The problem with Mitch Daniels

John Guardiano Freelance Writer
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I’ve gotten a fair amount of blowback from Mitch Daniels fans who are indignant that I wrote a piece here on Tuesday arguing that Indiana’s wonkish governor isn’t yet ready to be president.

My problem with Daniels is that it doesn’t look as if he’s said or written anything of substance about defense and foreign policy. Yet his career in public life dates back decades, to the 1970s, when he worked as chief of staff for GOP Senator Richard Lugar.

Daniels has since been given repeated opportunities to talk about defense and foreign policy and yet he’s pointedly declined to do so. Instead, as Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin points out, he’s spoken in airy platitudes — i.e., “peace through strength.” And the question is whether such a man is ready to be president of the United States.

I suspect not. Yet, Daniels’ supporters disagree. “He’s a very smart man who once worked for Lugar,” they tell me. But that’s hardly reassuring.

For starters, Lugar is no movement conservative. In fact, as Rubin observes, Lugar has been busy of late running “interference for President Obama on foreign policy issues such as START and a Russian reset.”

Moreover, Daniels’ IQ is not at issue; his lack of thought and concern are. Ronald Reagan was a very successful defense and foreign policy president in large part because he had thought seriously for a long time about America’s role in the world. We have no evidence that Daniels has done the same thing.

In fact, to the contrary: Daniels has expressed a disconcerting indifference to matters that extend beyond fiscal and economic policy. Then there’s his call for a “truce” (read: surrender) in the culture war.

Mitch Daniels may be a fine man and arguably a great governor. It’s even conceivable that he could become a great president. But we conservatives have to demand more of our candidates than that they mouth platitudes and the right or preferred answers to difficult public policy questions.

We have to demand that they speak substantively and authoritatively about the great and pressing issues. That Daniels apparently has never given an in-depth explanation of his defense and foreign policy views is really disappointing and cause for alarm. We should expect and demand better.

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.