GOP Presidential Hopeful Tim Pawlenty: 'This Is About Saving America'

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," March 29, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: And we are on the road to 2012 with the first Republican presidential debate just weeks away. The highly competitive GOP field is beginning to take shape as new announcements of exploratory committees and key staff hirings still keep coming in.

After more than a year of making speeches and connections in early voting states, my next guest is the first major player to officially announce that he's formed a presidential exploratory committee. His objective is simple, straightforward -- take back our government. Joining me now live in studio, former Minnesota governor, 2012 GOP presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty.

Governor, how are you? So good to see you. Enjoying the time out on the road? Is it --

FORMER GOV. TIM PAWLENTY, R-MINN.: I enjoy it a lot, but as I mentioned to you off air, this is not about fun. This is about saving America. It is headed in the wrong direction, if I wanted to have fun, I would be playing hockey and drinking beer. This is about saving our country.

HANNITY: What position you're playing hockey because that was my sport as a kid.

PAWLENTY: Well, I used to play defense, but now I'm the old timer --

HANNITY: I was the center. I was the guy you were knocking over --

PAWLENTY: Now you play whoever gets tired and comes off the ice, you take their position.

HANNITY: Exactly right, good point.

Let me ask you about this little battle with Trump. Donald Trump has said where is the birth certificate? You said it is not an issue for you. You have no doubt whatsoever. My question to you is -- because I never really followed the issue, I've gotten more interested only lately. Why don't they just produce the stupid thing and move on? I don't get it.

PAWLENTY: First of all, as to Donald Trump, the Donald, I think he's successful, entertaining, interesting and funny. I think he brings a lot to the debate so, you know, good for him. But on the other hand for me, the news reports from CNN and others have said they've seen the birth certificate.

HANNITY: Never trust CNN.

PAWLENTY: Well, you know, it's a start. But look, we got big issues in the country. This is an important if it turned out to be true, but I just don't believe with the advertisement, with the hospital announcement, with the certificate of live birth that somebody that long ago, you know, fabricated and created a fraudulent situation that Barack Obama could be where he is today. I just don't believe that --maybe, but something that Trump wants to pursue.

HANNITY: You don't have a problem with people saying can we see it? Can you find it?

PAWLENTY: No, but it has been reported. You know, CNN, I watched it myself. CNN reported they saw the birth certificate. You got to either believe that they didn't and they're lying or there is something else going on.

HANNITY: It just something weird that they release it and just get over with. It seems to me because I don't doubt it. I'm just -- now it is getting strange that they don't say here. All right, let me move on.

PAWLENTY: The other thing is it is becoming a big distraction for other reasons too and we've got issues right in front of us that are going to take down the country if we don't fix them.

HANNITY: I agree with you. Senator Rubio was just saying the same thing. I thought your comments were dead on about the president being timid on Libya. I find that he's got this pattern where he seems indecisive and he can't make up his mind. What do you think is going on?

PAWLENTY: I think you've got somebody who is sitting atop of the most complex and important organization in the world who doesn't understand executive function and leadership. I also think he's somebody who has an incoherent view of America's place in the world.

When he runs around the world and a, apologizes and b, says we are one of many, one of equals that is not true. That is not America's place in the world. Our role is not to be one of many. It's not to lag behind China.

Our role as the United States of America is to lead the world in everything, Sean, and not have an apologist as the president.

HANNITY: And you think Barack Obama -- does he not believe in American exceptionalism is that what it is?

PAWLENTY: Well, it stars with having a coherent understanding of what we stand for. So when you see an unsettled situation that unfolds quickly and you're in crisis, what do you revert back to? You revert back to your core beliefs and values.

In Egypt, the response was, Hillary Clinton, he's not -- the situation is stable. By the way, we are dinner friends with the Mubarak's. Two, we have the vice president saying he's not a dictator. Three, the head of national intelligence for the country says the Muslim Brotherhood is a largely secular organization.

Then they say Mubarak has to go and they send Wisner to Europe to whisper in his ear we really didn't mean it. I mean, it was incoherent and that trend continues. He doesn't understand America's place in the world, America's place in history. He is weak. His response is incoherent and when you have unsettled situations, you have to revert back to your core values and principles and he doesn't believe what we believe.

HANNITY: How bad is the economy?

PAWLENTY: I think we are headed for a double dip. That's my personal view. I think you have a situation now where they've devalued the dollar. A strong dollar represents a strong economy and a strong country.

I think they have flooded the economy with fiat money in a way that's going to have a return of inflation in a manner and to a degree that I think is going to be very troubling.

I think they have no appreciation and respect for the deployment of private capital and private markets. And I think they've completely botched the additional burdens they put on the deployment --

HANNITY: Do you see any way out of this before the election in 2012? You see any avenue for improvement before 2012?

PAWLENTY: It may look like there's temporary improvement because they've artificially infused the economy with government money. The consequences of that, as sure as we are sitting here will rear its head.

And one of the questions for the American people are going to be, do you really want $4 a gallon gas? Do you really want 8, 9, 10 or higher percent unemployment? Do you really want a government that's out of control and can't -- can't address its deficit?

HANNITY: My line is can you afford four more?

PAWLENTY: As I travel the country, Sean, one of the saddest things I encounter is the number of Americans who now believe that our best days are not yet ahead of us. And that's a sad development. It is a reflection, I think of weak, uncertain and compromised leadership.

HANNITY: How do you break out in this race? In other words, we don't know who else is in it. I mean, you kind of took the first big step.

Because there's going to be a lot of people, very similar views. How is Governor Pawlenty going to break out and distinguish himself from all the other candidates in the race?

PAWLENTY: Well, what will differentiate people, first of all, is their personal background and story. Like Senator Rubio, I grew up in a blue collar background in a meat packing town. We've all got a record.

The Cato Institute gave me one of four "A" grades for governors in the country, one of four. I'm the only one in the north of the country. I got a vision for the future. I think another thing that's going to differentiate is I can unite not just the conservative movement but the party.

If you look at libertarian conservatives, economic conservatives, social conservatives, national defense conservatives, I think I'm going to be the only candidate in the field who can genuinely and deeply appeal to the whole party and then go out and compete in a place like Minnesota and win it.

HANNITY: All right, Governor, I hope we'll see you often. We really appreciate you stopping by as always. Thank you very much.

PAWLENTY: Appreciate it. Thanks for having me.

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