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Pawlenty critical of Obama's handling of Libya

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who is exploring a run for president, said he would have used U.S. forces to remove Moammar Gadhafi rather than just bomb Libya as President Obama has done.

"I would tell Gadhafi he's got X number of days to get his affairs in order and go or we're going to go get him," Pawlenty said in an interview with the Tribune-Review on Friday before speaking to about 500 people at the Republican Committee of Allegheny County's annual Lincoln Day Dinner in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown.

By using international organizations such as the United Nations and Arab League to mount an offensive against the Libyan dictator, Obama put himself in an "untenable position" where he's declared Gadhafi must go, but "his hands are tied."

Pawlenty, 50, was Minnesota's governor from 2003 until January. During that time, the state's two-year budget — including federally funded programs — increased from $42.7 billion to $59.6 billion. Pawlenty attributed much of the increase to laws enacted over his objection, such as increases in the gas and sales taxes that were dedicated to specific programs.

Though the state now faces a projected $5 billion deficit, Pawlenty noted its general fund spending decreased about $3 billion during his last budget cycle. Over eight years, he said, he cut taxes by $800 million.

"We had big battles in a deep blue (heavily Democratic) state," Pawlenty said, noting Minnesota is better known for a liberal tradition that includes Vice President Hubert Humphrey and Sen. Al Franken. "I was the first movement conservative to govern that state in a long time."

A day after appearing in a South Carolina debate where he declared his support for caps on carbon emissions was "a mistake," Pawlenty said that some climate change might be attributable to human activity but that the science is inconclusive.

"I think we can all be in favor of reducing emissions of all sorts, but the answer to that is not to have the government macromanage or micromanage the economy through cap and trade," he said.

The son of a truck driver, Pawlenty has been relying on his working-class roots and financial stewardship of Minnesota to separate himself from a crowded and unsettled GOP field. Democrats say that stewardship left Minnesota deep in debt.

"Pawlenty left Minnesota with the largest deficit in the state's 152-year history, drove up property taxes and fees on the middle class — all while making draconian cuts to key programs that benefit millions," said Pennsylvania Democratic Party chairman Jim Burn. "Tim Pawlenty's empty campaign rhetoric cannot cover up his long record of fiscal failure in Minnesota."

Pawlenty said his spending battles with a Democratic-controlled legislature resulted in the first government shutdown in state history, a record number of vetoes and more unilateral spending cuts than all preceding governors combined.

"You've got to draw some lines in the sand," he said.

Major changes to entitlement programs will have to be enacted to stave off financial disaster for the country, Pawlenty said. That includes means testing for cost of living increases for Social Security and overhauling Medicare and Medicaid.

He said Obama "whiffed" on reforming health care, and instead signed a bill that "expanded access to a broken system."

The dinner is expected to raise $30,000 for the county's GOP, party chairman Jim Roddey said.

Fresh off a string of victories in the last election cycle, which included Republican Gov. Tom Corbett winning the county over Democratic County Executive Dan Onorato, Roddey said Pennsylvania is likely to play a key role in the next GOP presidential primary.

"Allegheny County will be a big focus with the candidates because we have the largest number of registered Republicans out of all the 67 counties," Roddey said.

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