of the bases that sound like wastes of space and you risk American supremacy. "You'd see a massive realignment of the strategic relationship towards China and away from America in Asia," he said. "This is not where we're going to get six months, six years warning about the next conflict. I'm not for shrinking America's presence in the world. I'm for making sure America remains the world leader."

A more dangerous question was next: In the wake of NY-26, what did Pawlenty make of the Ryan plan? This elicited the safe, smart, tapioca answer that Pawlenty's been giving for weeks.

"In general," he said, "I think the direction of it is positive, but I'm going to have my own plan."

Issue, dodged. Pawlenty pointed into the crowd again

"We'll take the guy in the purple tie," he said. "That's a Vikings color!"

Unfortunately, the wearer of Vikings colors worked for the Marijuana Policy Project, who asked Pawlenty how he could be taken seriously on health care since he had opposed "my group" on medical pot.

"What was it?" asked Pawlenty? "Marijuana? Yeah. Well… I stood with law enforcement issue on this issue… we just have a respectful difference on this issue."

End of audience questions.

My main skin-deep impression of Pawlenty comes from watching him speechify while hosting the 2008 Republican National Convention, where in my biased opinion he was engaged in a spirited race to the bottom with eMeg Whitman when it came to most underwhelming political "comer" in a three-day snooze-fest chock full of 'em. I do know (because a colleague e-mailed me) that he's anti-14th Amendment, pro-Real ID, anti-medical marijuana, pro-cigarette tax and smoking ban, anti-gay marriage, and pro-Cuba travel ban. Which, along with his pro-defense spending, entitlement tapdancing, and even-for-a-politician dullness, probably make him a frontrunner in what passes for the modern Republican Party.

Blasto from El Pasto: Read Nick Gillespie in real time preferring Sarah Palin to Tim Pawlenty for 2008 GOP veep! Meanwhile, the Clever Cathys at Politico have spliced together some Cato lukewarmness toward their special guest from today: