22 February 2011

More "Truce Talk" From Gov. Mitch Daniels

There has been rampant speculation that Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels will be a candidate in the 2012 Republican primaries.  Aside from being a two term governor of Indiana who successfully managed to privatize the Indiana Toll Road, he also was President George W. Bush’s O.M.B. Director.  This would position Daniels well in a period of federal fiscal austerity and innovative ways to make government more efficient through the free market.  Gov. Daniels gave the keynote speech for the Ronald Reagan dinner at CPAC this year which was widely lauded for coining the “Red Menace” of red ink.

However Daniels continues a curious tract of “Truce Talk”.  In June 2010,  Gov. Daniels gave an interview with The Weekly Standard that suggested the next president “would have to call a truce on the so-called social issues” until economic issues are resolved.  Hoisting the white flag on social issues was not well received by the conservative party base.  But Daniels doubled down on his moderation methodology in December 2010 when Gov. Daniels signaled that conservatives could proceed with anti-abortion legislation as long as it did not interfere with his economic and educational priorities. Daniels also insisted that his truce talk was aimed at Congress not at the Indiana state legislature.

Well, now that Indiana Democrats have fled the state capital to stymie consideration of right to work legislation, Daniels has again hoisted a Hoosier White Flag.  Gov. Daniels urged Republican lawmakers to drop consideration of the right to work legislation to bring the dissenting Democrats back to work. Daniels had warned Republicans in the legislature not to pursue right to work legislation it was a big issue that deserved statewide debate and they had not campaigned on it.

Daniel’s CPAC speech addressed the ideological divide that pits more government forces versus less government adherents while trumpeting Indiana as a model for the nation.  Gov. Daniels does have some significant accomplishments while being Governor of Indiana.  But being Chief Executive also involves leadership.  It is commendable that he wanted politicians to campaign of big issues, the people can speak up if they disagree with legislation and throw the bums out if that is the peoples’ inclination.  But when the minority abrogates its office in order to stall governing, it seems pretty lame to give in to the partisan walk out just to bring the minority party back to the table.  At what point would Gov. Daniels not compromise?

A cynical political analyst such as myself wonders if Daniels is positioning himself to be a voice of moderation to appeal to Independent voters.  That is a good general election tact, but does not work well in the primaries, where the base decides.  Maybe Daniels does not want contentious social issues to mar his record of political victories in economic and educational issues. Or perhaps it is the sagacity of a senior statesman who yearns that “we all just get along.

Today’s headline from the race for the White House in 2012 was that Senator John Thune (R-SD) decided not to run for President. But I fear that Gov. Daniels may have inadvertently raised a White Flag to his aspirations for higher office by forgoing leadership and renewing his truce talk.

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