June 28th, 2009
02:40 PM ET
10 months ago

Pawlenty: GOP's 'clearly' been damaged


WASHINGTON (CNN) – With two prominent Republicans falling prey to sexual scandals in as many weeks, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty candidly conceded Sunday that his party is in trouble.

Asked on CNN’s State of the Union how much damage the recent admissions of marital infidelity by Nevada Sen. John Ensign and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford have done to the Republican Party’s already struggling brand, Pawlenty said “it’s hard to quantify that."

“But clearly there’s been damage,” Pawlenty quickly added.

“Anytime you have leading figures who are engaged in behavior that is sad and troubling and hypocritical, other people are going to look at that and say, ‘They don’t walk the walk,’” Pawlenty CNN Chief National Correspondent John King. “And so the words and the actions don’t ring true.”

Pawlenty called the situation between Gov. Sanford and his wife, Jenny – the couple is currently separated because of the governor’s extramarital affair – “a sad and troubling situation.”

“I’m proud of Jenny for her strength . . . and, frankly, I was glad to see her not standing at the press conference [where Sanford admitted the affair last week] like many others have and kind of charting her own path.”

And Pawlenty had harsh words for his embattled counterpart in South Carolina.

Sanford “should not have left the state and not allowed people to know how to contact him in case something happened,” Pawlenty told King. “Your staff has to be able to reach you and reach you quickly for all the obvious reasons – natural disaster, terrorism, or other events,” Pawlenty also said.

Asked about the GOP’s relationship with its socially and fiscally conservative base, Pawlenty said Republicans need to return to their values.

“If you’re going to be, for example, the party of fiscal discipline and be the person who’s talking about fiscal responsibility, then you better do that. Hypocrisy doesn’t sell. And, the Republicans have to be true to their values, true to their principles and walk the walk.”

After appearing to criticize some in his own party, Pawlenty was quick to take the edge off that harsher tone.

“Now, we live in a world where people aren’t perfect. . . There’s going to be dumb things that happen, sad things that happen, heartbreaking things that happen. So we can’t expect perfection.”


Filed under: GOP • Jenny Sanford • Mark Sanford • Popular Posts • State of the Union • Tim Pawlenty
soundoff (154 Responses)
  1. w.l. jones

    May I say the republican being during it(cheating) from infincy with all the dark wood in the forrest, and holling self righeious. Said enough.

    June 28, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  2. Hawk, Texas

    Pawlenty is blowing more republican smoke. if he is so moral and just, why dosen't he seat mn.s other senator. why does he keep catering to coleman?. why! because he is a typical republican.

    June 28, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  3. Lorna, PA

    Here's an idea Tim Pawlenty...why don't YOU do the right thing and certify Al Franken as the winner for the Senate seat and let him go to Washington DC and represent the people of your state. More BS from the Republicans...it is never ending. Bev, you hang right on to your juicy rationalizations to try and justify the horrible mess made by the Republican party on any number of levels. Fix things? I wouldn't let them attempt to fix my wheelbarrow.

    June 28, 2009 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  4. Shingo

    The GOP is hurt. Sanford is an issue because you cannot be the party of family values and then look the other way. The GOP will have to decide if it is the party of the far right as in the past or not. To be credible they will have to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.

    June 28, 2009 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  5. NWisconsin Boy

    Never mind the affair.. Sanford is just a lousy Governor, esp. for fighting against stimulus money for his state, and disappearing like he did. His political future is dead in the water. He should resign..it might give his party a fighting chance to retain the Gov post in the next election.

    June 28, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  6. Michael

    Jenn,

    The point you are missing is that yes Democrat politicians commit the same dishonest hypocrisy, but as individual politicians. The entire Republican party runs on the plat form that they are all moral beacons and therefore put their party, not just individual members, up for scrutiny.

    Clinton was wrong and a hypocrite, not his party. Stanford and Ensign were wrong and hypocrites and so is their party because their party runs on a message that "we are holier than thou".

    June 28, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  7. George Arlington, TX.

