There’s nothing like running for higher office to bring out the sharp words from a politician. But is Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty truly committed to patient-friendly, individual-centered health reform?

Pawlenty has had his share of accomplishments. Thanks in part to his pleasant demeanor and good looks, he’s been elected as a Republican in a strongly Democratic state. His most famous policy position to date has been his adherence to a “no new taxes” pledge, which he fudged by calling for a 75-cents-a-pack “fee” on cigarettes a few years ago.

A few months ago, Pawlenty, who lost last year’s veepstakes to Sarah Palin, announced that he would not run for a third term. Since then, he’s been barnstorming the country and talking about federal health care reform.

Most recently he’s opposed a new federal tax on companies that make pacemakers and other medical hardware. They are prominent employers in Minnesota, but his position is solid on not just political grounds but on policy grounds. Though a broad-based consumption tax at the state level is fine, a federal tax to help pay for an ambitious health care reform effort is a tax on getting well. In addition, it supports what is likely to be bad policy.

Pawlenty has also appeared on national TV, talking about “death panels.” According to one report, “Gov. Pawlenty gave a complicated, nuanced, not-really-but-sort-of-yes defense of those who fear that federal bureaucrats may eventually decide who will get lifesaving health care treatments and who will not.” The author at the link attempts to refute and ridicule Pawlenty’s views while describing them; you’ll have to decide whether he succeeds.

Will Minnesota support the 10th-amendment approach to health care? One candidate for Pawlenty’s job, Rep. Tom Emmer, wants it to, saying it offers “a proactive attempt to make sure nothing ever interferes … with our right to choice.”

Pawlenty himself has made sympathetic statements in that direction, saying ”You’re starting to see more governors, me and governor [Rick] Perry from Texas, speaking out on this and asserting our tenth amendment rights.”

Cross-posted from State House Call.

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