We Are in Big Trouble Now


Until now, I have been relatively sanguine. As I pointed out in a detailed post last June, Barack Obama does not have an executive temperament, and there are plenty of Republicans – e.g., Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, and Mitch Daniels – who do. Christie may not be sufficiently seasoned, I thought. Jindal may not have found a way to display sufficient gravitas. But Governor Daniels was extremely plausible. His record as Governor was impeccable, and in his personal life he had displayed a patience, reliability, and steadfastness that borders on the heroic. His wife left him and their children for another man. He took it upon himself to rear their children; and when she had second thoughts and returned, he took her back. He is a good, good man.

As regular readers of Ricochet know, I nonetheless harbored misgivings with regard to Governor Daniels. An executive temperament – a genuine willingness to take responsibility – married to bad principles is apt to be disastrous. Witness Lyndon Baines Johnson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. When Governor Daniels called for “a truce” on the social issues, I feared that, if elected President, he would spurn social conservatives, try to make a tactical alliance with those who are socially liberal and fiscally conservative, appoint pro-abortion lawyers to the United States Supreme Court, break up the coalition between those who are libertarian on economic issues and conservative on social questions that sustains the Republican Party, and leave evangelical Christians and church-going Catholics with no compelling reason to vote Republican. When he spoke of taking an ax to the defense budget, I worried that he would be the American Stanley Baldwin.

In time, by joining the Republicans in the Indiana legislature in defunding Planned Parenthood in that state, he allayed the first of my concerns; and, in a long post on Ricochet, examining the various possible Republican presidential candidates, I took a look at Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, and Mitch Daniels. Of these, it seemed to me Governors Pawlenty and Daniels were the most plausible. And of the two, Governor Daniels was by far the better qualified.

I was, as I say, relatively sanguine. As President, Barack Obama has been a disaster, and the American people understand as much. They witnessed the passage of the so-called “stimulus” bill, of Obamacare, and of Dodd-Frank. They were aware that these bills were thousands of pages in length and incomprehensible. They knew that the process by which they were passed was anything but transparent, and they recognized that the economic policy followed by the Obama administration has hindered recovery; they feared the implementation of Obamacare; and they spoke their minds in the midterm elections in 2010, restoring the Republican Party to a strength at the state level not known since the 1920s.

All that it took, I thought, was for the Republicans to choose for themselves a standard-bearer who could articulate the principles that distinguish their party from the Democrats. It helped immensely that John Boehner had marshaled the Republican majority in the House of Representatives behind a program based on those principles and that Paul Ryan had defeated President Obama in the debate concerning the necessity of paring back the welfare state. In my opinion, no one – apart from Ryan himself – was better situated for articulating those principles than Governor Daniels.

I will not mince my words. We as Republicans and we as Americans have been ill-served by the Governor. I understand perfectly well why he has decided not to run, and I respect his reasons. Were he to become a candidate, the spotlight would be focused on his family, and, given their history, that would undoubtedly be hard on his wife. But Governor Daniels has known this all along. The matter was mentioned in a Weekly Standard  profile published late last Spring, and he could and should have sorted this out with his family then. Instead, he strung us along until the last minute. He caused other possible candidates to assume that he would be in the race, and able individuals like John Thune, Mike Pence, and Haley Barbour calculated the likelihood of success and, in the circumstances, rightly chose to turn away.

In ordinary times, Governor Daniels’ conduct might not much matter. But we are living in an extraordinary time. Barack Obama has led us to the edge of a precipice, and he has forced us to look into the abyss. For the first time in my lifetime the American people understand tolerably well what is at stake. If we do not set things straight now – if we do not find a way to pare back the entitlement state and get our fiscal house in order without raising taxes to a level likely to choke economic growth – we are apt to go the way of France in combining economic stagnation and high structural unemployment with military incapacity. And if that happens, the results will be far worse for us than for the French. They had the Americans to defend their interests, and we have . . . no backstop. If, for understandable personal reasons, Governor Daniels was not going to be in a position to become our standard-bearer, it was incumbent on him to say as much long ago.

