Gov. Tim Pawlenty 'Encouraging People To Assault Government Property' Like Austin Suicide Pilot?

After fretting about scary conservatives at the Conservative Political Action Conference on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program Thursday, Times columnist Gail Collins continued to demonstrate anxiety about the rhetoric of CPAC speakers in her Saturday column "The Wages of Rages," even bringing in the Austin suicide pilot Joe Stack.

Today, our topic is: strange stories about Republican presidential hopefuls. Would you rather start with the one about Mitt Romney and the rapper, or Tim Pawlenty?

O.K., if you really insist, Tim Pawlenty. Hehehe.

Pawlenty, the governor of Minnesota, appeared before the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington this week. The all-important question was whether he would be angry enough to win the hearts of the Tea Party-types.

He doesn't seem naturally irate. People call him T-Paw, which sounds like a character in a children's cartoon - maybe a lovable saber-toothed tiger with big feet. Or a pre-Little League game in which children who can't hit anything with a bat are allowed to just thwack at the ball with their fists.

Politicians often get into trouble when they're trying to sound more furious than they feel. And Pawlenty told the conservatives they should try to be more like...Tiger Woods's wife.

"We should take a page out of her playbook and take a 9-iron and smash the window out of big government in this country," he urged.

Collins worked in liberal condescension into her melodramatic cry of concern. Is she seriously worried about people streaming out of CPAC and onto the streets of D.C., to commit vandalism against federal buildings? After all, it's not the right whose protests generate mass arrests and property damage.

The overall strangeness of this thought aside, consider the timing. An angry man had just smashed his airplane into an I.R.S. office in Austin, Tex., killing one federal employee, injuring others and breaking quite a few windows. Does this seem like the very best time to be encouraging people to assault government property? Pawlenty's defenders will undoubtedly say that he did not want his listeners to literally grab a golf club and hit something. But it is my experience that many Americans do not totally understand the concept of a metaphor.