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There’s a part of me that is beginning to wonder if perhaps President Barack Obama is shrewder than we’ve given him credit for. Sure, his leadership abilities are, shall we say, lacking. He definitely lacks the ability to craft legislation which can actually pass on it’s own merit, curious for a man who’s only political experience is actually being a legislator himself. But here’s what I’m starting to wonder: Is it possible that he’s pulled one over on all of us?

Allow me to explain. President Obama’s gross incompetence has spawned legions of actual Republicans and pseudo-Republicans coming out of the woodwork vying for the chance to topple King Barack and take over the throne themselves. I can’t help but wonder if Barack Obama is pursuing a divide and conquer strategy in order to weaken the GOP heading into 2012.

Think about it: We have declared and assumed candidates lining up, each casting the same glance at the Oval Office that Michael Moore gives to a Chinese buffet. And really, who can blame them? A president with an approval rating in the low 40’s is about as popular as Jane Fonda at a VFW convention.

Unlike many out there, I’m not afraid of differing viewpoints and different ideas. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having mature conversations about important topics, and just like in a debating class where students are often forced to argue the opposing viewpoint, it’s often very healthy to throw ideas out there which might be contrary to doctrine but nonetheless, important in getting a discussion going.

One leader who also subscribes to that same theory is Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, who seems to be eagerly auditioning for the role of “candidate least-liked by the Tea Party.” We’ve discussed the Tea Party movement on past episodes and I think it’s important to state that in general, it’s a movement that needed to happen and one which has given my party the breath of fresh air that it has desperately needed, a point reinforced by the nomination of John McCain in 2008.

Mitch Daniels was sworn in as Indiana Governor in early 2005 and inherited a mess of problems. From a completely dysfunctional state bureaucracy to massive budget deficits as far as the eye could see, Indiana’s situation was frighteningly similar to the one facing the Junior Senator from Illinois upon his own inauguration, just on a smaller scale.

Daniels displayed a refreshing willingness to discuss new ideas, some of them deemed as heresy by many conservatives. But, as Daniels learned from his time running Eli Lilly, a leader must be open to ideas from every corner. From his time working with Ronald Reagan, Daniels learned that people are more open to new ideas, or even ones outside their own comfort zones, when a leader is willing and able to explain them. Relying on a similar coalition that made Reagan one of the best Presidents in American history, Daniels has lead the state of Indiana from the brink of the abyss to a state which shines in comparison to the tragic wrecks which are our neighboring states. Yet he didn’t accomplish this by reading from one playbook containing a strict ideology, but from seeking opinions and ideas from both sides of the aisle. Frankly, it’s yet another lesson that our current President could learn from a proven leader.

Governor Daniels has been making headlines in recent months with a host of comments that, if one didn’t know any better, appear to be designed to alienate the very base that he will need if he does pursue his rumored campaign for the Presidency in 2012.

First, it was the so-called “social issues” truce, where My Man Mitch was quoted as saying something along the lines of “the heck with social issues, we gotta fix the economy.” As expected, these remarks drew rebukes from all corners, including Indiana Congressman Mike Pence, both a friend of Governor Daniels and a man rumored to be interested in succeeding him. But, why is it so controversial to simply ponder the inability to work on social issues in a nation facing imminent fiscal collapse? Does anyone really believe that the Federal budget will automatically balance itself if only we would ban gay marriage nationwide?

This week, Governor Daniels has decided to anger the right even further with comments which, on the surface at least, hint that a potential Daniels Presidential administration would pursue plans to enforce a tariff on imported oil as well as the dreaded VAT tax so popular with the far-left. You’d think someone had told Sarah Palin she couldn’t shoot any more moose with the amount of angst being expressed by many on the Right. It should be pointed out that Governor Daniels never once stated that he’d pursue those ideas if elected President, he was simply throwing them out for discussion. This certainly wasn’t a Yes We Can! Moment, by any stretch.

But what if Daniels was simply expressing a desire to have a mature exchange of ideas regarding the critical problems we face? We can’t make fun of Obama supporters for supporting a man who’s entire life is one giant hyperbole while at the same time screaming “traitor” to anyone willing to embrace  ideas which are contrary to the conservative status-quo.

Besides, if one is open-minded enough, there are merits to the topics that Governor Daniels proposed. It seems rather obvious that instituting a tariff on imported oil would go a long way towards encouraging domestic production, a goal nearly all Tea Party supporters seem to be behind. Instituting some form of a value-added tax in combination with a dramatically lowered flat-income tax (and perhaps eliminating other forms of taxation, such as capital gains, corporate and inheritance taxes) would be an incredible boost to our economy. Again, these are many of the same ideas you can read on signs being carried at Tea Party rallies, just packaged in different ways.

Friends, we are at a definite crossroads, both as a nation and as a party. Rejecting any thoughts or ideas which don’t rigidly adhere to a narrow ideology threatens to banish Republicans to a permanent minority status. Besides, it’s not as if proposing the complete abolition of slavery was a safe position to take back in the late 1850’s, and that bold idea was the very genesis of our party. When you are in a crisis, you can’t afford to reject every idea offhand that doesn’t appeal to your own personal ideology. The confident, bold and ultimately successful leader is open to all ideas, accepting or rejecting each based on his own knowledge and experience. Indiana has certainly benefited from this approach and I think our nation could as well.

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