Department of I told you so: Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and Mike Huckabee both go after Daniels on the "truce." Daniels actually started taking heat on this a little earlier than I expected. I think Daniels should listen to Ponnuru and Douthat.
I'm interested in how Romney will treat Daniels. I think Daniels is a much bigger potential threat to Romney than to Huckabee. Huckabee can use Daniels as a foil with Daniels as the economy-focused (and spending cut-focused) candidate with Huckabee as the social conservative/conservatism of the heart alternative. Romney's two main strengths were his support (or least-of-all-evils acceptance) among movement conservative institutions (he was endorsed by National Review and he took less fire from Limbaugh and such than Huckabee or McCain) and his record of competence as an executive. Daniels seems to have made the conservative press swoon with very friendly profiles in National Review and the Weekly Standard, and in retrospect, would you rather have Romney's record on health care policy or Daniels'? If I were Romney, I would be preparing attacks on Daniels as a tax raiser (it would be misleading but I'm assuming that wouldn't stop Romney) and a defense cutter along with being a social issues squish.
I say all this as a Daniels fan who likes his record in Indiana and would really like him to run in 2012. It is just that politics is already tough and unfair enough without Daniels making extra trouble for himself with this truce stuff.
From the news pages of the New York Times:
The indictment of Mr. Drake was the latest evidence that the Obama administration is proving more aggressive than the Bush administration in seeking to punish unauthorized leaks to the press.
In 17 months in office, President Obama has already outdone every previous president in pursuing leak prosecutions. His administration has taken actions that might have provoked sharp political criticism for his predecessor, George W. Bush, who was often in public fights with the press.
The discussion on this blog and in other forums of late about a possible candidacy by Mitch Daniels for presidency in 2012 has fixated on his calls for a truce to the culture war. A candidate who seems to be one of the most successful governors in the new era of state fiscal policy disasters has angered or provoked many with his proposed truce. Perhaps more extended reflection on the Daniel's truce can be had if one considers what Daniels, I think, rightly regards as the pivotal moment in American limited government.
Daniels' remarks over the past few months have urged that the central political battle boils down to self-government achieved through robust consent to actual policies, i.e., Is the creepy Peter Orszag to be our master and the efficiency commissions headed by similar types of officials, or is there something much better that is possible? In listing the accomplishments and, I think accurately gauging the universal thinking of Obama on regulatory policy, Daniels repeatedly underscores, in the measured tones reminiscent of Calvin Coolidge (Daniel's speeches are similar to Silent Cal's), that the failure to recover the hearts of Americans on the prospect of actual self-government leads us in a new direction of social democracy. This is the central moral loss, and from it flows even more of the San Francisco and faculty lounge moralizing we have heard for years and are now seeing slowly implemented.
The central moral and political question evoked by Daniels is what do we make of our lives as human beings and as American citizens? Do we want to be citizens? Are we free and capable of self-rule in any muscular sense? One gathers that Daniels may see the culture wars not as unnecessary but as the inherent consequences of the primal failure of a manly assertion of political honor for oneself, one's family, and one's community. If we are incapable of these basic tasks, then, of course, the fallouts of abortion, deconstruction of the family, and a hiding within the therapeutic mentality that existentially absolves life of meaning and consequence (moral relativism) inevitably follows.
Daniels proclaims the political good of pride, courage, and liberty as the central elements of limited and rightful government. His venture into the national political waters is predicated on the notion that a significant enough cross-section of American citizens will understand this and join him. These are neither the "achievatrons" of America's meritocratic elite, nor the 20-30% who support entitlement politics, but a group who are in conversation with rightly ordered political habits that still seem real and plausible. Moreover, these political habits are our own as Americans.
This, of course, says nothing about Daniels' constitutional conservatism that would lead to originalist appointments across the federal judiciary.
In today's Wall Street Journal, Steven Rattner has a very revealing op-ed (the full piece is only available to subscribers). Arguing that "Wall Street Still Doesn't Get it," he quotes the President's comment to a group of bankers that "my administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks." I take that to be the Obama way. H e did the same in the health care deal. If memory serves, Obama made deals with drug companies and the AMA very early in the process. I gather that, until recently, he was working the same angle with BP on cap and trade. (BP has extensive natural gas reserves which could make the company a good deal of money, if the bill is structured in a particular way). I suspect he's doing the same with Israel just now. Thanks to the cartel-breaking dust-up, he has more leverage than he had recently. (He tried to use the recent housing permit incident similarly).
