Tim Pawlenty Tells Obama To Start Leading On Debt Crisis: 'Is He Chicken?'

07/24/2011 11:01 am ET | Updated Sep 23, 2011

WASHINGTON -- Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty had some harsh words for President Obama on Sunday, accusing him of being too scared to lead the country through the debt crisis.

"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? Is he chicken?" asked Pawlenty, appearing on CNN's "State of the Union."

Claiming Obama has been absent on entitlement reform, Pawlenty asked where his specific Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security reform proposals are.

"The answer is he doesn't have one," said Pawlenty. "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."

CNN's Candy Crowley countered that Obama has told Republicans in meetings that he would be willing to tackle entitlement reform, if they can work out a larger deal that includes new tax revenue.

"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," said Pawlenty.

The former Minnesota governor hasn't directed plenty of tough rhetoric toward Democrats regarding the debt ceiling, but his talk about how he would be dealing with the problem if he were president has been significantly more confusing.

When asked about his own personal position on the debt ceiling debate on Sunday, Pawlenty said he would push for the House GOP's "Cut, Cap and Balance" plan -- even though it has no chance of passing the Senate.

"As important as the debt ceiling is, the other issues of whether we're going to fix the spending problems in this country also deserve attention. And if not now, when?" he asked.

Eventually he admitted that no matter what happens, the debt ceiling will have to be raised, despite the fact that he has advocated against such a move in the past, even going so far as to set up a petition on his website.

"No, they're going to have to fix it, Candy," said Pawlenty. "They're going to have to fix it. We don't want to default. The United States of America shouldn't default."

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