So I'm back from the family road trip and used YouTube to watch Mitch Daniels' performance on FOX News Sunday. Some thoughts as they came to me,
1. The optics were pretty bad. I couldn't tell if he was standing very awkwardly or slouching into a very uncomfortable chair.
2. His "trickle down government" line on government stimulus was pretty good. I know it isn't original to Daniels but the line has more credibility coming from a governor who managed to keep the state budget under control while preserving key government services and doing so without major tax increases, than if it had come from some congressional blowhard.
3. The idea of a congressionally granted presidential impoundment power might have some merit. Chris Christie seems to have used it to some good effect in New Jersey. My only question is, if Congress is unwilling to vote for budget savings, why would they be willing to grant the President the power to make cuts Congress doesn't want? Is it realistic to hope for a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate for such granting the President such a power? I'm not sure, but I think it is a worthwhile campaign issue.
4. Daniels takes on the entitlement issues honestly, but he will need to up his game in the explanations department. His answers will have to be more detail-oriented and be in plainer language. Those two imperatives are in tension, but not irreconcilable. On the details front, how will increasing retirement ages impact people who work physically demanding jobs and how will means-testing be designed in such a way that it doesn't destroy incentives to save and invest for people in their forties and fifties? On the plain language front, what fraction of the public understood what Daniels was talking about when he mentioned "changing the indexation formula?" Entitlement issues cut really close to people since they involve question about when people can retire, how much they will be able to afford in retirement, and how they will get health care in their old age. It is scary enough to talk about cuts in entitlements, but when the explanations are incomprehensible, it gets even scarier. In fairness to Daniels, the format didn't really allow for much detailed talk, but if he runs for President, being able to say alot about the entitlement issue in short bursts that are comprehensible to the layman will be a key to winning elections and then getting reforms through Congress.
5. Daniels is still lost on the social issues and he put on an especially obtuse performance. The social issues won't be primary on a day-to-day basis, but there won't be a truce for the sake of Mitch Daniels or anybody else. To pick just one example, there won't be a truce as long as federal judges try to impose their preferred social policies. This means that a President Daniels will have to make appointments that either advance, check or (we can hope) roll back these judicial aggressions. And where did Daniels ever get the idea that not talking about popular positions on social issues will make it easier to pass Social Security cuts? Obama might be a good example here. It isn't like appointing two liberals to the Supreme Court has gotten in the way of taking a big step towards government-run health care. Would Obama have made more progress in advancing his social democratic and corporatist economic agenda if he had appointed Robert P. George to the Supreme Court?