Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Pawlenty's Plan

My post over at Greg's place today is pretty critical of Tim Pawlenty's new economic plan as a campaign ploy; basically, I say that it's mostly fantasy because that's required of Republican candidates, but Pawlenty falls short by inexplicably including details that can only hurt him with primary and general election constituencies. Click over for the particulars.

What I didn't include over there is the most promising piece of Pawlenty’s plan, the immediately-mocked “Google test” – Pawlenty suggests that if something can be purchased online, then the federal government shouldn’t be doing it. It's one of those things that sounds cute, and then after twenty seconds of reflection it's pretty easy to poke holes in.

What’s promising about that? Note that liberal pundits are having a field day with it: here, here, here, and more. That's what's promising! Provoking liberal ridicule is a very useful skill for Republican presidential candidates.

Still, it’s no Paul Revere’s ride, and I’m not confident that Pawlenty has what it takes to turn well-deserved derision into outrage and resentment. No doubt, that’s the next test for his campaign.


  1. Pawlenty inserted the rather important word "probably" in front of it, so it's really not easily mocked unless you decide to take it not as a rough principle, but as completely and mindlessly literal. Which would be willfully dumb.

  2. Chris,

    I think the evidence is pretty clear: it is easily mocked. After all, liberals have been mocking it. Whether it's deservedly mocked is another question (I think so...I don't really think the "probably" does much), but the idea is that if this was bait, it was really good bait.


    Disagree -- if Steele was just an incompetent hack, they would have booted him from the RNC right away; his defense, for two years, was basically that liberals were being mean to him.

    Of course, if you're not good at exploiting it, then it's of limited benefit.

  3. Well, yes, feel free to insert the word "deservedly" between the words "easily" and "mocked." People mock lots of perfectly reasonable things.

    I don't understand why the word "probably" "wouldn't do much." It makes the statement a rough guide for illustrative purposes, rather than a literal catch-all. All the handwringing about it ("Oh YEAH? What about the POST OFFICE?! Checkmate, T-Paw!") is tremendously silly, and predicated on what I think is either a really inept or really deliberate misreading.

  4. Chris, I think the point of the mockery is to ask what the Google test is good for if so many things that pass it can and should be waved away under your "probably." That is, to show that Tim Pawlenty is just using his judgment as to what the government should do, same as Paul Krugman is -- only Pawlenty is claiming that his stances come from some neutral (objective?) collective wisdom or common sense, unfiltered by his own judgment. Which in particular drives liberal intellectuals crazy, I think, based on the number of pieces one sees about the use of claimed "objectivity," "value-neutrality," and "common sense" to perpetuate the status quo and/or promote the interests of the powerful. -- Does that help?

  5. @Chris:
    The problem is that Pawlenty is simply papering over a legitimate argument: that there are things that government and the private sector can both do, and his POV is that the private sector should do all of those things. He's selling "smaller government" with false promises: we can cut everything, because the private sector provides them perfectly well.
    Now, those of us who are liberals can't expect a conservative to make an argument that we would appreciate much. But neither can a conservative expect that liberals wouldn't ridicule the structure of that argument, since it simply assumes away a basic premise of liberal ideology (a premise that we liberals tend to think that there's basic agreement in most of the public on).


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