    When your leaders entertwine religion and politics WATCH OUT.

    June 28, 2009 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  8. pcs / North Carolina

    David E. wrote June 28th, 2009 1:22 pm ET

    "I am not taking sides here, but it has been my understanding that liberals are the most compasionate, kind, and understanding people who take the high road.Until you disagree with them."

    What do you think about "Rush, Hannity, O'Reily, Ann coulter and the other Rethuglican religious fanatics who preach hate and division. They sound cool , isn’t it !!

    June 28, 2009 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  9. Dre

    The GOP will not have an other chance at the White House with the way they been acting lately. Also with the help of those rightwing nuts going after Obama with every thing he do trust me they don't stand a chance and they are so stupid they thought the American people were not watching.

    June 28, 2009 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  10. here we go

    What "values" is he talking about. I personally don't think they had many. They have been toting their "values" all these yrs, and look what has been their record. The only reason they spoke out, is one apparently being "blackmailed" and the other had to explain his "disappearance". They go in public and make apologies, but in the same breath they continue with the "values" thing, give me a break....

    June 28, 2009 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  11. renea

    I feel the GOP just need to come down off their high horses, a politician needs to be able to reach people thats not on their level. It seems to me they cannot identify with poor people everyone is not rich like them so they are going to need government help. they are going to need a boost like food stamps, medicaid, uemployement benefits. job training, not just be told to go get a job and get off welfare like they want them to.The same with gay rights, abortion yeah they may want everyone to be straight and not have abortions but everyone is not the same i do not condone this but i feel the GOP just donot know how to handle these issues.

    June 28, 2009 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  12. D. Tree

    Republicans need to stop acting like they own good values – its never going to work because there are good and bad people in each party.

    June 28, 2009 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  13. Reaganism??

    The comment about bringing back Reagan to this country, Reagan destroyed the EPA by allowing companies to opt out of what they wanted to, he also rose the deficits to record levels and had the largest tax increase in history. He allowed the companies such as Monsanto to manipulate the worlds renewable seeds sources resulting a 90% extinction of the worlds renewable food sources, and yet for some reason he's still a icon for the GOP. Obama's allready a better President, least he's investing in America and given up on "trickle down" economics (which after 30 years obviously didn't work).

    June 28, 2009 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  14. Jim Q.

    The problem isn't that the guys cheated. The problem is that they, and their party, make private morality into a political weapon. Democrats cheat as well, but there's no relish in it, because they don't make such a big deal about their own holier-than-thou status. Conservative Republicans politicians reap what they sow—they set themselves up as having unique moral authority, and when discovered to be merely humans, everybody and their mother comments on the hypocrisy. Instead of "returning to their values," which is nothing other than a call for more assertion of their moral authority, the Republican Party needs to seriously consider whether moral politics is a good idea in the first place. Does it lead to better political decisions? Does it lead to better politicians?

    June 28, 2009 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  15. Shocked and Sad

    Thank you Willow for: 'How is forcing one set of religious beliefs on others granting Constitutional freedom for all?
    I say to all Religious fanatics: Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu; Islam... all of you... stop corrupting the spiritual work of God by using his name as a shield for your power grabs. God's many messengers were sent to teach love and peace. All the rest of the hateful preaching comes from men who do not know God under any name.

    June 28, 2009 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  16. Henry Miller, Cary, NC

    The damage to the GOP has more to do with the hypocrisy of its bible-thumpers than it does with their marital indiscretions. If they'd quit trying to ram their bible-belt "values" down everyone's throats they'd solve two problems at once.

    June 28, 2009 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  17. Doc

    Reaganism coming back??? Do you mean to say a Republican Administration is going to give us the second largest tax hike in US History – just like Reagan did??????