The President, in other words, practices classic Chicago politics. He uses popular anger to threaten the big guys, and then cuts a deal with them for half. The intended result--the big guys are happy that they did not get killed, and the common people are happy that they took a hit. (In the mean time, the smaller players are creamed. The big guys can take the hit, and then profit from the reduced competition).
This corporatist approach is not all that new, but Obama is trying to expand its scope. It is probably the inevitable direction that bigger government will take in America.
I suspect the part of Obama's anger at the tea parties is that they gum up the works of his pragmatic, moderate, corporatism. They show that there are other ways of seeing it. There are people who don't want such cartelization. When Obama says he's no socialist, he's being sincere. He wants to use the market to serve what he takes to be public goods that otherwise would be ignored. A big, diiverse economy, with players of all sizes makes that more difficult. It is much easier to use the private sector when it's limited to fewer, bigger companies. The tea parties, in this sence, represent the ancient American prejudice in favor of mediating institutions. Their principles reflect that idea.
I'm not done with this Mitch Daniels thing yet. How does it play out if Daniels runs for President and if he keeps his current strategy of trying to avoid social issues and trying to get everyone else to do the same thing? Here how I think it would probably play out:
First, Daniels would take fire from social conservative leaders and his rivals for the Republican nomination. Try to picture the ads about Daniels not willing to take a position on whether the federal government should subsidize abortions under most circumstances or whether he would he would appoint judges that imposed liberal social policies. It would become a media story that would compete with Daniels' economic message. Ironically, Daniels' not talking about social issues will create a spiral of commentary on Daniels not talking about the social issues. This wouldn't be a big problem if millions of people didn't care about these issues. And I don't just mean people who are socially conservative first. There are lots of economic conservatives who are also social conservatives. This is a threshold thing. Someone doesn't have to be the best social conservative or have a perfect record (see Romney or McCain), but tossing the social issues overboard risks alienating this large group of down the line(ish) conservatives along with the social conservatism-first group. Daniels has a chance to be the Republican contender with the best economic record and the best economic message. If he is acceptable on the other issues, I think he would have a good shot. But if people who are socially conservative get the idea that he has written their issues off... well then there will be plenty of other Republican contenders who are also selling their own brand of economic conservatism (maybe not as good) but who also have some kind of social agenda.
Then after these dynamics become clear, Daniels will be backed into making some kind of high profile statement of principles and lay out some set of policies on the social issues. But the damage will have been done. Social liberalism-first voters will scorn Daniels because he laid out policies they disagreed with. The reality is that (as Reihan Salam pointed out somewhere) neither Daniels nor any other Republican presidential candidate was ever going to get these voters. Voter who don't think much about the social issues one way or another will think less of Daniels because he will have clearly made his statement out of political pressure rather than conviction. With these voters, he will take a hit on character rather than ideology. Social conservatives will discount his statement because it will seem like he had to be dragged into making it. This strategy is lots of loss for no gain.
The way to really deemphasize social issues is to lay out an orthodox set of principles (if those are Daniels' principles) and an incremental policy agenda built around policies with majority support. The country will not be unduly divided at the news that the Republican presidential candidate is pro-life, and if Democrats want to build a campaign around defending taxpayer-funded abortions, let them. The way to focus on economic issues is to talk about the economic issues most of the time and in the greatest detail. The irony is that the best way for Daniels to minimize having to talk about the social issues is for him to have something of substance to say.
Jennifer Rubin describes a pretty impressive performance by Mitch Daniels in front of a group of conservative activists and journalists. The biggest problem that I got from the meeting was Daniels' insistence that the social issues be "set aside" while we deal with the country's economic problems.
This is a good way for Daniels to lose more friends than he makes. There is a way to integrate and deemphasize the social issues without alienating social conservatives. It involves articulating a framework and laying out a series of incremental policies that have majority support. For instance he can describe his pro-life convictions and say that he is in favor of legislation to remove the license for abortions in the last three months under most circumstances. If he wants to be a strict federalist about it, he can say he favors that legislation on the state level. He can surely say that he opposes federal subsidies for such abortions. And then he can move back to the economic issues. He will also need a good answer on federal judges and the role they play on social issues.
Daniels can run, but he can't hide and he can't even really call a timeout. We can't have a total timeout because these issues are part of public policy and they will be thrust on the next President (if only on court appointments) whether Daniels likes it or not. These issues matter even to many people who don't rank them at the very top of their concerns. If Daniels really wants to diffuse these issues, the answer is an eloquent statement of his principles and a prudent, incrementalist policy agenda. Social conservatives are not the problem. McCain didn't lose because he spent too much time talking about Obama's abortion extremism. If Daniels can let them know that he will, within the limits of the powers of his office, seek to advance some social conservative goals, and appoint judges who will not usurp the power of the voters in order to impose liberal policies, Daniels might find plenty of common ground with social conservatives and alot of political room to focus on his economic policies. But he needs to stop telling social conservatives to shut up about their concerns until such time as Daniels decides that American can afford to talk about them again .
