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Posted at 6:13 PM ET, 02/23/2011

Daniels's damage control

By Jennifer Rubin

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.

By Jennifer Rubin  | February 23, 2011; 6:13 PM ET
Categories:  2012 campaign  
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Calling defenders of the labor movement "anti-democratic" is ruthless and twisted doublespeak typical of union busters in all times and places. It looks to me like they want to stamp out unions altogether and turn us into China with them living in luxury in the Forbidden City. We know that's what their patrons the Koch brothers want. They make no secret of that.

Posted by: bugbuster1 | February 23, 2011 7:40 PM | Report abuse

Calling the immature, run and hide Indiana lawmakers "defenders of the labor movement" is ruthless and twisted doublespeak. It looks to me like they want to stamp out lawmakers that have the guts to stay and fight and turn us into Lybia with them living in luxury in Illinois. We know that's what their patron George Soros wants. He makes no secret of that.

Posted by: dano7 | February 23, 2011 8:06 PM | Report abuse

In Wisconsin, Indiana, California, New Jersey, and almost every other state, the issue is public-employee unions, not unions in general, because over the years state executives and legislatures, almost regardless of party, have found it advantageous to moderate wage demands by providing increased benefits. The issue is that out-year (beyond the budget window) benefits have a much greater impact because of compounding (think of compound interest) and the folks doing the negotiating did not take that into account, just as they overlooked the acceleration of healthcare insurance costs. Need we mention the conflict of interest of those negotiating for the voters wanting the votes of the folks on the other side of the table? Finally, factor in disability multipliers for some categories of public employees as well as other arcane rules that folks could game, and projected costs are out of control. Even Jerry Brown, the Democrat Governor of Kaleeforniya realizes that.

Yes, there is a political aspect too: public unions force taxpayers to fund Democrats. (Details here: ). One can carp about the Kochs, but their giving pales in comparison to the public employee union: they are big money and contribute almost exclusively to the Donks.

The elected official who tries to effect change in a way that threatens public union employees also has to worry about the dark side of union practices, violence, as Tom Luna, Idaho’s superintendent of public instruction found out when his vehicle was vandalized.

His offense? He offered a bill that phases out tenure, removes seniority as a criterion for layoffs, makes student achievement at least 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation, and includes a pay-for-performance bonus.

/ Luna’s bill would require the state to publish a “fiscal report card,” so parents could go online and evaluate their school district by the numbers: average teacher salary, expenditure per child, administrative expenses, etc. To top it all off, the bill would mandate that towns hold teacher-contract negotiations in the open. /

Pretty durn radical, no? His proposal seems to be in the public interest, but the teachers’ union is fighting it on all fronts.

Posted by: SCMike1 | February 23, 2011 9:47 PM | Report abuse

Run, run, run as fast as you can
Can't catch me, I'm a Democrat, man

(Can't you envision an SNL skit with that premise? But, as the Daily Show discovered, chasing them on Camels ain't gonna fly, no way no how.)

Posted by: aardunza | February 23, 2011 11:27 PM | Report abuse

Great comment dano7 but change Lybia to Libya. Libya, labia, got it? ;-)

While I certainly agree with Jennifer on the merits of a state right-to-work law (Iowa's had it as long as I remember, DP's had its removal in their party platform forever, but it's here to stay), it is a rather radical change for Indiana if none existed before and so I can't quite fault Governor Daniels for going a bit slow(ly?) on the issue.

Posted by: aardunza | February 23, 2011 11:38 PM | Report abuse

That's it -- Lybia reminds me of 'Lydia the Tattooed Lady' from 'At the Circus.' After watching all the Marx Bros. movies a few months ago, some random thoughts -- The Cocoanuts, Duck Soup, A Night at the Opera are the best, Sigfried Rumann and Margaret Dumond never disappoint, and Ms. Dumond was so enchantingly beautiful whenever she gave that full smile (full disclosure, bears a slight resemblance to my sister-in-law, my brother that lucky dog!:-))

Posted by: aardunza | February 23, 2011 11:58 PM | Report abuse

Gov. Daniels is, I understand, a very nice person, and a definite fiscal conservative, so long as the sacred rights and privileges of public employee unions are not affected. George Will, and a few others who think like him, think ol' Mitch should be President.

With apologies to Mitch Daniels, I don't. The Gipper stood up to PATCO. The Gipper ... he ain't.

Posted by: meta-materialist | February 24, 2011 12:24 AM | Report abuse

@bugbuster1 "...Calling defenders of the labor movement "anti-democratic" is blah blah...."

Nobody is calling them anything. But calling "public service unions" anything other than what they are - thuggish racketeers conspiring with "law makers" (usually Democrats) to prey on the tax-paying public - is a complete perversion and utter misunderstanding of "the labor movement". Class dismissed.

Posted by: jafco | February 24, 2011 12:46 AM | Report abuse

Anyone who doesn't think the American worker needs a voice in D.C. against the powerful corporate lobbyists has obviously been living on Mars for the last 20 years. Guess you haven't noticed how many jobs have been taken out of this country by corporations with the assistance of politicians on their payroll.

