Pawlenty on ‘the Jack Nicholson Election,’ ‘Economic Rehab,’ and How to Keep the Country Out of ‘Deep Doo-Doo’

Jun 7, 2011 2:28pm

ABC News' Matthew Jaffe (@jaffematt) reports:

GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty today brought his "hard truths" tour to President Obama's old stomping grounds of the University of Chicago to unveil his proposal to jumpstart the economy. 

"It's going to be the Jack Nicholson election," Pawlenty told the crowd here, full of college students. "Some of you are probably too young to remember the movie 'A Few Good Men,' but there's that famous line when he's on the witness stand and says, 'You can't handle the truth.' The American people, I think, can handle the truth."

Today's "hard truth"? According to Pawlenty, that Obama is "a champion practictioner of class warfare" whose policies have left the economy in worse shape than it was in three years ago."We've tried President Obama's way and it has only made the economy worse," Pawlenty said.

"The truth is markets work and Barack Obama's central planning doesn't," he said.

The president used to teach at this school on Chicago's south side and his top economic adviser Austan Goolsbee announced last night that he is leaving the administration to return to his professor post here.

But for all the barbs the former Minnesota governor lobbed at the White House, not all of them went over well with the crowd. A few of Pawlenty's one-liners, for instance, drew little reaction: "if that was a recovery then our president needs to enter economic rehab and the American people need to stop his policies cold turkey"… "the government needs to hit the gym and hit it hard."

One questioner asked Pawlenty, "If there's a class war going on, as you suggest, who's winning that war?"

"I come from a background, so you know, that is not of wealth," Pawlenty replied, describing his childhood when his dad worked as a truck driver and his mom died when he was 16.

"Set aside the, you know, whether the wealthy benefit or not," he continued. "The real measure of these proposals is is it going to generate – in a transformative, significant way – more jobs for more people across this country? There's about five percent of the country that is our entrepreneurial class, the people who start businesses, form capital, deploy capital, add employees, build buildings, invent things, conduct research, commercialize it and the like. If that five percent becomes six, seven, eight or nine percent, we've got a very bright future. And if that five percent becomes four, three, two or one percent, we are in deep doo-doo. We are in deep crap."

"You can't be pro-job and anti-business. That's like being pro-egg and anti-chicken," he quipped.

Some of the key elements of his economic plan didn't go over too well with reporters, either. The Washington Post's Ezra Klein took a dim view of Pawlenty's claims that his plan could grow the economy by five percent over the next decade by lowering tax rates and closing tax loopholes."This plan isn’t optimistic. It isn’t a bit vague. It’s a joke. And I don’t know which is worse: The thought that Pawlenty knows that and went forward with this pandering, fantasy-based proposal anyway, or the thought that he doesn’t know it, and he really thinks this could work," Klein wrote:

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