Why I Left the Right, Exhibit P for Pawlenty

Newsweek has an interview with Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, the very model of a modern GOP candidate, considered by many as a possible front runner for the Presidency in 2012: Anti-science and anti-gay.

Let me ask you about social issues your party has been dealing with. In her book, Palin claims that McCain’s handlers wanted her to be silent about her belief in creationism. How would you describe your view?

I can tell you how we handle it in Minnesota. We leave it to the local school districts. We don’t mandate a curriculum or an approach. We allow for something called “intelligent design” to be discussed as a comparative theory. It doesn’t have to be in science class.

Is this a kind of “moderate” creationism?

Well, Pawlenty is clearly trying to soft-pedal it, but no, there’s nothing “moderate” about this. The fact is that “intelligent design” has no validity whatsoever, as a “comparative theory” or any other kind of theory. ID is not a “theory” at all in the scientific sense — it’s a marketing ploy to repackage fundamentalist Christian creationism in a cheap pseudo-scientific suit.

And it’s become a plank of the GOP platform in many states — including Minnesota (PDF link). Quote:

P. Protecting educators from disciplinary action for including discussion of creation science, and adopting science standards that acknowledge the scientific controversies pertaining to the theory of evolution.

When a Republican governor is openly in favor of teaching this nonsense to children — and notice he says it “doesn’t have to be” in science class, not that he’s opposed to teaching it in science class — it’s appalling.

And Pawlenty’s personal views are even more anti-scientific:

Where are you personally?

Well, you know I’m an evangelical Christian. I believe that God created everything and that he is who he says he was. The Bible says that he created man and woman; it doesn’t say that he created an amoeba and then they evolved into man and woman. But there are a lot of theologians who say that the ideas of evolution and creationism aren’t necessarily inconsistent; that he could have “created” human beings over time.

Pawlenty has no problem with teaching creationism as science, but he wants to protect children from cross-dressing elementary school teachers, whether they actually exist or not. And he wants to make sure that gay couples don’t receive medical benefits — a position he’s reversed as the GOP has moved farther and farther to the right.

I know you are opposed to gay marriage, but what about medical benefits for same-sex couples?

I have not supported that.

Why not?

My general view on all of this is that marriage is to be defined as being a union of a man and a woman. Marriage should be elevated in our society at a special level. I don’t think all domestic relationships are the equivalent of traditional marriage. Early on we decided as a country and as a state that there was value in a man and a woman being married in terms of impact on children and the like, and we want to encourage that.

To borrow a phrase, have your views evolved over time?

In 1993 I voted for a bill prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in public accommodation, housing, and employment. That was 16 years ago.

Yes, gay-rights activists regarded you as a pretty cool guy at the time.

We overbaked that statute, for a couple of reasons. If I had to do it over again I would have changed some things.


That statute is not worded the way it should be. I said I regretted the vote later because it included things like cross-dressing, and a variety of other people involved in behaviors that weren’t based on sexual orientation, just a preference for the way they dressed and behaved. So it was overly broad. So if you are a third-grade teacher and you are a man and you show up on Monday as Mr. Johnson and you show up on Tuesday as Mrs. Johnson, that is a little confusing to the kids. So I don’t like that.

Has the law been changed?

No. It should be, though.

So you want to protect kids against cross-dressing elementary-school teachers. Do you have any in Minnesota?

Probably. We’ve had a few instances, not exactly like that, but similar.


So what happens if a cross-dressing elementary school teacher wants to teach “intelligent design” creationism? Imagine, if you will, the massive cognitive dissonance that would ensue.

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