Des Moines, Iowa (CNN) – In an exclusive CNN interview, Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty unleashed unusually caustic language against President Obama on Friday, claiming the president is "ducking, bobbing and weaving" to avoid offering specifics on entitlement reform.
Pawlenty made the comments to CNN Anchor and Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley in an interview to be aired Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."
The former Minnesota governor used a blistering metaphor to suggest the president is going to great lengths to avoid public scrutiny on the issue.
"If you're the leader of the free world would you please come to the microphone and quit hiding in the basement about your proposals. And come on up and address the American people," Pawlenty said.
"Is he chicken?" the former governor quipped.
It's unclear if Pawlenty's tough talk is intentionally designed to combat, what some see as, a nice-guy image or if the amped-up comments are designed to raise his stubbornly low poll numbers in the Republican presidential race.
Pawlenty has also recently blasted fellow GOP presidential candidates Michele Bachmann and Mitt Romney.
Pawlenty told Crowley he's long urged leaders to better manage cash flow to avoid the "false choice" between a default and raising the debt ceiling.
"We need real permanent structural reforms," Pawlenty said, adding that he'd push for the Cut, Cap and Balance plan if he were president. That plan, after passing in the House earlier this week, failed to clear the Senate on Friday. It would have tied a debt ceiling increase to sweeping reductions in federal spending, caps on future expenditures, and a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.
When the conversation between Crowley and Pawlenty turned to reforming the nation's massive and costly entitlement programs, Pawlenty used some of his harshest language.
"Where is his specific Medicaid reform proposal?" Pawlenty said of the president. "Where is his specific Medicare reform proposal? Where is his Social Security reform proposal? The answer is: he doesn't have one. You can't find him publicly talking about that. He's ducking, he's bobbing, he's weaving, he's not leading and that's not the kind of president we need. And that's why he needs to be removed from office."
Crowley pressed Pawlenty, saying that apparently, the president has spoken with House Speaker John Boehner privately about some of these proposals.
"If we want to do it in private we can go down to the VFW basement – I can go have a beer with my neighbor over that," Pawlenty said. "He's the president. Come on out of the basement. And come on out to the lawn of the White House or the microphone and tell us your plan on entitlement reform. And he won't do it because he doesn't have the courage to do it."
– Follow Shannon Travis on Twitter: @ShanTravisCNN
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