Tim Pawlenty Reacts to First 2012 Republican Presidential Debate

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," May 5, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: We turn now to the candidates themselves. All eyes on former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, one of the front-runners for the 2012 GOP nomination. Here's a look at his performance from earlier tonight.


FORMER GOVERNOR TIM PAWLENTY, R-MINN.: There is a group of individuals who are radical jihadists. We need to call them by name. They believe it is OK to kill people in the name of their religion. It is not all of Islam. It is not all Muslims. But there is a subgroup who believe it is OK. In fact, it is their plan and design to kill people.

The people and the mindset that killed 3,000 of our fellow citizens on September 11 2001, would have killed not 3,000, but 300,000 if they could have or 3 million or 30 million. We need to do everything we can within our value systems and legal structures to make sure that doesn't happen.


HANNITY: Joining me is former Minnesota governor Pawlenty. Good to see you. How did it feel the first debate?

FULL COVERAGE: GOP Presidential Debate

PAWLENTY: It is great. I appreciate Fox News for doing it. It's an important discussion. Fox was first to have it. I was glad to be here to take the case to President Obama.

HANNITY: This focus group was angry some of the other candidates weren't there. Do you think there are legitimate reasons as of this early date they are not here?

PAWLENTY: I think some are undecided whether they want to have an exploratory committee. So if they're not decided I suppose that is a fair excuse. But it is already May. We have a country that is $5 a gallon gas, $4 a gallon gas, we got unbearable unemployment and a federal government that is out of control. We have to take back this country and we've got to get off the sidelines and take it to President Obama.

HANNITY: I wanted clarification as I was watching the debate tonight. The question came up two years ago and the issue of waterboarding. You were against it two years ago? I wasn't really clear on --

PAWLENTY: I was listening carefully to the clip that Chris played. I don't think it said I was against it. I said you have to balance factors when you use it. So of course you have to balance the factors. I do support enhanced interrogation techniques. Obviously their value is shining through with respect to the bin Laden killing.

HANNITY: You had a really big applause line when you say the first job of the federal government is to protect the people in this country. When you look at all we are learning about this, enhanced interrogation, rendition, black sites, tough interrogation, sleep deprivation, all these methods are used, the very policies President Obama opposed, if they were not used we would not have gotten bin Laden Sunday. What does that tell you about the president and his mindset?

PAWLENTY: I think when the dust settles on this somebody should ask the president we the record is established, as to whether those things -- I think they did lead or contribute significantly to finding bin Laden. Go back to the president and say you opposed your campaign, exploited it to the detriment of Senator McCain or President Bush, he was very critical of President Bush. Ask him now, do you regret those statements? Did you change your position? Would you support those techniques now? I think the president owes the American people that explanation or clarification.

HANNITY: At least give President Bush some of the credit about these issues. Because we are not going to have this success in the future otherwise.

PAWLENTY: I met with President Bush once in the White House towards the end of his term. The race was unsettled between Senator McCain and Senator Obama at the time. President Bush said, "I don't care who gets in here. When they know what I know, they will do about what I did. "

HANNITY: What do you think as you look at the weaknesses -- I thought this was an interesting point. Where are the greatest weaknesses, if you were to win the nomination, that you see with President Obama and how would he be defeated?

PAWLENTY: His economic policies are a disaster and his worldview about the role of government as it relates to job providers and growing jobs in this country is ridiculous. The number one thing I hear around this country, I talk to people about what it would take to provide more jobs, they say get the government off my back. This president is putting more of the government on their back and they're discouraged. It is too expensive, too slow, and the like.

HANNITY: As we move forward on economic issues, you support tax cuts.

PAWLENTY: Yes, I do.

HANNITY: How would you balance the budget for the federal government and begin the process of paying off $14 trillion plus in debt which is going to be higher soon?

PAWLENTY: There are many things we have to do. I governed a very liberal state. I had the first government shutdown in 150 years. I set a record for vetoes. I un-allotted more money using executive authority in my eight years than all the other 140-some odd years of governors combined. You've got to draw lines in the sand. It does lead substantially to reforming entitlement programs. We have to look the people in the eye, tell them what we are going to do.

And it includes this -- we have to raise the retirement age for Social Security for new entrants into the program. Don't scare the people who are already on the program. Anybody who is not yet contributing to Social Security. So, people coming into the workforce at age 16, 17, 18, that retirement age will raise gradually over time. We have to means test, for example Sean, not the whole program, so if you are wealthy you are not going to get as big adjustment in the future if you are middle income or lower income. We have to get into the meat of this, it is urgent. There are similar answers for Medicaid and Medicare but those are examples of proposals we can get a majority of the country to support. We need to fix this problem and use this debt ceiling debate as an opportunity to force the issue.

HANNITY: Let me go an issue that concerns me, and it's about what I describe as the hypersensitivity of the White House as it relates to Islamic extremists. They didn't use the words "war on terror" for a long time. Mirandizing enemy combatants is another issue that I take issue with. Do you think they should A, release the photos? You said yes tonight.

B, what did you think of the funeral that took place? We are told that bin Laden is not a Muslim, he represents a perversion, hijacking of Islam. Yet he got full Islamic custom, buried within 24 hours, body washed, put in a shroud, 40 minute ceremony on a warship. And it was even interpreted into Arabic. Was that a mistake?

PAWLENTY: Keep in mind when you are dealing with terrorists and rogue actors, we are not dealing with the armies in uniform of established nations in battle. These are folks who are rogue terrorists outside of the bounds of even normal battle. To suggest we have to extend them all these additional courtesies, is something I think --

HANNITY: Do you think it is naive by the administration?

PAWLENTY: I think it was appropriate. I think they did the right thing in terms of sensitivies to say we are going to make a good faith effort to bury him or put him to rest in a way that is appropriate.

HANNITY: But isn't he one of the radical Islamists you were talking about tonight and he doesn't represent mainstream Islam?

PAWLENTY: Absolutely. But you have to think about what is our strategic or tactical goal here? And what we want to do is try and minimize other people like him becoming inflamed or operationalizing against the United States. If we would have buried him in a way that inflamed them or was disrespectful or inappropriate that could have intentionally put our men and women and citizens in harm's way.

HANNITY: Governor, great to see you. It was great to get the ball rolling tonight. Hopefully we'll be seeing you a lot on the road. Thanks for being with us.

PAWLENTY: Absolutely, it's time. Thank you.

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