We will now have to rethink. In my next post, I will consider what is likely to happen if we let things drift. Then, in another post, I will try to suggest what might be done.

There are 54 comments.

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  1. Liver Pate Inactive

    Everyone better start practicing the words “President Ryan”. Remind me to quote you what Gilbert Highet said about Stanley Baldwin in The Art of Teaching.

    • #1
    • May 22, 2011, at 8:10 AM PDT
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  2. EJHill Podcaster

    In an interview a couple of weeks ago with WLS radio, Paul Ryan scoffed at the notion of running and hinted that he was planning to throw his support to Daniels. It might be fantasy but maybe the loss of Daniels will prompt Ryan to rethink his own reluctance to run.

    • #2
    • May 22, 2011, at 8:10 AM PDT
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  3. GreenCarder Member

    I understand concerns for one’s family. But how about a sense of patriotic duty? Those who can act, should act. I wonder whether, as noted, Daniels’ withdrawal will give Paul Ryan a different perspective on this.

    I believe Ryan has a strong sense of patriotic duty and clearly understands what is at stake, potentially, for the future of the republic in this election. The question is, does he also have a sense of personal ambition? This thing is wide open for him now.

    • #3
    • May 22, 2011, at 8:27 AM PDT
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  4. katievs Member

    I can’t agree that we’ve been ill served or that he had some kind of responsibility to make his decision sooner.

    It seems to me clear that he was reluctant to run from the beginning. He considered the idea only because he was pressured relentlessly by so many key national figures. My impression is that he grew to sort of like the idea and hoped his family would come around. When it didn’t, he did what seemed to him right.

    I admire him for it.

    It’ll be interesting to see what happens now.

    • #4
    • May 22, 2011, at 8:29 AM PDT
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  5. TeeJaw Inactive

    Elation here on Daniels’ decision. Now it’s safe to like him again.

    This announcement will dash hopes in the Obama campaign.

    • #5
    • May 22, 2011, at 8:33 AM PDT
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  6. Israel P. Inactive

    Jeb Bush should call a meeting of Ryan, Jindal and Christie and have them all promise to support whichever runs of the three. Then draw straws.

    • #6
    • May 22, 2011, at 8:49 AM PDT
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  7. Lady Bertrum Inactive
    Israel P.: Jeb Bush should call a meeting of Ryan, Jindal and Christie and have them all promise to support whichever runs of the three. Then draw straws. · May 22 at 8:49am

    Help us, Obi Jeb Bush; you’re our only hope.

    We are doomed.

    • #7
    • May 22, 2011, at 8:52 AM PDT
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  8. KC Mulville Inactive

    I am disappointed, and a bit frustrated.

    Executive leadership is a valuable commodity. It doesn’t grow on trees, and making glorious hope and change pronouncements isn’t the same thing. It comes after many years of slogging through the media, bureaucracy, primary voters, and often your closest friends. It takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to acquire.

    If you were a trained pilot who happened to be a passenger on a plane, and the flight crew was knocked unconscious, you don’t have the luxury of saying, a la Bartleby, “I would prefer not to.”

    I fully appreciate that no man can be forced to do something against his will. And I agree that anyone so ambitious to seek the White House has something wrong with him. But at the same time, few people have the experience and practical training to actually do the job. When the circumstances become dire, and we need solid leadership, and only a few people can perform the job … it’s frustrating that the handful of people who could save us … won’t … because their wives said no.


    • #8
    • May 22, 2011, at 8:55 AM PDT
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  9. EJHill Podcaster
    Israel P.: Jeb Bush should call a meeting of Ryan, Jindal and Christie…

    Jeb is never going to be president. The country is bushed of that brand.

    Jindal never recovered from “the speech.”

    • #9
    • May 22, 2011, at 8:55 AM PDT
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  10. Johnny Bigodes Inactive

    Bob Dull, John McLame, . . . In other words, losers. Daniels would lose, too.

    Why did Reagan win in landslides? He never reached across the aisle. The left hated him, and so did the Republican political class.

