Mitch Daniels Declares Surrender

I have had great hopes for the Governor of Indiana running for President. Signs are starting to point to a run and in the process Daniels is signaling he is not so much a leader as a technocratic wonk and not so much driven by fiscal conservative principles as by bureaucratically generated data.A leader would not pick an unnecessary fight with social conservatives before even starting a run for office unless he wanted to start out by marginalizing social conservatives.Daniels, speaking to reporters in Washington last week, said he wanted to declare a “truce” on social issues with the left. Daniels wants to focus on fiscal issues in Washington. However, in so doing, Daniels is signaling he is not so much of a principled fiscal conservative as he is a technocratic policy wonk.When asked if he would reinstate the “Mexico City Policy,” which Ronald Reagan put in place to ban federal funding of abortions overseas, Daniels responded “I don’t know.”If you are really a fiscal conservative, how can you say you don’t know? Why exactly should the federal government spend money funding abortions overseas? How exactly is that fiscally conservative? Well, it’s not.I would like to think this is Daniels strategically trying to cast himself as a reasonable man for the media, while still maintaining ties to the socially conservative community. If so, he failed.More troubling, he failed flat out as a leader. The left will not declare a truce, which means Daniels wants to surrender. Social conservatives won’t declare a truce, which means he starts an internal fight for the heart and soul of the party.Yes, the next President of the United States needs to focus on fiscal issues. But the next Republican nominee will win not by being fiscally conservative at the expense of social conservatives, but by healing the wounds and divisions between the two groups.Mitch Daniels does not appear to be that man. If he is going to further split the right by unilaterally surrendering on one half of the coalition’s issues, he cannot be allowed to be President of the United States.And ultimately, if a politician is willing to compromise on life, what else will that politician compromise on? Policy wonks are data driven, not driven by principle — that makes him neither fiscally nor socially conservative. What do I mean? There are some times in life data says a politician should do something, but principle says it must be avoided. It is tougher to stick with the principles in those cases. Policy wonks will always choose the data at the expense of principle because fiscal policy wonks are always looking for efficiencies, regardless of constitutional authority.Mitch Daniels needs to better explain himself or he becomes both a nonstarter and opens us up to social conservatives hitching their wagon to Huckabee 2012 and potentially seeing the fiscal guys and social guys totally separate.



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