Flashing across the heavens Governor Mitch Daniel’s putative campaign for the Republican presidential nomination cast a valuable light of the state of mind of the GOP. The nature of its climax was funny as well.
The modern national Republican Party is not so much ideological as it is insistent that each election cycle be dominated by one great challenge—a single threat to America that steels the enlightened and exposes the mediocrity of their opponents. In 2008, in office, they said it was security; in 2010, out of office, it was personal liberty; in 2012, half in power and half out, it will be their exceptional determination to tackle America’s public debt.
On this chosen issue, Mitch Daniel’s would have been a natural: he’s cut spending programs and is reported to be haunted by the issue. Indeed, in a major speech to a Washington conference of conservative activists he called America’s public debt the new “red menace.” His lack of charisma and slick downtown charm makes his most extravagant statement sound plausible; boring really, like homilies carved in wood above family cottage mantels.
He has already influenced American history. As “The Blade”, George Bush’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget until June 2003, Daniel’s obvious intelligence and gravitas was effectively brought to bear to assure moderate Republicans and Democrats that both across the board personal tax cuts and the invasion of Iraqi were affordable.
Every great menace, of course, is humbled by extenuating circumstances. So, now we learn that Daniel’s dedication to slaying the “red menace” doesn’t override family politics:
“In the end, I was able to resolve every competing consideration but one,” Mr. Daniels wrote in an overnight e-mail to campaign supporters. “The interests and wishes of my family is the most important consideration of all.
“Our family constitution gives a veto to the women’s caucus, and there is no override provision.”
Closing on the big picture—those persistent looming clouds on the horizon—he offered to do whatever he can as a “little known” governor of a Midwest state to “restore the Republic.”
We shouldn’t be too picky about “I can’t run” statements. Besides, this is the first time Daniels has turned down a decent chance to be President; it’s not the kind of statement one bothers to prepare and edit well in advance. However, his message—and its universal acceptance—are amusing and make one wonder.
What did the “women’s caucus” think he had been up to over the last few months? And why is its veto not subject to appeal? New Jersey Governor Christie can say “no” in a newsy way, day after day, and will continue to be asked again and again.
But, above all, why all the extravagant heroic language about another “red menace”? The national debt, it turns out, isn’t big enough to disrupt Governor Daniels’ household. Apparently, no one needs to be drafted or taxes increased to deter national bankruptcy. Maybe, other Republicans and nervous moderates should take a deep breath as well. America may not need another Paul Revere to disrupt family time running around telling us that the Reds are coming.
Clearly, one competent Republican has discovered that he can’t use the debt menace to chase all his other concerns off the table. This is probably a healthy development. After all, isn’t America still strong enough to manage its way out of a fiscal mess that men and women like Daniels—on both sides of the aisle—managed America into in the first place?