    Whom do the left and Republicans hate in 2011?

    • #10
    • May 22, 2011, at 8:59 AM PDT
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  11. KCRob Inactive

    I could support Paul Ryan – but only if he were cleansed of his open-borders views. How can anyone address the spending crisis without acknowledging the impact of immigrants on our workforce and entitlements (not too mention the impacts on the culture at large)?

    Too bad about Daniels… I supposed he didn’t want his family to be subjected to the shark-frenzy that attends any candidate who’s not a left-winger. The assault on Palin’s family was a warning to others who might deign to run from the right.

    • #11
    • May 22, 2011, at 9:37 AM PDT
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  12. Cal Lawton Member

    Fine, I’ll run.

    • #12
    • May 22, 2011, at 9:42 AM PDT
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  13. Sisyphus Member

    The number of candidates that can attract strong support from traditional Republican and Tea Party voters is wickedly thin at this point. I had hoped that Daniels could serve as a fusion candidate, a kind of placid populist. Not too scary, but with a principled commitment to restore American governance.

    • #13
    • May 22, 2011, at 9:53 AM PDT
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  14. Robert Lux Inactive

    Good riddance. Such brusqueness is not solicitude for the 100% perfect candidate. Rather it’s to say that Mitch Daniels’ support for ethanol subsidies is egregious. See here for a quantified sense of Daniels’s ethanol problem. The implication is that it reflects precisely the type of establishment Republican apt to acquit himself as a managerial progressive–the paradoxical upshot of virtually all politicians of libertarian bent who ascribe far too much determinism to economics (on eminent display in the case of Gingrich; see Charles Kesler’s exceedingly apt comments, quoted here) as dispositive of what politics actually is.

    Paul Rahe has said earlier, “On ethanol, we are in agreement. But let’s face it: the Governor of Indiana has to be in favor of it.”

    I’m sorry, but I don’t find this an acceptable stance from a politician in whom we can invest hopes to fight with the doggedness and resolve necessary to get the nation’s economic health in order.

    In fine, as I’ve argued elsewhere on Ricochet, support for ethanol subsidies and flagrantly irresponsible calls to truce on social issues go–paradoxically–hand in hand.

    • #14
    • May 22, 2011, at 9:59 AM PDT
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  15. Ken Sweeney Inactive

    President Rick Perry

    • #15
    • May 22, 2011, at 10:02 AM PDT
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  16. Sisyphus Member

    Technical Report, Duplicate Message: If you are not Ricochet technical staff, please proceed to your next thread message, already in progress.

    This was a bizarre instance of a duplicate, #16 (this message) duplicating #13. Not only was there no double clicking, but I was out of the room and the computer locked after hitting send on #13, so it may well have been a server side hiccup.

    • #16
    • May 22, 2011, at 10:07 AM PDT
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  17. Robert Lux Inactive

    Those who claim to be liberal on social issues (Daniels’s Planned Parenthood move I take to have been mere political expediency) and conservative on fiscal issues are too likely, when the chips are down, actually to vote as liberals on the fiscal issues.*

    That is, politicians of a libertarian bent often tend to vote for bigger government. This actually reflects the general libertarian view of autonomy, which denies the existence of any standard of good higher than the individual will (“autonomy,” after all, means self-legislation). If there is no law higher than that asserted by my will, then why not make common cause with others like me to get what we want through government? It makes little difference whether this leads to a less productive economy overall, at least if I am clever enough to get what I want. Such open-ended individualism is really at the root of left-wing demagoguery, and tyranny.

    What is needed is a coherent understanding of personal responsibility across the issues. This is basic conservatism, as distinct from libertarianism: education in personal morality and dedication to free markets.


    * See the brief discussion here.

    • #17
    • May 22, 2011, at 10:17 AM PDT
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  18. anon_academic Member

    First I don’t get raptured and then I find out the only candidate I was actually excited about isn’t running. *Sigh*. It’s been a very rough twenty-four hours. Unfortunately it’s still before noon RDT (Richochet Daylight Time) so a bit early to drink myself into a stupor.

