The Republican Establishment’s Last Desperate Push: Mitch Daniels Again

The Republican Establishment sees the 2012 presidential nomination process breaking wide open and it’s panicked. In one last, desperate attempt to reassert control of the party from the Tea Party, the Establishment is floating another presidential candidate: Mitch Daniels.

The party leadership tapped Daniels to give the GOP response to the State of the Union Address — and his performance shows why he would be such a perfect choice for the Establishment and a disastrous choice for the party.

Daniels’ speech referred to himself and his followers as the “loyal opposition,” twice. “The status of ‘loyal opposition’ imposes on those out of power some serious responsibilities,” he intoned. Not the least of these is “to show respect for the presidency and its occupant, to express agreement where it exists. Republicans tonight salute our president, for instance, for his aggressive pursuit of the murderers of 9/11.” [1]

Eschewing any ideological differences and downplaying the gulf separating the two parties, Daniels said, “The challenges aren’t matters of ideology, or party preference; the problems are simply mathematical, and the answers are purely practical.” This calls to mind another former governor turned presidential candidate: Michael Dukakis. In his 1988 convention speech, Dukakis said, “This election isn’t about ideology. It’s about competence.” A bland, technocratic governor was a loser then (thank God), and would be a loser again today.

Like Dukakis, Daniels looked stiff, dull, gray, ashen, and virtually lifeless. Worse, his address dredged up the worst compromising, middle-of-the-road tradition of the Republican Establishment’s ghosts of lost campaigns past.

What does Governor Daniels want to do? He said, “we must unite to save the safety net. Medicare and Social Security have served us well, and that must continue. But after half and three quarters of a century respectively, it’s not surprising that they need some repairs.”

That has been the GOP Establishment’s crie de coeur since Alf Landon promised to make the New Deal run better in 1936. (He lost the biggest Electoral College landslide in history.) His call was picked up by Wendell Willkie, Thomas Dewey, Nelson Rockefeller, George Romney, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, and John McCain – a team that, between them, won one presidential election.

Daniels went on to blame his own party. He said, “to make such action happen, we also must work, in ways we Republicans have not always practiced, to bring Americans together.” He added, “We will speak the language of unity.”

“Let us rebuild our finances, and the safety net, and reopen the door to the stairway upward; any other disagreements we may have can wait,” he insisted.

Daniels is the same man who called for a social issues truce — which always means a conservative unilateral surrender, as the forces of social revolution stream forward.

His feckless address quickly made an unforced error. He condemned Obama’s “extremism,” because “unless they stop us, we might pick the wrong light bulb.” Of course, the incandescent light bulb ban was the act of a Republican, Michigan’s Rep. Fred Upton, who later changed his mind on the idea. It was signed by George W. Bush, Daniels’ former boss, whose allies are now promoting him for president and publicly goading him to enter the race. (Daniels was budget director under George W. Bush, when spending continued to surge.)

Despite these massive flaws — or rather because of them — Charles Krauthammer called Daniels’ address “one of the best speeches I’ve heard as a response to the State of the Union.” (Despite his stance as resident Solomon on Fox News, Krauthammer is a pro-abortion, pro-homosexual advocate who formerly wrote speeches for Walter Mondale.)

The unearned plaudits continued. On Wednesday, on Fox News Channel’s Your World with Neil Cavuto, pollster Frank Luntz tried to prove Daniels’ viability by showing how popular his comments on the “loyal opposition” were – with Democrats. (I’m certain they were.) He added that it was a presentation “without the aggressiveness” [sic.] often seen when other Republicans speak. (That it was.)

Daniels is The Great RINO Hope. Mitch Daniels and Haley Barbour were the GOP Establishment’s bush-league team, after Jeb Bush could not run and Tim Pawlenty floundered.

Barbour’s recent pardon scandal shows how RINOs govern: badly. Daniels’ speech shows how RINOs campaign: weakly. The natural will to survive within any conservative should tell him how the RINO Establishment deserves to be treated: brutally.


1. Daniels also honored Obama’s “strong family commitment” – which I give him. In one year, he adopted a new dog, moved in with his mother-in-law, and stopped smoking. Even someone as opposed to his policies as I am can appreciate that. And Obama has certainly shown solicitous care for his big, illegal family members, like Aunt Zeituni and Uncle Omar.