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Pawlenty blasts Obama for "incoherent response" in Middle East

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty speaks at the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition Event March 7, 2011 in Waukee, Iowa. Photo by Steve Pope/Getty Images

Likely GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty took aim at President Obama's reaction to uprisings in the Middle East on Thursday, lambasting what he described as the administration's "incoherent response" and urging stronger support for the anti-Qaddafi rebels in Libya.

"On Libya, we have a confirmed terrorist, a psychopath, somebody who has killed Americans and has American blood on his hands," Pawlenty said, referring to the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland that killed 270 people, the Minnesota Post reports.

"I think if there is a plausible way to implement a no-fly zone, we should," Pawlenty continued. "If there is a plausible way to help those who are trying to take out Muammar Qaddafi, we should. The president, he's thinking about it and thinking about it, but I would be more forward-leaning."

The former Minnesota governor, speaking before an estimated 150 people at a New Hampshire house party in his honor, emphasized what he described as his "pro-American, pro-security, pro-defense" foreign policy philosophy, according to Politico.

He also criticized the Obama administration's foreign policy in Egypt as lacking in foresight.

"[Egyptian President Hosni] Mubarak was 82 years old, and so whether it was this revolt, this fall's election or the health challenge he might have predictably because of his age, he wasn't long for that position," Pawlenty said. "So, hindsight's 20-20, but if you look backwards, what was the plan between an 82-year-old dictator and chaos?"

He added that the United States should not be concerned about popularity in enacting its foreign policy initiatives.

"I'm not overly concerned about our popularity ratings in Europe or the Middle East," Pawlenty said.

"What's most important is our nation is secure and respected," he added. "After that if we can be liked, that's fine. But that shouldn't be where we start, that's icing on the cake."

On domestic issues, Pawlenty reiterated his desire for a constitutional amendment to balance the budget and his opposition to raising the debt ceiling. He also argued for a gradual raise in the retirement age for new entrants to Social Security, and said he would be open to supporting means-testing the annual cost of living increases in the program, the Post reports.

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