OTR Interviews

Pawlenty Explains His Exploratory Committee for a White House Run, Says No-Fly Zone Over Libya Should Have Been Enforced Earlier

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," March 21, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Well, 2012 here we come! Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty made a huge announcement today! Some may think it's a baby step since it's called exploratory, but in politics, this one's huge. He is officially forming a presidential exploratory committee. And here is Governor Pawlenty! Welcome Governor.

TIM PAWLENTY, R-MINN.: Good to be with you, Greta. Thanks for having me.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, Governor, the way I count it, you're number three in terms of an exploratory to committee. Herman Cain and Governor Roemer, former governor Roemer of Louisiana is -- they've also announced. So tell me, why did you choose Facebook to make your announcement?

PAWLENTY: Well, of course, there's a lot of momentum and opportunity in Facebook. And as you try to grow the conservative movement and reach out to new voters, people who are not yet on our team, that's a great way to do it. And I think it's the wave of the future, so we wanted to be on the cutting edge.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, so what is an exploratory committee? I know it's an important step, and I know -- you know, that's what you make first. But what does it actually mean?

PAWLENTY: Well, it means in order to spend much money or do much, you got to have at least a legal structure in place. So we took the first step. Obviously, there'll be bigger steps down the road. But it was basically just making sure we're legal and formal and can now build the foundation we need to do to have a full-fledged campaign.

VAN SUSTEREN: So when would be the predictable next step, which is the official announcement? How -- is there -- I mean, when would you expect that to happen, if it's going to happen?

PAWLENTY: Well, we're -- we're not going to draw this out for a long period of time. That formal announcement or fuller announcement will come relatively soon. We haven't put a deadline on it, but it's not going to be, you know, six months from now, it'll be sooner than that.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, who's on this committee?

PAWLENTY: Well, we've got a bunch of folks we're going to be announcing in the coming days. I think you'll be very impressed with some recognizable leaders from places like Iowa, New Hampshire and other places around the country. But those announcements of the details of who's holding what positions are coming. But people can keep track of it, by the way, by going to Timpawlenty.com and check out our new campaign website. I think they'll like it. And it gives them all the information about who we are and what we're doing, so check it out.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is an exploratory committee, though, made up of advisers and sort of big names or is it made up of people who sort of do the nuts and bolts of sort of making sure that you've got, you know, the legal set-up and you're collecting the money or -- you know, which is it, or is it both?

PAWLENTY: Both. It's all of the above. We're going to have staff and compliance issues and back-room operations in terms of lawyers and accountants and all the stuff you need to do to make sure the thing is running properly, and leadership. But we're also going to have key volunteers both on the fund-raising side and policy development side. And I think you'll be impressed, and hopefully, your viewers will be impressed by the good work that is going to be revealed in that regard in the coming days.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, we'll be -- we will -- we will be watching very carefully. Now let me ask you about Libya. What would you have done about Libya? Would you have done the same thing or something different from what the president is doing?

PAWLENTY: Well, let me say first, of course, we have one president and one commander-in-chief at a time, and in these early hours and these early days, when we have the lives of men and women in our armed forces at risk, we want to make sure that we're as supportive as we can be.

But I would note this, Gretchen -- Greta. We have a situation where I called for a no-fly zone, I think one of the earliest, maybe the earliest person to do it, some weeks ago. The rebels at that time were on the verge of overthrowing Qaddafi. They had the momentum. They were in position to do it. Had the no-fly zone been established and has been effective as it obviously has been in these last few days, I think that not only would have been successful but it would have given the rebels the window of opportunity to overthrow him And ridding him of his leadership in Libya would have been good for region and a good thing for the world.

VAN SUSTEREN: In terms of sending our military on these -- on these - - into war on -- for humanitarian purposes, at what point, if you were president, does a humanitarian issue rise to the level that we want to send our men and women to -- into military action?

PAWLENTY: Well, obviously, there are humanitarian challenges and concerns all over the world with a fair amount of frequency. And so each one of these has a different history, a different context and the like. But as applied to Libya, we have in the leadership of that country a confirmed terrorist who has the blood of our fellow citizens from America on his hands. In my view, he's a psychopath. He's somebody who had designs on nuclear capabilities, currently has weapons of mass destruction capabilities in the form of chemical weapons. And he's an individual that has been a very significant menace to the region and really to the United States.

And so in that case, particularly when the people of that country are trying to present and give themselves an opportunity to take over their country, a reasonable step like a no-fly zone done earlier, had we been decisive, I think would have achieved not only the safety of the civilians that are now being assured or guaranteed by the U.N. resolution, but it also would have given the rebels the opportunity to capitalize on the momentum they had a few weeks ago and push him out. And he needs to go.

VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, thank you. And of course, we're going to watching very closely, as we are watching all the candidates for 2012, or potential ones. Thank you, sir.

PAWLENTY: Thank you, Greta. Appreciate it.