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The Truce: A Smart Move or a Wave of the White Flag

By now, we’ve all heard about Gov. Mitch Daniels now infamous “truce” on social issues in his interview with the Weekly Standard.    Opinions from the four corners of Indiana and beyond have been offered.  Some of them supportive:

Those who have watched Daniels campaign or govern know he has long declined to exploit hot-button political issues. When many in his party were focused on gay marriage early in his first term, for instance, Daniels focused on the state budget and infrastructure. When his 2004 primary opponent appealed to the far right, Daniels campaigned on the idea of boosting Hoosier incomes.

The strategy is simple but effective: Don’t spend time fighting battles that extract valuable political capital but do little to advance your agenda.

Ultimately, the idea of a truce on social issues likely would appeal to a huge number of Americans — those who make up the vast middle. And regardless of whether Daniels runs, his message to Republicans — an appeal to focus on the nuts-and-bolts issues facing the country — is welcome from a party that spends too much time preaching.

And some of them quite cutting:

Yes, the next President of the United States needs to focus on fiscal issues. But the next Republican nominee will win not by being fiscally conservative at the expense of social conservatives, but by healing the wounds and divisions between the two groups.

Mitch Daniels does not appear to be that man. If he is going to further split the right by unilaterally surrendering on one half of the coalition’s issues, he cannot be allowed to be President of the United States.

I have tended to be of two minds on this. 

Governor Daniels has proven himself to be adept leader keeping Indiana afloat in a very difficult economic time.  This is his strong suit.  All through his 2008 campaign for re-election, we constantly heard that “Indiana is the only state in the black in a sea of red in the Midwest.”  His fiscal leadership has led to pragmatic leadership on social issues.  The biggest social issue in Indiana, over the last few years, has been the issue of gay marriage.  Governor Daniels hasn’t gone out of his way to encourage Indiana House and Senate Republicans to pursue a marriage amendment, but he hasn’t told them not to either.  He has kept his eye on the fiscal prize of keeping Indiana fiscally sound and he has succeeded to national acclaim.  In this, I have supported Governor Daniels and I believe he has, for the most part, made the right moves.

But what has bothered me and, for the most part, social conservatives, was his unwillingness to reinstate the Mexico City policy on using American money to fund overseas abortions which President Reagan put in place and which President Obama rescinded.  Both actions were accomplished with the stroke of a pen by Executive Order which had led me to wonder why a hypothetical “President Daniels” couldn’t do the same.

Don’t get me wrong.  If Mitch Daniels were to run for president, he should run as a leader in fiscal discipline and not a social crusader.  Currently, China owns over $900 billion in American debt.  Japan owns $795 billion.  The current Administration is in a constant state of asking for money to pay for programs we can’t afford.  The fiscal ship needs to be righted and Mitch Daniels could be the man for that job.

But the issue of life is not an issue on which to be pragmatic and one that does indeed lead you to be fiscally conservative.  I have a hard time arguing with Erick Erickson of Red State when he says “Why exactly should the federal government spend money funding abortions overseas? How exactly is that fiscally conservative?”

Am I ready to give up on Mitch Daniels? Hardly. I’m still not totally convinced he’s going to run for President, though I wouldn’t be surprised if he does.  But was is a smart move or a wave of the white flag?  We know liberals won’t halt especially if they smell blood in the water.  But Daniels is not a “heart on the sleeve” Republican.  He’s also not a just a policy/stats wonk.  He’s the kind of leader that’s usually three steps ahead of everyone else.  And that’s why he’s been successful.

So while conservatives bicker over what Mitch meant when he said “truce”, he’s already moved three to four steps ahead of us.

(Cross posted to Hoosier Access)

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