Marc Thiessen notes that State Dept. legal adviser Harold Koh justifies the deadly Predator drone strikes via the congressional Iraq War resolution (AUMF). But, as several others (including the UN, the ACLU, and former Bush officials) have observed, the victims of the drone strikes had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. Yet the terrorists could be targeted, as John Yoo, among others have maintained, under the President's Article II powers--an expansive argument Koh has rejected. Thiessen, a former Bush speechwriter, raises the questions, "In a few years, when the situation in the war against terrorism has stabilized, will there be calls for the disbarment of the Obama lawyers who authorized these strikes and criminal investigations of the CIA officers who carried them out? Will Harold Koh join John Yoo and other Bush lawyers in the left's hall of infamy?"
For some background, see my previous post on this issue.
Obama will first seek regulatory approval for that action, which may take weeks to complete, but only after first determining which agency(ies) have jurisdiction(s) and completing their review process(es), while also gathering input from stakeholder(s) local, regional, national and international on potential economic, environmental and political (shhh!! expunge that) impacts of proposed ass kicking, all of which to make certain that proposed ass-kicking will work ("Before we do anything we have to know that it will work") and upon positive preliminary assessment could be considered for exemption from review status and final implementation processing.
Reminds me that apparently the Army recipe for baking brownies is 27 pages long. (True.)
In the Texas textbook fight, as it so much else, it's wise to read the bill, or in the case the standards, before criticizing them:
Benjamin Jealous, president of the NAACP, had come from his headquarters in Baltimore to complain about the downgrading of the human debasement of African slaves. According to Jealous, language referring to the "triangular trade" among the English colonies on the eastern seaboard, the Caribbean, and Britain had excised the horrors of slavery
Of course, the "triangular trade" has been taught in American public schools at least since I was in California's system a half-century ago, as the import of slaves to the New World, their harvesting of sugar, tobacco, and other commodities, and the sale of these or their by-products (such as molasses and rum) in Europe. Jealous was caught by the gimlet-eyed Terri Leo, secretary of the board. She asked him if he had, in fact, read the proposed curriculum changes and could cite the language he found unacceptable. He was compelled to admit that he had not, and could not. Whereupon she pointed out that the new language summons students to explain "the plantation system, the Atlantic triangular trade, and the spread of slavery." Jealous had been caught in a criticism by inference--or, more bluntly, by dependence on second-hand talking points.
Texas has also, apparently, exercised reasonable judgment about whom to study:
Later Paul Henley of the Texas State Teachers Association, a powerful public employee union, assailed the board, blasting the replacement of a reference to Santa Barraza--a Texas woman of Hispanic origin, alive and well, who paints folkloric representations of the U.S.-Mexico borderland--with the late cartoon animator Tex Avery (1908-80) on a list of Texas-born contributors to the arts. Most of them, like Barraza, are obscure; Avery is not
Is 2010 shaping up to be another 1994? According to the Real Clear Politics average of polls, Obama's job approval rating has been between 50 and 47 since the beginning of the year. Gallup puts Obama's approval at 47. To compare, at this same point in Clinton's first term, his job approval in the Gallup poll was 46 and would head up to 49 by the end of the month before dropping to 39 in September and end up back at 46 again the week of the midterm elections. So if the pattern holds, it looks like some of the conditions for 1994-like Republican gains are there.
But there are also reasons for long-term concern for Obama opponents. The unemployment rate for Jan-Nov 1994 varied from 6.6 to 5.9. The unemployment rate for the year to date has varied from 9.7 to 9.9. Obama has been keeping his approval ratings at about Clinton in 1994 levels during a much worse job market. And as Daniel Larison has pointed out (I can't remember when he posted it), Obama's approval ratings have been much more stable than Clinton's. I'm not sure exactly what all this means except that Obama's popularity has been holding up remarkably well given the labor market and that even a modest decline in the unemployment (say to the low 7s) could, absent some perceived foreign policy disaster, push Obama's job approval rating into the 50s and put him in a very strong position for reelection.