    • #18
    • May 22, 2011, at 10:20 AM PDT
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  19. Aaron Miller Member

    This might be good. Pawlenty is running, right? Most people living far from their states are unfamiliar with them both. I expected them to draw votes away from each other as the executive experience (governor) choice.

    We need fewer candidates, not more. If we don’t have a clear frontrunner early on, then our candidates will tear each other down and hurt voter turnout on our side in the main election.

    We need a unified party; not a candidate for each faction, like last time.

    • #19
    • May 22, 2011, at 10:21 AM PDT
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  20. edwarddentzel.com Inactive

    “He strung us on until the last minute.” That’s pretty arrogant of you, Mr. Rahe. I’m not the biggest fan of Mitch Daniels but I at least respect him enough to know he didn’t owe me or any other Republican a run at the Presidency. Just because you got emotionally wrapped up in him as a potential candidate does not mean he has to fulfill your expectations. Sure, some words came out of his mouth that signaled he might run, but you know better than that that until a candidate comes out and says he’s running all of those words don’t mean anything.

    In addition, who says this is the last minute? Pundit after pundit has been saying that it’s too early in the race to determine a frontrunner. Remember all those people saying that having a debate a year and half before the election was crazy? But somehow, you claim that Daniels has done this at the last minute. The field isn’t even half-full yet but Daniels declining to run in May 2011 is a last minute decision?Mr. Rahe, I think you’ve lost your objectivity.

    • #20
    • May 22, 2011, at 10:34 AM PDT
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  21. Schmitty Inactive

    Mr. Rahe – I have a post on the Member Feed sketching an argument in favor of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WV, as the Republican nominee for President. Given the liabilities that afflict all of the other leading nominees’ candidacies, Sen. Manchin’s current party affiliation seems like a triffling detail by comparison. Republicans could do a lot worse than modeling itself in Sen. Manchin’s image. Indeed, it would require no compromise on our core principles and would allow us to appeal to socially conservative blue-collar voters in states like Indiana, Pennsylvania and Ohio that are so critical to our electoral success. Obama’s recent heavy-handed efforts in favor of labor unions show that he is positioning the 2012 campaign to take place in those states. We need a candidate who can win on those battlefields.

    With that in mind, I would be pleased to hear your thoughts on Sen. Manchin’s possible candidacy in your forthcoming posts, fully understanding that it would take a full-scale recruitment effort to make it happen.

    • #21
    • May 22, 2011, at 10:49 AM PDT
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  22. Stuart Creque Member

    ” it’s frustrating that the handful of people who could save us … won’t … because their wives said no.” I know one potential candidate I count in that handful whose wife won’t tell her no.

    • #22
    • May 22, 2011, at 10:53 AM PDT
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  23. Profile Photo Member

    If his heart’s not in it, I would rather know that now than have him run with his heart not in it. I’d be angrier to find that out.

    • #23
    • May 22, 2011, at 10:56 AM PDT
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  24. Paul A. Rahe Contributor
    Paul A. Rahe Post author

    Govicide: Governor Daniels began hinting that he might run last June, and he kept it up for nearly a year in such a way as to to maximize interest and deter others from entering the sweepstakes. He is an experienced pol; he knows the game; and he played it with consummate skill. Everything that he did signaled that he would make the run.

    As for the timetable, as I will explain in my next post, the whole thing is now stacked in favor of someone who can raise a lot of money and field an organization. That takes time and effort, and time is running out. Thanks to what Governor Daniels has done, we are left with Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Tim Pawlenty. The last of the three might be viable. Neither of the others is.

    It is too early to determine a front-runner. But it is very late to start getting organized for a run.

    I was never “emotionally wrapped up” in Governor Daniels. I always had doubts and voiced them. I expressed a preference for Paul Ryan. Nor did I ever say that Daniels owed us a run. What he owed us was a timely decision.

