The Catholic former governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, who would be a serious GOP presidential contender in 2012 if he had any other last name, told a group of businessmen that Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana is the best candidate presently in the (preliminary) running for the GOP nomination.
I must admit, I’m terribly bummed that Jeb is Dubya’s brother; I think he’d be a much better POTUS than his older brother. That said, I think it’s only right to take his near-endorsement into consideration. So what about Mitch Daniels garnered Jeb’s support, and is Mitch worthy of broader socially conservative support?
The “perils” are the very real problems of the budget crisis. Unfunded liabilities of entitlement programs, coupled with the growth of government bureaucracy and its attendant domination of ever-increasing amounts of the American life, accompanied by the expansion of public sector union who see themselves as entitled to ever-increasing largesse will simply choke this country to death if real and hard steps are not taken to reverse the trends. Jeb contends that Daniels understands that, and is the person best suited to do something about it.
In his keynote speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference he noted that during his administration, even during this economy, Indiana has remained in the black, and they have done so simply by spending less than they take in.
Kathryn Jean Lopez posted a review by Maggie Gallagher of Daniels’ speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in which Gallagher pointedly called Daniels “a serious man.”
Gallagher noted (Click “Continue Reading” not “Read Entire Post”):
Mitch Daniels’ great theme was the urgent, mathematical need to cut spending seriously—or face a national economic crisis of humongous proportions. He called on all of us to unify around facing what he dubbed, “the new Red Menace—this time of red ink.”
Essentially, before there was Chris Christie, there was Mitch Daniels. He’s not as blunt and direct as Christie (and Indiana is not New Jersey by temperament, left-wing political baggage, or media coverage). But he and to be sure Rick Perry of Texas (another name floated for 2012) are the only governnors who have guided their states through this deep recession and have come out relatively unscathed.
But plenty of social conservatives are not ready to anoint the man just yet.
Daniels caused a bit of a furor last year when he said a “truce” will be necessary on social issues so that we can focus on the budget crisis.
Many, many pro-lifers, including Indiana Congressman Mike Pence, a champion on life issues and one whom many conservatives pressed to enter the 2012 presidential field, disagreed with Daniels’ proposed truce.
Said Pence: “I believe with all my heart that Republicans need to continue to fight for the sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage with everything we’ve got in 2010 and in 2012. …To renew this nation, we must renew the institutions that strengthen her character. We must stand for the sanctity of life.”
I wholeheartedly agree with Pence, but the present crisis, while less fundamental to who we are as a nation, more immediately threatens our ability to sustain our status as the American experiment—our budget deficits, entitlement promises, and pay-outs to public sector unionistas will soon become a millstone around the neck of the body politic pulling us into the economic abyss.
Touching on the “truce” issue in his CPAC address, Daniels explained himself, in part, with an analogy:
If a foreign power advanced an army to the border of this nation, everyone in this room would would drop everything and look for a way to help. We would set aside all other agendas and disputes as secondary. . . that is what those of us here, and every possible ally we can persuade to join us, are now called to do—it is our generational assignment.
Daniels, and many others, see the financial and budgetary crisis as an existential threat to our country on par with an invasion by an enemy army.
With that as the interpretational key, I think an appropriate interpretation of his “truce” comment would be far more charitable than has happened thus far.
His argument, then, is that while social issues are fundamentally very, very important, they do not, in the immediate short term, threaten the very existence of this country in the way the budget crisis does. With that in mind, it may be wise, if not outright necessary, for those who agree on conservative fiscal principles to spend our political energies fixing the budget mess according to conservative, free-market principles. As part of this “truce,” all efforts to make significant headway on social issues by both sides will be de-emphasized for a time, but no one has to yield an inch on their social issue positions.
In practical terms, this means that if a budgetary fix might be held up by a social issue, that portion of the proposed law should be set aside and taken up separately. Some pro-lifers may see a pitfall here, considering that the status quo excludes the “Mexico City Policy,” Obamacare, and other anti-life measures and rules. I see an potential opportunity. If these issues are re-cast as fiscal matters, and with a moral imperative to curb profligate spending, simply passing it along to our children, a strong case can be made that, in order to right our economic ship and leave the world better than we found it, we need to cast overboard as much spending as possible that cannot be better handled by a private sector solution, does not promote our most pressing international needs, and does not promote true freedom and prosperity. If cast correctly, this would exclude a healthy portion of unnecessary, over-the-top spending, including supporting abortions internationally domestically with our tax dollars.
As for where Daniels’ instincts on social matter lie, according to answers he gave during the 2008 campaign for governor of Indiana, he is pro-life with the typical (and unfortunate) exception for rape and incest, he is opposed to embryonic stem-cell research, but supportive of research on stem cells from adults (but not thrilled about spending government money on it). On marriage issues, you can’t get much better than Daniels–though he is divorced, the woman he first married left him with four girls to marry a surgeon in California, only to realize her mistake, return to Indiana, and Daniels “re-married” her. (It’s in quotes because if it was a valid marriage from the start, they were never “un-married,” they just needed to get the civil paperwork back in order.)
So even when the questions are raised and addressed, Mitch is (mostly) one of us. He just believes that other issues demand a little more public attention these days so that we might have the opportunity to address rightly the moral and social issues of the day.
Considering the unfunny joker who presently occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, we need a “serious man” to step forward and lead us in the hard choices.
All things considered, I can join Jeb and support Mitch Daniels for president in 2012.