Tim Pawlenty, Patrick Kennedy Criticize Sarah Palin for Using Gun Imagery on Map

The former Minnesota governor has carefully laid the groundwork for a presidential run, raising money for Republican candidates and laying out a coherent anti-Obama vision centered on a push to overturn the health care bill. But he has also had a hard time capturing the imagination of the GOP faithful, many of whom seem to view Pawlenty as an acceptable but far-from-thrilling 2012 standard-bearer. Tim Pawlenty Setting Stage for 2012 More Coverage on Tim Pawlenty
AP Photo/Cliff Owen

Former Minnesota Gov. (and likely 2012 GOP presidential contender) Tim Pawlenty took a swipe at former governor Sarah Palin on Tuesday for her use of crosshairs imagery on a map showing the Democrats that Palin wanted to see lose in the midterm elections.

"I think Governor Palin is a remarkable leader; I think she brings a lot to the debate and the table, both nationally and within the Republican Party as well," Pawlenty said on ABC's "Good Morning America." But, he continued, "You know, it wouldn't have been my style to put the crosshairs on there."

The map in question, released by Palin's SarahPAC in March, points to 20 House Democrats Palin targeted for defeat in the midterm elections. The candidates' districts are marked on a map with what appear to be gun sights, and their names and districts are listed beneath the map. Democratic Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, one victim in Saturday's shooting in Tucson, Arizona, was featured as a target on the map.

Complete Coverage: Tragedy in Tucson

Palin has been roundly criticized for the map -- and its seemingly gun-related imagery -- in the aftermath of Saturday's shooting. A representative for Palin denied that the images were meant to look like gun sights, and noted, "We have nothing whatsoever to do with this."

Pawlenty also told the New York Times he would have avoided the crosshairs imagery. "I wouldn't have done it," Pawlenty said in a Jan. 10 interview.

But Pawlenty also said there is no reason to believe believe the Tucson shootings were by Palin's use of controversial imagery or rhetoric.

"There's no evidence to suggest that that had anything to do with this mentally unstable person's rage and senseless acts in Arizona," he said.

Pawlenty also cautioned against jumping to conclusions about the political motivations of 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, the accused shooter.

"There's no reason to believe at this point that there's any motivating factor tied to a particular politician or a particular show or a particular act," Pawlenty said. "It appears to be the rage of a mentally unstable person, and sometimes they do irrational and senseless things."

Patrick Kennedy, the recently-retired Rhode Island congressman and the son of longtime Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy, suggested there was more to it in an interview with Politico. Kennedy is the nephew of John F. Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy, both of whom were shot to death.

"When Sarah Palin puts targets on people's districts? Or you have 10,000 signs on the mall during the healthcare battle saying 'Bury Obamacare with [Ted] Kennedy'? When the vitriol and the rhetoric is so violent, we have to connect consequences to that," Kennedy said.

"There are consequences to violent rhetoric," Kennedy continued. "Some people can see through TV ratings and right-wing talk show hosts that just try to create some theater, but unfortunately, there are some that can't see through it. And that's the danger in it. There is definitely freedom of speech, but freedom of speech does not allow yelling 'fire' in the middle of a crowded movie theater."

Pawlenty, who was on "Good Morning America" promoting his new book, is widely expected to be preparing a 2012 bid for the Republican presidential nomination - though he said in an interview with the St. Petersberg Times that an official decision won't likely come for some time.

"I'm not going to be cute about it. I'm seriously considering running for president," Pawlenty said Monday. "I'm going to make that announcement in a few months, but in the meantime I just finished up eight years of governor."