What I’ve got to say absolutely pales in comparison to the Frenches’ Africa news, which is so exciting. But here goes anyway.
There’s been a lot of chatter in D.C. this year about Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. He’s denied repeatedly that he’s running for president, but not so much anymore, and when he appeared at the Heritage Foundation yesterday, I understand there were pre-printed copies on hand of Andrew Ferguson’s new (and excellent) Weekly Standard cover story on him. So you do the math.
The chatter about Gov. Daniels is, in my view, richly deserved. As Ferguson’s story illustrates, he’s been an exceptional governor on fiscal issues, and there’s maybe one other sitting governor (Rick Perry in Texas) of whom that could be said. Not only that, he signed a school-choice bill, which is fantastic.
He also, however, made an interesting and even troubling comment to Ferguson about social issues. Here’s the relevant portion of the article:
And then, he says, the next president, whoever he is, “would have to call a truce on the so-called social issues. We’re going to just have to agree to get along for a little while,” until the economic issues are resolved. Daniels is pro-life himself, and he gets high marks from conservative religious groups in his state. He serves as an elder at the Tabernacle Presbyterian Church, in inner-city Indianapolis, which he’s attended for 50 years. In 1998, with a few other couples from Tabernacle and a nearby -Baptist congregation, he and his wife founded a “Christ–centered” school, The Oaks Academy, in a downtown neighborhood the local cops called “Dodge City.” It’s flourishing now with 315 mostly poor kids who pursue a classical education: Latin from third grade on, logic in middle school, rhetoric in eighth grade, an emphasis throughout on the treasures of Western Civilization. “It’s the most important thing I’ve ever been involved in,” he told me. His social-conservative credentials are solid.
But about that truce . . .
“He might be one guy who could get away with it,” said Curt Smith, head of the Indiana Family Institute, who’s known Daniels since the 1980s. “He has a deep faith, he’s totally pro-life, and he walks the talk. And in an acute situation, like the one we’re in now with the debt, he might get away with a truce for a year or two. But to be successful in office he’s going to have to show those folks he shares their vision.”
In 2008, Smith supported an amendment to the state constitution to codify marriage between a man and a woman. He asked for the governor’s support.
“I wish he’d been more vocal about it, but that’s not his way,” Smith said. “What he told me, and told the public, was ‘As a citizen I will go into the voting booth and vote for it eagerly. As governor, I don’t have a role in this. The legislature and the people amend the constitution.’ ”
Standard reporter John McCormack followed up on that with Gov. Daniels:
This morning, at the Heritage Foundation, I asked Daniels if that meant the next president shouldn’t push issues like stopping taxpayer funding of abortion in Obamacare or reinstating the Mexico City Policy banning federal funds to overseas groups that perform abortions. Daniels replied that we face a “genuine national emergency” regarding the budget and that “maybe these things could be set aside for a while. But this doesn’t mean anybody abandons their position at all. Everybody just stands down for a little while, while we try to save the republic.”
To clarify whether Daniels simply wants to de-emphasize these issues or actually not act on them, I asked if, as presdient, he would issue an executive order to reinstate Reagan’s “Mexico City Policy” his first week in office. (Obama revoked the policy during his first week in office.) Daniels replied, “I don’t know.”
Daniels said he didn’t want to do anything to “impede” attempts to solve our fiscal problems. But it’s not clear that maintaining Obama’s policies on these issues for some period of time–which is what one assumes a truce means–would buy a Republican president any goodwill on fiscal issues. A Gallup poll found that only 35 percent of voters approved of Obama’s reversal of the Mexico City policy. And a Washington Post poll found that only 35 percent of voters think those purchasing health care with government assistance should be able to buy plans that cover abortions.
Over at the American Spectator, Joseph Lawler added:
Failing to reinstate the Mexico City policy would not be a truce. It would be an unconditional surrender. In recent history a party change in the presidency has meant the automatic reversal of the previous administration’s policy on the Mexico City rule; an incoming Republican would simply be maintaining the status quo by reinstating it.
Look, I like Gov. Daniels. A lot. More after reading about his taste for diners, in fact. But if you’ve watched any of our cultural battles in recent years, you will know this: Even if our side calls a truce, the other side won’t. And, as Lawler points out, they’ve taken a lot of ground from us lately. So calling a unilateral “truce” would really constitute a surrender, if a temporary one.
Of course, if Gov. Daniels were the only option, I’d support him enthusiastically. But he isn’t. There’s another governor in the race who (while I don’t think he’s huge on plate-sized pork tenderloin, based on his figure) not only balanced the budget in a left-wing state with a rabidly hostile legislature, but also stood up on marriage and life issues and doesn’t entertain the idea of surrendering after reaching the White House. Why? Because he knows that these issues are just as important to “sav[ing] the republic” (to borrow Gov. Daniels’ phrase) as cutting government spending, if not more so. That’s our governor, of course, Gov. Romney. He’s the full package. And that’s why we support him.