Daniels's problems not limited to "social truce"
John McCormack at the Weekly Standard's Web site has a thoughtful analysis of the problem (largely self-created) of Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. John suggests that his "social truce" position does not make sense as either a political or a policy matter.
I would add a couple of points to John's take. First, there is the Supreme Court. It is very likely that one or more justices will leave the court before 2016, leaving a critical appointment in the hands of the next president. If that's President Daniels, would he be willing to forgo a knock-down-drag-out fight over a justice, even a swing vote on hot-button issues such as abortion and gay marriage, for the sake of dealmaking with Democrats on issues he plainly cares more deeply about?
One clue to how Daniels would proceed is his record in appointing judges. Carrie Severino explains:
The single most important judicial issue in Indiana is the ongoing debate over the state's method for appointing appellate judges. It's not much of a debate, actually, thanks in part to Daniels. Indiana uses a form of the Missouri Plan, the commission-based method for choosing judges that was designed by Progressive Era lawyers to put "experts" in charge of judicial selection. The "experts," of course, are lawyers. When the issue was in front of Daniels, he took the worst possible approach. In 2009, overwhelming majorities of the Indiana General Assembly (88-3 in the House, 35-15 in the Senate) approved legislation to kill that method in parts of Indiana. Governor Daniels vetoed it. ...
Then, when Indiana had a supreme court vacancy to fill, he failed to say a single word about the state's flawed judicial-selection process and dutifully appointed a nominee sent to him by the state's nominating commission.
In other words, he didn't care enough to raise a fuss. As if that were not enough, he wound up appointing Judge Steven H. David to the state supreme court. David, Severino explains, is a nightmare appointment from conservatives' perspective:
David is a former chief defense counsel for detainees at Guantanamo Bay who praised the majority opinion in Boumediene v. Bush with this trite quote: "The most important thing that Boumediene held is something that I always thought was obvious ... that in America, there are no law-free zones." Or maybe he could explain why the official Steven David bio released by his office announced the fact that David is a member of the American Judicature Society, the leading institutional proponent of the Missouri Plan, and beneficiary of more than $1 million in contributions from George Soros's Open Society Institute since 2000. Daniels may well have chosen the least bad option presented to him by the commission, but that cannot excuse him supporting a system that ties the governor's hands to such an extent that he can only choose the least offensive of three liberal nominees.
This is the danger in electing a conservative who is focused on only one big thing; the other side winds up winning many important fights.
Daniels's other problem, as I have written before, is that he shows no interest in or willingness to become proficient in foreign policy. We have a president who is a "reluctant" commander in chief, at best, and who has trailed international events rather than lead. He has disregarded human rights and democracy promotion, which has been a moral and geopolitical failing. And he's begun to slash defense. Do we think Daniels would be any different? From what I know at this point, the answer is no. He's not a fan of democracy promotion, and his natural inclination when presented with a national security issue is to rely on worn out clichés ("peace through strength") and suggest we should be rolling back our commitments in the world. (In the Middle East? In Asia?) That's not a formula that is going to appeal to many in the Republican electorate beyond the Ron Paulites.
Daniels may not run. But if he does, Republicans will and should closely scrutinize his views on judicial nominees and on national defense. When it comes to a president's lasting legacy, to be blunt, nothing matters quite so much matters of war and peace and the appointment of justices whose tenure will last for decades. Why pick someone weak on those issues when there are other alternatives?
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