Opinion

Mitch Daniels’ ‘truce’ talk still a big problem

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John Guardiano
Freelance Writer
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      John Guardiano

      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, <a href="http://rescon1.com/"> ResCon1.com</a>, and on Twitter: @Rescon1</a>.

Has Mitch Daniels’ call for a “truce” on social issues been vindicated? Now that Daniels has signed into law legislation that will stop taxpayer money from going to Planned Parenthood, some people seem to think so. (Planned Parenthood is one of the world’s largest sponsors of abortions.) But color me skeptical. It seems clear that Indiana’s new pro-life legislation got to Daniels’ desk in spite of his “truce” and not because of it.

Daniels, of course, is the governor of Indiana, a prospective GOP presidential candidate, and the darling of the Beltway conservative crowd. He certainly deserves credit for signing into law what Life News describes as “the most substantial block of pro-life legislation passed in Indiana since the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.”

But how much credit does Daniels actually deserve? Is his “truce” really part of a “larger strategy” to enact pro-life legislation, as the American Spectator’s Joseph Lawler suggests? And should conservatives worried about Daniels’ commitment to social and cultural conservatism really just give it up, as the Conservative Examiner’s Keith Liscio argues?

Well, let’s review the facts. The fact is that the Indiana legislators who championed the state’s new pro-life legislation were emphatically not parties to any “truce” on social issues. They were legislative advocates who shepherded their bill to Daniels’ desk in spite of his publicly expressed ambivalence and lack of leadership.

(Daniels, Lawler admits, “did not push for the bill and even suggested that he didn’t want it to get in the way of other state business…”)

A lack of executive or gubernatorial leadership may not matter much in a conservative state such as Indiana. (In fact, as Daniels himself observed in his signing statement, the bill passed with “greater than 2:1 bipartisan votes in both legislative chambers.”) But this failure of leadership will pose a real problem in Washington, D.C., which is far more politically divided and contentious.

Indeed, in Washington, D.C., executive leadership typically is required to achieve conservative legislative victories.

But by calling for a “truce” on social issues, and by signaling his unwillingness to have pro-life legislation disrupt other pressing priorities, Daniels already has signaled his reluctance (and perhaps his refusal) to fight for socially and culturally conservative measures.

Daniels’ “truce” talk also presupposes that conservatives are the aggressors in the culture war; and that if we simply stop fighting, the left will follow suit. But this is manifestly untrue.

In fact, the “progressives” are the aggressors in the culture war. They’re the ones who, wholly unprovoked, have initiated hostilities.

For example, the left has demanded that the Supreme Court, the judicial branch of government, ban voluntary school prayer, redefine the institution of marriage, declare null and void legislation protecting embryonic human life, force the Boy Scouts to admit openly gay scout masters, deny a citizen his right to bear arms, etc.

For these reasons, Daniels’ call for a “truce” will be a decidedly unilateral and unreciprocated affair.

Lawler and others suggest that Daniels’ “truce” talk is a matter of style. “Would a stridently socially conservative politician such as Rick Santorum, or even Mike Pence…have put himself in a position to sign a bill defunding Planned Parenthood?” Lawler asks.

Point well taken. Political grace and tact, of course, are important, especially when dealing with contentious social and cultural issues.

But Santorum and Pence are hardly “strident.” The liberal, legacy media portrays and pillories them as such simply because they have the courage to speak out on issues such as life, marriage and freedom of religion.

And that’s another problem with Daniels’ call for a “truce”: The art of persuasion is central to American political life and central to American political leadership. But if you are unwilling to speak out on key issues because of a self-imposed “truce,” then you are handicapping and undermining your ability to lead and to shape public opinion.

  • Pingback: Mitch Daniels Will Not Run; And There Was Much Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth « The Hill: Chapel Hill Political Review

  • banjo

    Mitch’s sorry record on lefty judicial appointments is the thing to worry about.

  • Alex 0_0

    More rants from the closet-case. Sigh. The midget Mitch Daniels isn’t going anywhere so don’t you worry.

