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.