One of the things that jumps out at me about the relationship between the unemployment rate and a President's job approval rating is how context-dependent it is even absent foreign policy disasters like Iraq in 2006 or rally-round-the-flag effects due to events like Reagan getting shot. Reagan had high approval ratings for most of 1984, but the unemployment rate for most of the year was in the 7s - which isn't that good by the standards of the last thirty years. But it was alot better than the 10 percent or more unemployment of much of 1982. Probably just as important, the halving of inflation rate from 1981-1984 halted the erosion of the living standards of those who had jobs. Obama, after this recession, might also be running for reelection in a country with reduced expectations for what a "low" unemployment rate looks like.
It makes it harder for the government to take care of those things that really are job of the federal government:
Under intense media scrutiny, at least a dozen federal agencies have taken part in the spill response, making decision-making slow, conflicted and confused, as they sought to apply numerous federal statutes.
In one stark example of government disputes, internal e-mail messages from the minerals agency obtained by The Times reveal a heated debate over whether to ignore some federal environmental laws about gas emissions in an effort to speed the drilling of relief wells.
One agency official, Michael Tolbert, warned colleagues on April 24 that emissions of nitrous oxide from the well were "pretty far over the exemption level," an issue that his colleague Tommy Broussard said could result in "BP wasting time" on environmental safeguards in a way that would be "completely stupid."
But a third colleague, Elizabeth Peuler, intervened to demand that the agency take "no shortcuts."
"Not even for this one," she said. "Perhaps even especially for this one."
Isn't an oil spill a job for "Slick Willie"?
I made a case for Mitch Daniels as a potential 2012 presidential candidate. Why should conservative be wary of Daniels? I'll try to be fair and balanced.
1. George Packer argues that Daniels got the cost of the Iraq War horribly wrong when Daniels was head of the OMB. Daniels responds that his estimate of the Iraq War's cost was only for the first six months of the war. I think Daniels has the better of this argument on the substance, but if he runs for President, he will also have to make sure everyone who hears the charge that Daniels underestimated the cost of the war (possibly to increase political support for the war) also hears Daniels' explanation.
2. What does Daniels think about foreign and defense policy? This is more of a blank space than a real weakness, but Daniels will have to fill it in. Unlike with McCain on domestic policy, I don't worry that Daniels won't do his homework if he decides to run for President. I don't see the foreign policy equivalent of McCain's responding to the financial crisis by suggesting putting Andrew Cuomo in charge of the SEC.
3. Does Daniels underestimate the importance of social issues? Daniels is reported to have said that we need a "truce" on social issues as the country deals with its economic problems. The 2012 presidential election is likely to be economy-driven unless there is some widely perceived foreign policy disaster at least as large as the Iraq War in 2006 (let us pray nothing like that happens.) But we should keep in mind President Obama's wise observation that a President should be able to handle more than one thing at a time. There is no contradiction in pushing a plan for economic reform and highlighting (though not obsessively), President Obama's abortion extremism. There is a way to highlight these issues in a way that is not obnoxious. In fact, a focus on social issues, would be, in every sense, preferable to the culture war identity politics that the McCain campaign played in 2008. I also worry that Daniels will fall into the same trap that Phil Gramm fell into in 1996. Despite a good record, Gramm was visibly uncomfortable talking about social issues. The result was that Pat Buchanan became the candidate of voters for whom social issues were a high priority. Buchanan ended up beating Gramm in the Louisiana caucuses and scuttled Gramm's hopes of being the conservative alternative to the establishment candidate Bob Dole. Daniels is a much more appealing candidate than Gramm, but Mike Huckabee is also a much more plausible President than Buchanan. I'm not sure that Daniels will be able to compete with Huckabee for those conservatives for whom social conservatism comes first by a wide margin, but he will need to be eloquent enough, often enough on the social issues so that social conservatives who are also strongly economic conservatives won't get the sense that he will marginalize their social concerns if he becomes President. Having good answers on the role of judges will go a long way, as would a strong message about the wrongness of late term abortion. There is a lot of rhetorical room to reassure social conservatives and even appeal to people outside of the conservative base. Tonality matters as much as substance here, but it will take work to get it right.
This author argues yes, maintaining that regular Internet use shapes our brain physiology to make us, in so many words, stupid. High-speed brain dumps make us unable to read deeply:
To read a book is to practice an unnatural process of thought. It requires us to place ourselves at what T. S. Eliot, in his poem "Four Quartets," called "the still point of the turning world." We have to forge or strengthen the neural links needed to counter our instinctive distractedness, thereby gaining greater control over our attention and our mind.
If so, this is worse than cell phones and brain tumors, alcohol and brain cells. The argument for wisdom from the Internet (not really a contradiction) can be found in the accompanying WSJ article.
And, no, the remedy is not reading No Left Turns!