Mitch Daniels isn’t ready to be president

Over at the American Spectator, John Tabin states what should be obvious to most conservatives: Mitch Daniels most certainly will not run for president. His stunning and telling silence about defense and foreign policy — which has been well captured over the course of the past year by Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin — suggests that Daniels isn’t a serious or credible candidate.

After all, as the sole American official vested with executive authority under the Constitution, and as commander in chief of the armed forces, the president of the United States is essentially the conductor of American defense and foreign policy. Thus he has wide latitude and tremendous discretion to negotiate with foreign countries and to deploy American military forces overseas.

This authority has always been important, but more so today than in the past, given the increasing interconnectedness of our world and the rise of Islamic extremism and Islamic terrorism.

Yet Daniels has said virtually nothing of substance about these matters.

In fact, as Rubin has keenly observed, Daniels seems studiously disinterested in defense and foreign policy. And, to the extent that he has discussed these issues, it has been with the authority of an accountant, not a strategist.

Indeed, as Philip Klein noted last fall, Daniels told The Hill newspaper “that defense cuts should be on the table to combat the debt. ‘We need to take a really hard look at the missions we’ve undertaken,’ [Daniels] said.”

As Klein points out, “that surely isn’t going to sit well with national security-minded Republicans.”

No, it’s not — and not least because Daniels hasn’t shown the slightest indication that he’s thought seriously about America’s role in the world. Instead, explains Rubin, he speaks in “platitudes” — i.e., “peace through strength.”

I’m sorry, but that’s simply unacceptable in a potential commander in chief. The stakes today are too high to risk a foreign policy amateur hour in the White House.

“God protects fools, drunks and the United States of America,” Otto von Bismarck observed. That’s true, and we have been lucky, especially within the past two years: America’s enemies have imploded, and a new birth of freedom has begun to sweep through the Middle East and North Africa.

But our luck won’t last. The Arab Spring, in fact, presents as many potential new threats as it does opportunities, especially in the short run.

Daniels, like former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, excites a conspicuous crowd of younger, isolationist, libertarian conservatives who dream of a conservative movement without its messy insistence on defense and foreign policy. That, combined with his call for a “truce” on social issues, gives Daniels enormous sex appeal to the isolationist-libertarian set.

But sex appeal to conservatives who are naïve and innocent to the Machiavellian ways of the world doesn’t make for a good president and an effective commander in chief.

Deep down, Daniels must know this; and so he isn’t running for president, and thank goodness for that.

John R. Guardiano is a writer and analyst in Arlington, Virginia. He writes and blogs for a variety of publications, including FrumForum, the American Spectator and The Daily Caller. Follow him at his personal blog, ResoluteCon.com, and on Twitter @JohnRGuardiano.

  • partymanrandy

    Foreign policy isn’t just bombing people. Indiana has received the highest rate of overseas jobs in the country.

    And as Governor of IN, what reason would he have for spending his time preparing for a national security debate with Obama? Yeah, let’s avoid a guy who is honest and has actually been focused on doing the job he was elected to do.

  • Bird Dog

    Isolationist? That’s an unfounded statement, John.
    Unlike the other GOP candidates, Daniels has a full-time job. He is no less qualified on foreign policy issues than Obama was in 2007 or Palin in 2008. What you and other detractors don’t like is his candor. Of course he couldn’t debate Obama today on foreign policy. This doesn’t mean he would be unprepared to debate him fifteen months from now.
    On defense spending, with a wound-down war in Iraq and a war with fewer personnel in Afghanistan after this year, of course there will be future cuts. This is basic common sense.

    • partymanrandy

      Having worked in the Reagan and Bush administrations and as Sen. Lugar’s chief of staff, I’d say he’s much more qualified than Obama or Palin were.

      And yeah, saying there can’t be any cuts in defense is kind of embarrassing.

  • tennisman

    Mr Guardiano, as a former school teacher, your grade for this article is at best a C minus.

    Your criticism of Gov Daniels is based on 2 weak arguments….

    1st on the basis of comments made by another writer, Jennifer Rubin, who clearly has a bias towards the governor in everything she writes about him.

    2nd on the assumption that since Daniels has not commented on Foreign Affairs in any substantive manner, you conclude he is neither knowledable or interested in this area of American interests, and thus will not be a candidate!

    Very weak in the extreme….C minus would actually be a generous grade!

  • marks1943

    Mr John Guardiano, You first and foremost should do your own research before writing an article. Since you didn’t, it shows that you really don’t have a clue who or what Gov. Daniels knows about foreign policy.

  • samac

    More discredited neocon BS lobbying for defense pork.

    The new fiction they are perpetrating- anyone who even wants to look at the defense budget is “unqualified” to be president.

    Success: Daniéls acheiving the lowest state spending/ GDP in the country
    Failure: Neocons and Tom Delay’s big government compassionate conservatives

  • pbhayek

    The economy/financial position of the federal government are the most important long term threats to US interests. I think a measured approach by a president Daniels in charge of an administration that would certainly be filled with republican foreign policy advisers would work pretty well. Either way, I think the defense wing of the republican party is separated into foreign policy junkies and the much larger, more mainstream republicans who despite normally caring about foreign policy will be focused on the economy and obamacare during this election cycle. Also, defense being on the table will probably end up meaning some savings from winding down iraq and keeping any cuts made in the upcoming year. I think your choice is going to be between someone relatively uninterested in foreign policy and someone who checks the correct positions but who is not really serious about the issues. The 1st is likely to leave more to conservative foreign policy appointees and the later is more likely to do something stupid.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jasmine-Clark/1785223171 Jasmine Clark

    i agree with this article but “sex appeal” is not the right way to describe this guy okay

  • docinpa

    What a load of hooey. Cuts at the Pentagon are unavoidable. We could start with the littoral combat ship and our presence in Europe. Defense contracting is a huge, sick joke and we can’t afford to keep doing things the same old way. And are you SERIOUSLY trying to imply that Mitch Daniels is somehow less qualified than Obama? Really? You need to get out of the beltway.