Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty appeared on Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Wednesday night at the end of a day filled with interviews.
The possible 2012 presidential candidate is promoting his new book "Courage to Stand." Most of the conversation with Stewart centered on the tone of political debate in the U.S., which has been a focus since the shooting in Arizona that left a congresswoman critically injured.
Stewart asked Pawlenty about what he said were vitriolic comments coming from "right wing" commentators. But Pawlenty said such comments are also coming from the left.
"I'm governor of the state where the Republican National Convention was in 2008, [and] I almost had to put up almost a semi military zone because protestors, mostly on the left, were yelling, screaming in some ways," Pawlenty said. "[They] were creating a security threat and physical threat to the security, not just to the convention, so this isn't limited to one side or the other."
Pawlenty said he'd like to see rhetoric cool down, but he understands the angry tone. "I think part of it is fear," Pawlenty said. "So you have to ask, what are people afraid of? And you know what people are afraid of right now, mostly in this country? They're afraid of losing their jobs. They can't get their kids to college. They can't pay for their health care, and they're ticked off."
Pawlenty has been laying the groundwork for a potential run for president. He left the governor's office at the start of the year. Below are some additional comments Pawlenty made on the show:
On whether political rhetoric has taken a wrong turn:
"We gotta be really careful here, because if you start saying you can say this, you can't say that, you can use that tone, you can't use that tone, then pretty soon you start to discourage, chill, maybe intimidate. I even caught myself today talking about hockey fights and politics, and I thought, well you know, maybe I shouldn't bring that up now because of this concern. So we've got to be careful from a free speech standpoint."
"Just because you can do something and say something doesn't mean you should. In other words, we all have a responsibility. If you've got rights and privileges, exercise them responsibly. Be fair, be accurate."
"I think all sides, left and right, could benefit from a more informed debate."
On whether the Republican Party believes "we as close to tyranny and socialism as the tone of their rhetoric would insinuate," as Stewart put it:
"I think there's a lot of us in the conservative movement who view government, whether it's personalized to Barack Obama or anyone else, as government that crowds into more space that used to be for individuals, that used to be for private markets, that used to be for charity, that used to be entrepreneurial activity, that used to be for faith organizations and push in and say, 'We'll do that now.' And they take away one more piece of what used to be reserved for individuals. There's a lot of us who say, you know, that feels like government stepping on us, pushing us to the side. There is a continuum between liberty and tyranny, and it sometimes happens very incrementally."
On how to reconcile the fact that cutting taxes would make the federal deficit go up:
"The premise behind 'we have to have more tax increases' is government needs more money. ...You would say yes it does, and I would say it has enough. When you take in $2.2 trillion, as the federal government did last year, and spend $3.7 trillion and you do the stimulus and you bail out General Motors and you bail out Chrysler to some extent and you bail out all the big banks and you say, you know our only choice really is to raise taxes. Really?"
(MPR reporter Elizabeth Dunbar contributed to this report.)