AN ODD WAY TO SHOW ‘LEADERSHIP’…. It’s almost tragic to see what a guy has to do to seek the Republican presidential nomination these days.

In the era of tea-party conservatives, [Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R)] is calculatedly veering to the right. Speaking to the Economist in St. Paul, he recently explained that the Earth might be warming but that it is unclear “to what extent that is the result of natural causes.”

Pawlenty obviously knows better. We know he knows better because he has a lengthy, public record on environmental issues that bears no resemblance to his new positions. Lee Fang has a terrific timeline, which makes clear that “over the course of the last three years, Pawlenty has gone from an outspoken proponent of clean energy to a Glenn Beck pandering climate change denier.” In late 2006, Pawlenty not only sought to reduce carbon emissions, he even promoted a regional cap-and-trade program. In late 2007, he declared climate change “one of the most important [issues] of our time.”

That was then. Now Pawlenty opposes his own cap-and-trade plan and claims to question the basics of global warming.

Is winning a primary more important than losing one’s self-respect?

Pawlenty was inclined to stay out of the special election in New York’s 23rd, right up until right-wing bloggers demanded he intervene. He backed the Conservative Party candidate soon after. Pawlenty engaged in grandstanding against ACORN funding that doesn’t exist. He validated “death panel” nonsense. He’s even dabbled in radical Tenther ideas.

Pawlenty, in other words, still hasn’t sought treatment for his Romney-itis. Remember Romney? He was the relatively moderate Republican governor of a reliably “blue” state, who could present himself, with a straight face, as a pragmatic, sane policymaker. That is, until he wanted to be president, and decided to experience some kind of ideological metamorphosis — sane, moderate pragmatism wouldn’t win over the Republican base, so that persona would have to be cast aside. It was painful to watch, and ultimately ineffective.

But that hasn’t stopped Pawlenty from trying the identical strategy.

The base demands fealty. Tim Pawlenty hopes to prove to them what a great “leader” he’ll be by following their commands and abandoning his own record in the hopes of impressing them.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.