    • #24
    • May 22, 2011, at 10:56 AM PDT
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  25. Western Chauvinist Member

    “We as Republicans and we as Americans have been ill-served by the Governor. I understand perfectly well why he has decided not to run, and I respect his reasons. Were he to become a candidate, the spotlight would be focused on his family, and, given their history, that would undoubtedly be hard on his wife… Instead, he strung us along until the last minute.”

    I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I think he seriously considered a run and couldn’t talk his wife into it. That’s not exactly “stringing us along”. It’s the consequence of being married to, as someone suggested in an earlier thread, an unstable woman.

    If I were in Daniels’ inner circle, I would simply say to him, that while the Democrats’ propagandistic media make this a much more difficult proposition today, the importance of this election is at least equal to the sacrifices made by patriots in 1775-76 or 1860-61. Mrs. Lincoln, despite her psychological frailty, did not keep Mr. Lincoln from his patriotic duty.

    However, we must also be ready to move on to an equally credible candidate. Paul Ryan. Let us pray.

    • #25
    • May 22, 2011, at 11:07 AM PDT
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  26. Paul A. Rahe Contributor
    Paul A. Rahe Post author
    Schmitty: Mr. Rahe – I have a post on the Member Feed sketching an argument in favor of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WV, as the Republican nominee for President. . .

    With that in mind, I would be pleased to hear your thoughts on Sen. Manchin’s possible candidacy in your forthcoming posts, fully understanding that it would take a full-scale recruitment effort to make it happen. · May 22 at 10:49am

    This is a wild idea. Someone should move your post to the Main Feed. It is certain to stir things up.

    My sense, for what it is worth, is that Manchin is an ordinary Democrat who finds it necessary to distance himself on some issues from the national party. When they need his vote, however, he is there.

    Am I wrong?

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    • May 22, 2011, at 11:07 AM PDT
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  27. Mel Foil Inactive

    As of now, I support Pawlenty. He’s a good man, as politicians go. He’s the least likely to have a hidden love child. He’s going to disappoint me on a few issues here and there, he’s going to pander here and there, and compromise around the edges here and there, but on the most important issues (to me,) he’s solid. Really. Also, he does his homework. He will NOT embarrass me with ignorance of law or history, and that’s getting to be a rare quality these days. Now that I say that, he’ll probably fall flat on his face, but I trust him to know what he’s talking about, because like I say, the man does his homework. He’ll just embarrass me with bad nerdy jokes, because he’s about as hip as Donnie Osmond. To know him is to admire him. That may not make him President, but he’d be a great VP too. He’s as smart as Bill Clinton, and a 1000 times more honest. But…who isn’t 1000 times more honest than Bill Clinton?

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    • May 22, 2011, at 11:27 AM PDT
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  28. Gus Marvinson Inactive

    “Instead, he strung us along until the last minute.”

    Nah. The primaries are, what, ten months away? Late summer is soon enough. We’ll be fine, Paul.

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    • May 22, 2011, at 11:36 AM PDT
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  29. Instugator Thatcher

    There is no such thing as the ‘indispensable man’ – since Daniels isn’t up for it, good. King Barack will not sit on the sidelines during the Republican Primary and the more he talks the less he is liked.

    It is better NOT to have a front-runner right now. I am still leaning toward Blackfive’s endorsement of Herman Cain.

    The Money Line – “I have heard him speak enough times to know that he can mertilize the spineless, lead-from-the rear cakeboy who curently inhabits the White House in a debate.”

    • #29
    • May 22, 2011, at 11:59 AM PDT
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  30. AmishDude Member

    Mitch Daniels was ready to be president, he was not ready to lead the Republican party.

    One of his more annoying tendencies was to lecture to various members of the Republican coalition. This is a major problem with a lot of our leaders who don’t realize that they go into the election with the party that they have (to paraphrase Rumsfeld).

    What really clued me into this tendency was Michael Steele. Steele’s job was, literally, to say that everything Republican is great and everything Democrat is terrible.

    That’s it, that’s the RNC chair’s job. It doesn’t matter what his individual beliefs are, he does not exist to mold the party into his image.

    • #30
    • May 23, 2011, at 1:03 AM PDT
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