George Stephanopoulos: 'No Evidence' Shooter Was Motivated by Politics, Focuses On It Anyway

According to Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos, there's "no evidence" that the Arizona shooter was motivated by political ideology. But, that didn't stop the ABC host from speculating during a discussion with possible Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty.

After allowing that "crazy voices" inside Jared Loughner's head probably prompted the rampage, Stephanopoulos continued, "But this has sparked a debate about the political debate in this country. You see Roger Ailes on Fox News saying his people have to tone it down. You have got Paul Krugman on the left talking about a climate of hate."

"What's your take on this," he prompted. Later, the former Democratic operative turned journalist attempted to get the Minnesota governor to repeat a mild criticism he made of Sarah Palin. Regarding the so-called cross hair maps that Palin's PAC created in 2010, Stephanopoulos nudged, "You actually told the New York Times you wouldn't have done the kind of mapping with cross hairs...Is this a test for her?"

Stephanopoulos, who is fond of lobbying his political guests about not cutting tax cuts, responded to Pawlenty's call for spending cuts this way: "Yet, you also say you want more tax cuts?" He followed-up, "But, won't tax cuts increase the deficit?"

The possible White House contender's interview was the first in a new series ABC is calling "Vote 2012, The Challengers." If the first edition is any indication, it will have a different tone than GMA's 2008 series. In July of 2007, the program devoted 38 minutes to then-candidate John Edwards.

In March of that year, 26 minutes were allocated to Hillary Clinton. The total was 64 minutes for Democrats. Both segments were comprised of mostly softball interviews. No Republicans were featured.

A transcript of the January 11 interview, which aired at 7:39am EST, follows:

ROBIN ROBERTS: Coming up next, our new series. It's called Vote 2012, The Challengers. And well, this man, right here, Governor Pawlenty, will he be one of them? George will put that and other questions to him when we come back


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: This morning, we kick off a new series, Vote 2012: The Challengers. We're going to sit down with the presidential challengers, those in the race, those just taking a hard look. There are going to be a lot of them in 2012. But, we're happy to start off with former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. He also has a new book out called Courage to Stand: An American Story. And, George, unless you're ready to announce right this second-

GOVERNOR TIM PAWLENTY: [Mock enthusiasm]: Right now, George! Right here!


PAWLENTY: No. I'm seriously considering it. But the announcement is going to have to wait a little bit.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It's going to have to wait a little bit. But, Let's talk about the events coming out this week, this terrible tragedy in Tucson. Now, we have no evidence that the shooter, Jared Loughner, was motivated by anything but the crazy voices in his own mind. But this has sparked a debate about the political debate in this country. You see Roger Ailes on Fox News saying his people have to tone it down. You have got Paul Krugman on the left talking about a climate of hate. What's your take on all this?

TIM PAWLENTY: Well, one of the things we cover in the book, in terms of management crisis, reactions to crisis, lessons learned in crisis is make sure you have the facts straight and make good decisions based on good information. As you said, 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. It appears to be the rage of a mental unstable person. And sometimes they do irrational and senseless things. Let's make sure before we make judgments or sweeping condemnations that we have all the facts up. But I think we can all benefit from a more civil and thoughtful discourse in this country.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And your fellow Republican, Sarah Palin who, and you write about this in the book, as well. The craziness of the final selection- John McCain's final selection process, where a lot of the outsiders believed you were a lot closer to getting the vice presidency than you did at that time. But, you're very kind to Sarah Palin in the book. You say she has a lot more capacity than people believe. Yet, she has come under fire over the last weekend. This has become a test for her. You actually told the New York Times you wouldn't have done the kind of mapping with cross hairs of congressional candidates that she was working against in the last campaign. Is this a test for her?

PAWLENTY: I think Governor Palin is a remarkable leader. I think she brings a lot to the debate and to the table, both nationally and within the Republican Party as well. As to the New York Times quote, it wouldn't have been my style to put the cross hairs on there. But, again, there's no evidence to suggest that that had anything to do with this mentally unstable person's rage and senseless acts.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, you think it changes the political climate at all?

PAWLENTY: I think it clearly does. In the sense that this is a major story. It's going to be part of the debate in the coming days and weeks. And I think it's going to cause everybody to step back and say, we can be passionate and should be passionate. We should be strong. But there's a line as it relates to, you know, basic civility and respect. And not trying to invoke violence.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You say you haven't made a final decision on whether to run for president. But this certainly reads, and I read this on the way back from Tucson yesterday, like the book of a man who certainly wants to run for president. And fascinating details about your life growing up in Minnesota and your family and the kind of challenges you faced as a governor. You write that the biggest challenge for America right now, if I get this right, is to learn how to say no.

PAWLENTY: Yeah. Politicians have been rewarded in recent history in this country for saying yes. Yes to just about everything. We're in big trouble. This Courage to Stand book is about standing up to those challenges. Identifying them accurately, truthfully, boldly. Not just scaring people. Showing them there's a way out. It's not a matter now, just of right versus left. It's a matter of eighth grade math. You can look at the charts on spending commitments and reasonable projections on revenue, they don't line up. We have a huge gap. If we don't start addressing this immediately, boldfully, truthfully and courageously, the country is going to have a rough ride.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yet, you also say you want more tax cuts?

PAWLENTY: Yeah. The United States of America is involved in a hyper competitive global competition. And the cost for doing business, starting job, growing jobs in this country, which is a key to the quality of life for most of our citizens, is too high.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But, won't tax cuts increase the deficit?

PAWLENTY: Well, I think in terms of the action reduction, tax reform, we should talk about lowering rates. And making the system more simple. I would like to require every member of Congress to do their own taxes.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do they're own taxes?

PAWLENTY: Do their own taxes. No help with an accountant, a lawyer, a tax specialist. If they can't do it, we'll get certification that they can go get help. But, I would like every one of the individuals to do their own taxes every year, and live with the mindless burdens we visit on the American people. George, I filled out a W-9, the other day. It was a half-page long, four pages of instructions.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I have never heard that before. My guess is it's going to be a pretty popular proposal. Before we go, the book is studded with biblical passages. If there were one passage you wanted the country to meditate on right now, what would it be?

PAWLENTY: Well, for me, an important passage is Proverbs three, five, six, which says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding. In all you ways acknowledge him and he will make straight your path." And, you know, this is a country founded under God. I believe that our faith in God is an important part of who we are and what we believe. It certainly informs a lot of my thinking. This is a time, particularly in this moment of crisis, where we need to pray and lean into our faith to get understanding of this terrible, senseless tragedy in Arizona and those people who suffered from it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor Pawlenty, thanks for your time this morning. Come back when you're ready to announce.

PAWLENTY: Thanks, George.

- Scott Whitlock is a news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.