OTR Interviews

Pawlenty: Migraine Controversy a 'Sideshow' for Bachmann

GOP presidential hopeful addresses migraine reports on his rival, his latest campaign in Iowa and debt talks


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," July 20, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Well, it's down to the line for President Obama and the Republicans, and we are days away from crawling right up to that debt ceiling limit when all our borrowing privileges are cut off and our nation's credit -- well, we get downgraded.

Meanwhile, out in Iowa, former Governor Pawlenty is campaigning for president and getting called the incarnation of President Bush, and it does not appear to be meant as a compliment. Republican presidential contender former Governor Tim Pawlenty joins us.

Good evening, sir. And someone from a member of the public in Iowa came up to you and said that -- unhappy with one of your remarks and said you were the incarnation of George Bush. Did you take that as a compliment or not so much?

TIM PAWLENTY, R-MINN., GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, good evening. Good to be with you, Greta. I'm not sure how he meant that. But I think I remember a couple of interactions today.

But what I was talking about is the need to balance the budget. I'm prepared as president to submit a balanced budget and actually enact a balanced budget, and I'm one of the candidates in the race -- the only candidate in the race who's actually had a consistent conservative record of getting budgets balanced, getting taxes cut. My record in Minnesota on doing health care reform the right way, appointing conservative judges -- I think most conservatives and Republicans would like it. And I think that person who was making those comments probably has a different view.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I think part of the problem -- and I think that this is sort of one of the hazards of being on the campaign trail -- is that everyone wants to hear certain things. And as I dug into it a little bit -- I'll defend you on this one -- is that I think he wanted you to say that you were going to balance the budget right away, not realizing that sort of Washington has to be sort of maneuvered in a particular direction, it can't just -- there's just not a switch to throw here. I think -- and so I think that's what he...


PAWLENTY: I remember the conversation. I said, Look, I'll submit a balanced budget as president, but it may take a few years to actually get it done, given all the challenges and politics of Washington. And I wanted to shoot it to him straight in that regard, and I think he perhaps just wanted a different approach.

But nonetheless, my record in Minnesota is the best record of any candidate in this race as relates to cutting taxes, cutting spending, and the like. I'll put it up against anybody in the race, that's for sure.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, your fellow Minnesotan, Representative Michele Bachmann -- a lot of talk today about -- about her migraine headaches, and I think you got cornered about that. And tell me -- tell me your thoughts on whether or not that's a disqualifier or not, whether we should be digging into this history or not?

PAWLENTY: You know, I think it's mostly a sideshow, Greta. I've observed Congresswoman Bachmann. I've never seen her have a medical condition or impairment that would seem to be a concern.

What I said today generically, applying to all candidates, not her, is that anybody who's going to serve as president of the United States of course, has to be able to do all of the job all of the time, 24/7. That's just common sense. It's not a debatable proposition.

But as applied to her, obviously, we would defer to the medical professionals in that regard. But I've never observed any concerns or problems with her in that regard.

And the real issue -- and I've been traveling all over Iowa. We're going to put 700 miles in an RV in this great state, talking to people. And the only headache they're concerned about is the economic headache Barack Obama is giving them with this crushing unemployment and terrible Obama economy.

VAN SUSTEREN: So if I can sort of bring it down to a sound bite is that you think she's physically able to be president, you just disagree with her and think that you'd be a better candidate. Is that fair?

PAWLENTY: Yes, I think that's exactly right.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK. Now, Washington -- there's a lot going on here. Who has the -- who's going to get -- if we go past the debt, this debt ceiling limit on August 3rd, who's going to get blamed and why? I mean, what is -- what's the strategy on both sides at this point?

PAWLENTY: Well, I think the public will assign blame to both sides, but this isn't about a poll or one moment in time. Look, Greta, over tax and financing issues in one of the most difficult political states for a conservative in the country, Minnesota, I had the first government shutdown in the 150-year history of my state. And my poll numbers went from pretty good to pretty bad in a big hurry, and people said, you know, Stick a fork in him, he's done.

But I had the fortitude to do the right thing, to draw lines in the sand, stand on principle, get that spending under control, stand for balanced budgets, and not just talk about it but get it done. And my record of results, not rhetoric, is one of the distinguishing factors in this race.

People said, Look, he's never going continue on in politics. The next year, 2006, I got reelected in one of the most challenging states in the country in one of the most challenging years for Republicans. So if you do the right thing and you set your compass to true north, you're not only going to have I think a good outcome politically, but you're going to have the best outcome and the right outcome for the country.

VAN SUSTEREN: But the problem here is that we really do have two very distinct ideologies, and if anyone sort of abandons, you know, his or her position, whether it's on the -- the conservatives, Republicans or the Democrats, it's looked as sort, you know, of abandoning principles because both sides feel very principled about this. And that's why this is a particularly thorny problem, is that -- you know, how -- how do you get someone to come off his principles, and how does the person then proceed?

PAWLENTY: Well, the only crisis here isn't just the debt ceiling. There's another crisis that's brewing, as well, and that is our country is drowning and sinking in debt. And the hour is later than people realize. So to cut some expedient deal just to avoid the discomfort of this moment isn't what's right for the country in the long haul.

VAN SUSTEREN: So -- so would you...

PAWLENTY: The debt ceiling issue is an opportunity to get real reform.

VAN SUSTEREN: So would you do the Senator Mitch McConnell proposal, which is sort of to have a three-part stage so we can sort of try to fix things as we go along?

PAWLENTY: No, Greta, I don't think that's a good idea. Long ago, I said sequence the payments so we don't have this false choice between a default and raising the debt ceiling. They didn't take my advice back in January and February. Now their back's up against the wall.

I wish they didn't raise the debt ceiling. But if they do, they have to get real, significant reform that fixes the problem or at least points us in a dramatically better direction. Senator McConnell's proposal, with all due respect, doesn't accomplish that.

VAN SUSTEREN: So if you were in the United States Senate tonight -- I know you don't want to be that, you want to be president. Would you be a "cut, cap and balance" signer?

PAWLENTY: Yes. In fact, I was one of the first national leaders to sign that pledge and that approach on "cut, cap and balance." I think it's the right approach. Those are the right reforms.

And I don't believe anymore that politicians are going to go to Washington, most of them, and actually have fiscal discipline. We got to have some guardrails up around these politicians. That's why I strongly support a constitutional amendment to balance the budget.

That's going to take some time to do and that's why we need to do the -- some heavy lifting in the meantime to at least get the cuts and the reforms started.

And again, everybody on the Republican side of the race is going to say they're the ones who can do it on spending and taxes and the like. But I've actually done it. That's why we have this tour in Iowa called "the road to results." It's not about more Barack Obama fancy speeches and the like. It's about getting the job done. And when you look at my record, you'll see that I've actually done it. I don't just flap my jaw and talk about it, I did it in a difficult environment.

VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, thank you very much for joining us. Enjoy Iowa, and hope you come back soon. Thank you, sir.

PAWLENTY: Well, it's been great to be in Iowa. Thank you for having me on the show, Greta.