    June 28, 2009 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  18. Limbaugh is a liberal

    The GOP is not in trouble because they're moral hypocrites. They are in trouble because they are just whiners who never offer any workable alternative plans. They criticized Obama's budget, and yet their own alternative was only a 16 page outline with NO numbers. How can you have a budget with no numbers? They criticized Obama's health care reform for costing too much, and yet their own 'alternative' never made a cost estimate, was only a 3 page outline that borrowed 80% of its content from Obama's health plan.
    If they put even half the effort into coming up with real plans that they now put into criticizing Obama, they wouldn't be the laughing stock of the nation!

    June 28, 2009 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  19. PULEEEZZZ!! lets tell some truth

    ONE more case of republican Incompetency. It makes me think of Home Land security under Bush.. Great Job, Brownie.. Right.. New Orleans almost wiped off the earth.. They dont get it. We need eductated, competent people to lead. Not the 'drinking buddies' that the Republicans hand us.
    The whole Family Values shtick is now gone from the repertory of faulty political reasonings so common in the republican party.
    As far as "spend and tax" demos, thats another lie.. Reagan, the Bushes, and yes, Clinton put us in the mess we're in. Give Obama a chance to bail out the US.. McCain and please no, Sarah Palin wouldn't have known where to begin with the mess G.W. handed us under the name of patriotism

    June 28, 2009 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  20. arc, Lugano CH

    McCain's selection of Sarah Palin was the death knell of the past election cycle. The fact that many continue to support her as the leader of the party is only perpetuating this 'damage' as Pawlenty describes it. The first course of action in rebuilding the party would be to distance itself from her. She hurts the moderate/centrists of the party every time she opens her mouth. Be done with her.

    June 28, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  21. Scott

    Please, enough with praising the wife...rarely is only one partner of a marriage the sole fault, and it's not like we have his side of the story as to why he strayed. Sure, she is the more sympathetic of the two, and spouting how she's focused on the kids and god sounds great to the masses, but remember how she quickly said she didn't really care what happened to his career as governor, so one has to wonder just how supportive she has been to the marriage.

    And, as a Republican, I just don't see how various marital issues affect the party. It's not like the Republicans are in touch with the morals of most Americans anyway, and their stunning defeats recently attest to that. But, I will admit that until the GOP figures out how to craft some fiscal and foreign relations policies to match the current environment the party will remain on the outside looking in, and this sort of hyprocisy will remain media fodder.

    June 28, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  22. Denna

    Let us hope that the GOP and the Democrats all learn to now kick each other when they are down. I do suggest that the GOP stop running on the 'family values – high morals' ticket. I am sure that you all have family values, as do Democrats. The problem is that you wrap yourselves so tight in how morally upstanding you are that when one or two of you stumble, and you always do, it looks a hundred times worse than when a liberal stumbles. Next election cycle, how about just sticking to how your party is better able to run America than the Democratic party. Although, in the face of the mess W made, you may have a hard time selling that one too.

    June 28, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  23. AKoslik

    I could care less about Sanford's affair – what bothers me is the GOP's use of so-called "family values" as a party platform. They seek a moral high ground but drown in the fetid waters of their own behavior.

    I'm tired of moral posturing. I'm tired of the culture wars. I'm tired of the hypocrisy. If the GOP wants to mire themselves in their own regressive culture (Christian fundamentalism, anti-choice activism, anti-gay rights) then they have the right to do so. They just need to stop judging how other folks, with different belief systems, choose to live their lives...

    June 28, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  24. Shannon

    "With two prominent Republicans falling prey to sexual scandals"

    "Falling prey"? What, are these men victims?! I'm quite sure they all CHOSE to engage in sexual scandals. Let's not make this passive, please. These men knew exactly what they were doing. They were not helpless pawns. They are hypocrites and they deserve what they get for it.

    As for Tim Pawlenty, he's just giddy that his potential rivals at the republican primary are being knocked down one by one; it gives him more room for leverage. Look up the man's record people, he's been a terrible governor for us. He just took away money from our schools to cover his butt on the state budget.

    June 28, 2009 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  25. Peter E

    Next week on CNN: Pawlenty caught in sexual scandal. The past decade has shown us that politicians most vocal and critical of a behavior are the ones who get caught doing it soon afterwards!

    June 28, 2009 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
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