Daniels's damage control
This afternoon, sensing he was on thin ice politically, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and his staff went into damage control mode. His office put out this:
Governor Mitch Daniels today said the actions by House Democrats to abandon the state during a key time in the 2011 legislative session show "complete contempt for the democratic process."
Here are the governor's opening comments during a media briefing today. Audio from the briefing and question-and-answer session follows.
"The House Democrats have shown a complete contempt for the democratic process. The way that works -- as we all learned in grade school -- is that if you seek public office, you come, do your duty, you argue, you debate, you amend if you can, you vote 'no' if you feel you should. If you are not successful, you go home and take your case to the voters. You don't walk off the job, take your public paycheck with you and attempt to bring the whole process to a screeching halt. You know, if they persist, the Democratic Party of Indiana will need a rebranding effort because this is as anti-democratic as behavior can be.
"All that said, I think they deserve another chance. Let the heat of the moment cool, I hope. Maybe if their leadership doesn't have a conscience about the unconscionable things they've done, maybe individual members do. But I do hope that having made their point, scored one victory on the big issue, they will decide to come back to work. Let's do the people's business, together.
"I can tell you that I don't know what will happen; I don't know how we'll proceed. I can tell you what won't happen. We will not be bullied or blackmailed out of pursuing the agenda we laid in front of the people of Indiana. That agenda is going to get voted on.
"If it takes special sessions from now to New Year's, we will hold them and we will send the bill to Leader Bauer and to the Democratic Party of Indiana. I see no reason for that to be necessary. They can come back, and I hope they will tomorrow. We can just get on with business, and that is what I would appeal to them to do. I hope as a whole group, if not then, perhaps individuals in the caucus who have gone along -- because that is what good caucus members do -- may decide their conscience tells them they should do their duty instead."
I asked a Daniels spokeswoman repeatedly why Daniels had to throw in the towel on right-to-work legislation since he got two school reform measures through the state senate with only Repubican votes. She never answered. The question remains: What was the purpose of his capitulation last night?
Daniels, in essence, has admitted he screwed up. Whether his apology will allay the conservatives who will be Republican primary voters in 2012 remains to be seen. But one longtime Republican observer e-mailed me, "The right to work free of compulsory association with, and dues paid to, any particular group, is as close to a basic liberty as can be imagined. If Daniels won't stand up for that, he can't be counted on for ANY subject aside from green-eyeshade accounting." I suspect that sentiment is rather widespread.
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