Greenville, South Carolina (CNN) – Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a likely candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, called on President Barack Obama to release photos of Osama bin Laden's body Friday.
Speaking to a group of reporters the morning after his appearance in the first GOP presidential debate, Pawlenty said Al Qaeda's admission that bin Laden is dead does not settle the debate over releasing the photographs.
"Beyond Al Qaeda, there may be others who question the claim that bin laden was killed," he said. "But that's not the only issue relating to the photographs. There is a public interest in the photographs."
"I don't think the president needs to be the censor-in-chief, absent a clear national security need for it to be secret or confidential," Pawlenty added. "He was the one who said he wanted to have the most open and transparent government in the modern history of the country.
Pawlenty said the president did "a good job" in hunting down the 9/11 mastermind, and said the killing of bin Laden is "a boost" for the president politically.
He called the operation "a momentous occasion" for the county and said it was "appropriate" for Obama to visit the World Trade Center site in Manhattan and meet with families of those killed in the terror attacks.
But he also predicated that any bounce in poll numbers for the president "will be limited in scope and limited in duration."
"That is not the sum total of our national security and foreign policy posture for the country and it's certainly not the sum total of the debate," Pawlenty argued, saying the 2012 election will turn on issues like energy costs and unemployment.
"People are unsettled," he said. "They don't think the country is headed in he right direction."
Also Friday, Pawlenty previewed proposals to reform Medicare and Social Security in order to address long-term budget deficits.
While he said House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan should be "applauded and thanked" for confronting entitlement reform in his budget proposal, Pawlenty said his plan would be "different" but "largely consistent" with the Ryan plan.
Pawlenty said his Medicare plan would feature payment reform and vouchers to purchase private insurance.
He also said he would fix Social Security by "gradually raising the retirement age" for young people who have not yet entered the workforce.
You just lost a whole lot of respect from me with this statement of yours. The GOP leadership in Congress backs the President on this. This is nothing more than an attempt to score political points with the fringe of the Republican party. You have no chance if all you're going to do is pander to the lowest common denominator. This comes from one of the few conservatives here in Minnesota.