If Republicans hate unions because they support Democratic candidates, maybe Republicans should start worrying more about the working class and a lot less about the wealthy. The answer is not to destroy a lone voice for the working class!

After what has been done to jobs in this country, don't ask us to put our trust in greedy CEO's or their puppet politicians (such as Walker, and frankly all the rest of them).

Posted by: Beeliever | February 24, 2011 4:25 AM | Report abuse

Claiming that public unions are evil because they spend money on Democrats is laughable. In the last election only three of the top ten outside groups gave to Dems and they had union ties. The Kocks and other fascists are trying to eliminate them so that there will be very little outside money going to Dems. America is being bought and paid for by the corporate elite.

Posted by: Falmouth1 | February 24, 2011 8:05 AM | Report abuse

Honestly, I have issues with your daily bashing of Mitch Daniels. It is becoming rather predictable. I believe he has a very good chance.

I am an independent and if he runs, I am taking a week off of work to volunteer for his campaign and do my best make sure he wins Virginia.

Posted by: Leye | February 24, 2011 8:23 AM | Report abuse

Daniels strange diversion to and then walk-back is of a piece with his disavowal of social issues ("we need a truce"). He appears to have a very clear idea ("it would be helpful if people like us") as to the rhetorical content of a successful campaign. It also appears that he doesn't know how to win a primary, where he is not supposed to sound like a Blue Dog D.

I was incredibly disappointed and I wish I knew what G. Will thought. It's way too early to abandon principle, and toss away the benefit of his very successful, very rigorous management of Indiana fiscal affairs. But he's probably thrown it away.

Posted by: IowaHawkeye | February 24, 2011 8:30 AM | Report abuse

Daniels is a joke and the laugh is on the people of Indiana.

Posted by: Sanchos_ | February 24, 2011 9:04 AM | Report abuse

"Anyone who doesn't think the American worker needs a voice in D.C. against the powerful corporate lobbyists has obviously been living on Mars for the last 20 years. Guess you haven't noticed how many jobs have been taken out of this country by corporations with the assistance of politicians on their payroll.

If Republicans hate unions because they support Democratic candidates, maybe Republicans should start worrying more about the working class and a lot less about the wealthy. The answer is not to destroy a lone voice for the working class!

After what has been done to jobs in this country, don't ask us to put our trust in greedy CEO's or their puppet politicians (such as Walker, and frankly all the rest of them).

Posted by: Beeliever"

You are like a caricature Beeliever. This Marxist talk about the "workers" and unions being their "lone voice" is rather amusing actually.

The Left loves to pretend like unions protect the whole "working class." In reality, the unions only have an interest in the *union* "working class." With a specific disdain for any other non-union worker who happens to be in the same profession.

Also notable is the implication that the Right is trying to break all unions out there. The reality is that the only push back from the Right is in regards to public sector unions. No one on the Right is saying that private unions need to be scuttled.

And as for your irrelevant claim Beeliever that corporations are sending all these jobs overseas, what does that have to do with these public sector unions - which is what this whole controversy is about? I'll answer for you - nothing. No firefighter, cop, teacher, janitor or any other public employee is going to have their job outsourced to China.

And as for all those low wage manual labor jobs that ARE being sent overseas - keep in mind that because of that, you (and the rest of the "working class") can buy your Nike shoes for $50 rather than $150. I'm sure however that if we pulled all those jobs back from China and then had to pay $150 for sneakers because of the high costs of union labor to make them, you'd still be railing against corporations like Nike for "robbing" the "working man."

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | February 24, 2011 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Chris Christie just said Mitch Daniels is the only (possible) GOP candidate who is tackling the correct issues.

Will Ms. Rubin now stop this Daniels-bashing? I am so disappointed with her knee-jerk animosity.

Posted by: K2K2 | February 24, 2011 2:42 PM | Report abuse

To all you Daniels lovers and union haters. let me an Indiana resident tell you about Daniels. He sold our only state managed tax payer funded project that made money: the toll road, to a foreign conglomerate. He privatized the public service offices not to an Indiana company but one from TX for over 2 billion and finally admitted it was horribly flawed. He allows logging in Indiana State Parks and now calls firefighters, policemen, and teachers "the new elite". oh by the way for you tea party types he also spent well over 100 thousand on an RV so he can get out to see the folks, but instead used it to campaign for re-election, taxpayer funded of course.

Posted by: thedez | February 24, 2011 4:34 PM | Report abuse

From one of Jen’s columns in April of 1979:

The Republican field is looking dismal. Ford, who couldn’t beat Carter 3 years ago and has been parodied on the hip Saturday Night Live program endlessly, is a non-starter. He didn’t look presidential even when he was President. Bob Dole has no chance – not only did he lose as a VP candidate, but his debate abilities were highly questionable. Lastly, Ronald Reagan should not even be considered – he was an actor in Hollywood, used to be a Democrat and enacted higher taxes in California. Ford and Dole are losers but Reagan would be the worst – he would compromise on everything. Barry Goldwater is the only one who can save us, all the others are worthless.

Posted by: buster5 | February 26, 2011 12:06 AM | Report abuse

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