5 years ago
Esteemed political consultant and columnist Michael Barone pens a piece for Human Events that covers a recent speech by Governor Mitch Daniels:
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels did not attract as large a crowd when he spoke at American Enterprise Institute (where I am a resident fellow) earlier this week as he did when several months ago, before he disappointed admirers by announcing that he wouldn’t run for president.
I saw no political reporters there — though a few may have been lurking in the back — and he got only one question (from me) about presidential politics. No, he said, he isn’t reconsidering his decision not to run, and doesn’t think that Chris Christie is, either.
But Daniels’ message, based on his new book “Keeping the Republic,” was important — one that every presidential candidate should heed — because it was about a looming issue that Barack Obama has so far decided to duck but that one of them, if he is elected, may have to confront.
We face, Daniels said, “a survival-level threat to the America we have known.” The problem can be summed up as debt. The Obama Democrats have put us on the path to double the national debt as a percentage of gross domestic product, bringing it to levels that, as economists Kenneth Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart have written in “This Time Is Different,” have always proved unsustainable.
Daniels put it this way. Debt service will permanently stunt the growth of the economy. And that will be followed by a loss of leadership in the world, because “nobody follows a pauper.”
That growth in debt will continue to be driven by growth in programs labeled entitlements — though Daniels objects to that term. Congress, after all, can vote to cancel entitlement programs and deny promised benefits any time it wants, as the Supreme Court ruled in Flemming v. Nestor in 1960.
OK, fine, Mitch. You have nicely summed up the problem and its catastrophic proportions. Now just stop there before you get yourself into trouble.
But Mitch could not resist, apparently:
This is quite a contrast with the Republicans out there running for president, who have had little to say about the problem of entitlements, in debates or in their platforms. Mitt Romney raises the problem but hesitates to advance solutions, and then attacks Rick Perry for intemperate comments about Social Security in his book “Fed Up!”
On defense, Perry points out the success of public employee pension plans in three Texas counties that outperform Social Security. But these programs are impossible to scale up in a society where most employment is in the private sector, where most people will hold multiple jobs over their working lifetimes and where many people move from state to state (often, as Perry points out, to Texas).
Daniels laments that the candidates “have not yet stepped out on these issues.” He says that he is “a little concerned that our nominee might decide, ‘I’ll just play it safe and get elected as the default option'” to an incumbent discredited by obvious policy failures.
“My question then is what matters — winning or establishing the base that enables you to make big gains?”
Maybe this is just a personal quirk of mine, but I find it extremely irritating (to say the least) that Mitch Daniels can stand up at a podium and promote his new book, declaring that we are in national “survival-level” mode, and then criticize the GOP presidential candidates for not taking the risk of establishing a policy position on the debt and entitlement spending.
Because he did not have the spine to run for president himself. If he doesn’t like the present candidates’ lack of nerve, he should just shut the heck up or throw his hat in the ring. Oh, wait. I forgot. His wife didn’t want him to run. Cry me a river, fella. Don’t go talking about national “survival-level” and then say you can’t run for president because your wife is not on board. Maybe this is a telling sign of what passes for “leadership” in America today. Or, rather, the absence of it. If you truly believe that the times are perilous and our future is at stake (and, in the case of Daniels, you have the long record of experience, political connections and positioning to make a serious run at the presidency— especially when clowns like Ron Paul are running!) then either step up to the plate or shut the fat up.
To some extent, this same criticism can be leveled at Rep. Paul Ryan and Senator Marco Rubio, both of whom I admire very much. When they rightly and persuasively talk about the grave crises that we face as a nation, I say, “Fine. Run for president where you can do the most good.” It disgusts me that these otherwise fine men would decline to run simply because they do not feel that the time is right or some, other political calculation. These are not normal times. 2012 is not a normal election. We need every viable candidate on deck, contributing their insights and persuasion to the national debate. I defy Ryan, Rubio or Daniels to make a convincing case that the nation is better served by their refusal to run than to have them in the race.
And I suppose my ire is fueled all the more as I see the GOP field self-destruct. Perry seems clueless when it comes to illegal immigration. Romney cannot bring himself to disavow his government-mandated healthcare scheme that inspired at least part of the godawful Obamacare. Herman Cain is appealing at a certain level but I have yet to hear him articulate anything like a foreign policy perspective that would make anyone take him seriously– deferring to his advisors is not going to cut it. The rest of the pack are in the single-digits. At least Newt Gingrich seems intent to enrich the debate. And at least Rubio, Ryan and Daniels could do that much.
How can it be that the Revolutionary War produced so many amazing leaders? Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, Franklin and the host of others seemed to spontaneously rise to the occasion that demanded it. Has America sunk so low that the 2012 Election– an occasion that everyone agrees is a momentous point in U.S. history — can call forth no one better than the current, blighted crop of Republicans and those too timid to run themselves but bold enough to snipe from the gallery?
Not good, my friends. Not good.