    PS. Don’t you need to hook up with a girl before ‘pro-life’ even becomes an option?

  • partymanrandy

    So your first hypothesis was quickly proven wrong by the fact that Indiana is now arguably the most pro-life state in the country. Your hypothesis now seems to be “Ok, so Mitch has a remarkable pro-life record, but it’s in spite of him.”

    A couple things you might consider:
    1.) A strong economy is probably the best weapon against abortion. When the economy is strong, fewer people get abortions. That’s why there were fewer abortions when the economy was booming in the 90′s, even though we had a pro-choice President. So Daniels focusing on the economy, first and foremost is the best bet for the pro-life movement.
    2.) Mitch is the main reason for the overwhelmingly conservative IN legislature. His incredible success in IN has been a huge boost for the Republican party in the state. He also spent the last election cycle recruiting and supporting Republican candidates in Indiana instead of going around the country trying to get attention like the rest of the Presidential candidates. Mitch built the political environment in Indiana that lead to this bill.

    We get it, you don’t like Daniels. But your attempts to attack him are getting kind of desperate. Even with you giving yourself unilateral power to define what he meant by his truce comments, you still can’t build a strong case.

  • Keith Liscio

    Mr. Guardiano, I appreciate you referencing my article here, but think that your contention that I suggest that “conservatives worried about Daniels’ commitment to social and cultural conservatism really just give it up” is something of an oversimplification.

    First of all, Governor Daniels proposed “truce” was advised for the next President, not for his administration. He suggested it because, in his opinion, the dire financial circumstances facing the nation require urgent bipartisan attention. Presumably, once the debt/deficit crisis was addressed, a President Daniels would move on to other issues.

    Using his administration as a template, however, this is essentially what he’s done in Indiana. He moved first to fix the state’s budget woes, balancing the budget and reining in spending. That accomplished, nearly 7 years later he signed into law a sweeping pro-life reform.

    My article merely tried to address the arguments that because Daniels wasn’t a life-first candidate that he wasn’t a friend to the movement. His demonstrated actions in Indiana provide a viable model for fixing our economic crisis in Washington and then moving on to address other issues. It was simply a recognition of putting first things first.

  • jduvall2816

    Mr. Guardiano-

    Due to your multiple stories that are Anti-Mitch Daniels, we all get the picture….you don’t like Mitch Daniels as your candidate. Regardless of your reporting (which is a recycled story from many other writers already) I for one will still be voting for Daniels if he decides to run. Why? Because he has a 7 year record of doing the right thing for the conservative movement at least 95% of the time. That fact is undeniable. Your story seems to indicate that Daniels was somehow Pro-Choice by not making the Pro-Life agenda his first priority this past session. Your accusation is in the wake of the Head of Indiana Right to Life saying Daniels is actually strongly Pro-Life and Indiana Right to Life has never had a reason to doubt him otherwise.

    Perhaps you’d prefer Romney with his Romneycare albatross and not nearly the Pro-Life record of Daniels, or Pawlenty who also hasn’t been as active on the Pro-Life legislation as Daniels nor has the fiscal record of Daniels, or Palin who governed for 2 years during which she clamored for Fed. Oil subsidies and other “Pork” items only to campaign against Federal Pork as the Republican V.P., or Bachman who hasn’t written or sponsored a single Bill that has made it to a successful vote on the conservative agenda in her current position….but she sure talks a good line, or Santorum who couldn’t win re-election in his former post and has no concept of the fiscal policy that is needed on the federal level, or Paul who would be fine with legalization of various drugs and has a disastrous attitude towards foreign policy.

    That takes me to Herman Cain. I’d say Cain would be a good match for Daniels quality except that he has never had to handle PUBLIC money, he’s could win an election in his home state, he was an executive with the Federal Reserve and has backed (in theory) the concept of TARP………….

    If the fact that I’ll take the guy with a 95% approval rating in line with my view on issues and has a 7 year record to back it makes me the crazy one then I’ll accept your criticism along with Governor Daniels.