First, I need to start with a confession and a plea for forgiveness. For the last two years, when the DC parlor game of "who should run in 2012" came up, I had one answer: Mitch Daniels. Sure, he was kind of boring. But, I thought that after four years of the "flash and dash", "hope and change" flimflammery of the Obama Administration, boring would be right up the voters' alley. Daniels was competent, in precisely the kind of way you trust-and want-your accountant to be competent. He was, I thought, the man for the times.
I was wrong. I am sorry.
It turns out Mitch Daniels is a 1990s conservative; hesitant, afraid to stand on principle, desperate to be loved by editorial writers from the dying newspaper industry. (Newt Daniels?) He needs everybody to support him and stands ready to jettison any principled policy position for an extra few points bump in the polls. No doubt, he wants to 'rise above' politics, but he has personally risen so far above it that one wonders why he even bothers. He wasn't pressed into service as Governor and presumptive presidential candidate. He chose that path, presumably, because he had a vision for how to lead. Again, and I will say this a lot, I was wrong.
Yesterday, Indiana House Democrats took a page from the Wisconsin Senate 'fleebagger' playbook and fled the state to avoid a vote on legislation to curtail union privileges. At even a basic level, it is an unbelievable abdication of responsibility. We are a representative democracy. We have elections and those elections have consequences. You don't get to simply pick up your ball and go home when you don't like the results. That's a temper tantrum, not responsible, adult behavior.
But, Mitch Daniels endorsed it.
Specifically, he said that legislators fleeing the state to avoid a vote are
perfectly legitimate part of the process. Even the smallest minority – and that’s what we’ve heard from the last couple days - has every right to express the strength of its views and I salute those who do.
You "salute" those who do?
Worse, Daniels has said he agrees with the underlying bill that sparked the protest, but doesn't think the 'time' is right to deal with it
Gov. Mitch Daniels had warned his party late last year against pursuing so-called “right to work” legislation. While he agreed with it philosophically, he said it was a big issue that needed a state-wide debate and noted no Republican had run on this in the November election.
Um, no. That isn't how this works. When the air traffic controllers surprised President Reagan with an illegal strike, he didn't fret that the issue hadn't been discussed during the presidential campaign. He fired them. QED. That's leadership. You don't always get to pick the fights you're in. The Indiana House Democrats made this a fight when they ignored their constitutional responsibilities and fled the state. Gov. Daniels decided to blink.
Decided to blink.
Let me make a passing reference to the underlying issue. The proposal would give an individual the right to work without being compelled to join a union. You couldn't be forced to join a union just to have a job. That's called liberty. But, Daniels thinks the 'time isn't right' to promote liberty.
One final thing; two weeks ago, Daniels' position might have been politically understandable. But, after the public uprising against the tactics of Wisconsin public sector unions, it is clear the public wants adult supervision in government. The worm has turned, as they say. That Daniels didn't appreciate this suggests a tone-deafness that is disqualifying for any higher office. Leaders seize a moment, not let a moment seize them.
Which goes to the foundational flaw of any Daniels for President campaign. Herman Melville's 'Bartleby the Scrivener' famously said-at every point of decision-"I would prefer not to." Daniels was just given an unprecedented opportunity to promote liberty and leverage a public zeitgeist to make a profound change to public policy. Rather than seize the moment, as all great leaders do, he shrugged and said, "I would prefer not to."
I forever apologize for anything I did to promote a "Daniels for President" meme. From now on, "I would prefer not to."