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Posted at 3:30 PM ET, 02/18/2011

Daniels's problems not limited to "social truce"

By Jennifer Rubin

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?

By Jennifer Rubin  | February 18, 2011; 3:30 PM ET
Categories:  2012 campaign  
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"The most important thing that Boumediene held is something that I always thought was obvious ... that in America, there are no law-free zones."

Truly a nightmare for 'conservatives' indeed. There are law-free zones, everywhere 'conservatives' feel like doing things the law doesn't permit, like indefinite detention without trial and torture.

Posted by: member8 | February 18, 2011 4:03 PM | Report abuse

The Tenth Amendment effectively delegates the social issues to the states. What is wrong with a GOP candidate who supports this, and not insists that there be a national position for the party? For example, one can oppose Roe v. Wade as bad law - there is no federal right to an abortion - yet still not favor outlawing abortion at the state level.

Posted by: DennisAOK | February 18, 2011 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Maybe Daniels would be better fitted for Secretary of the Treasury than President. I agree with Daniels that the fiscal crisis is our most urgent matter, but a president must be able to deal with a multitude of concerns. We need to know that Daniels isn't as clueless as Obama on foreign affairs and national security.

Posted by: eoniii | February 18, 2011 4:50 PM | Report abuse

"The Tenth Amendment effectively delegates the social issues to the states. What is wrong with a GOP candidate who supports this, and not insists that there be a national position for the party? For example, one can oppose Roe v. Wade as bad law - there is no federal right to an abortion - yet still not favor outlawing abortion at the state level."

I'm with you DennisAOK, but is that what Daniels said? I don't think he did. In my opinion he'd be in much better shape (so far at least) if he had said that specifically and didn't simply ask for a "truce." I think suggesting that social issues go the states is a big winner.

eoniii, I agree that we need to know more about Daniels before giving our endorsement, despite his fiscal bonafides. Same for Christie.

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | February 18, 2011 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Please. This guy is central casting for budget director or some backroom green eyeshade position. But president? Give me a break.

Posted by: gord2 | February 18, 2011 9:06 PM | Report abuse

That does it Jen. Count me out. The judges issues is the first one to came to mind upon learning of the "Truce" comment and we now have the worst possible indicia on this point. You're foreign policy comments are also well take, of course.

Boumidine was comprable to Roe in its brazen lawlesness.

@DenniAOK: That happens to be precisely my position. Roe is a jurisprediential monstrosity but I support legalized abortion at the state level (I do have a great deal of respect for the pro-life position). AS RitchieEmmons points out above though, that does not seem to be Daniels' posture, and obviously other issues are implicated including Boumedine and, ultimately the fate of Obamacare - an issue close to the core of Daniels' cetral budgetary concerns. In the aggragate thia makes his candidacy almost completely prohibitive.

Posted by: cavalier4 | February 19, 2011 5:58 AM | Report abuse

"...very likely that one or more justices will leave the court before 2016,..."
is a red herring. Justice Ginsburg will retire during Obama's presidency, and the rest are too young to even think about retirement.

Ms. Rubin must be reacting to the growing chorus of conservatives who disagree with her on Daniels since his memorable CPAC speeech. Or maybe it is Daniels' (christian) Syrian ancestry?

It is too soon to be this judgmental. The GOP will make a fatal mistake if they hand Obama abortion and gay marriage as distractions in 2012.

There is no real-life Jack Ryan about to jump from Tom Clancy's imagination into the Presidency.

I am happy to wait to learn more from the Calvin Coolidge of 2011. And to wait for Jon Huntsman to speak.

Posted by: K2K2 | February 19, 2011 9:02 AM | Report abuse

This article by McCormack in the Weekly Standard was one of the most 'arcane', 'incomprehensible' and 'irrelevant' pieces I have ever read!

For Rubin to praise this analysis as 'thoughtful' shows how really weak it is.
It is becoming apparent that she is grabbing at any argument to support her indefensible position regarding Governor Daniels.

I wholeheartedly agree with K2K2 above, that she has become a little
to uncomfortable with all the conservative voices being raised in opposition to her
'I know better than the rest of you' attitude.

I am a VERY socially conservative voter and Rubin does not speak for me, nor many more millions of social conservatives, I suspect. Her kind of 'strident attitude' is exactly what we do not need in the social conservative movement.

Posted by: tennisman874 | February 19, 2011 9:29 AM | Report abuse

David Paul Kuhn on Feb 16, 2011:

"...Washington Post conservative blogger, Jennifer Rubin, noted that Daniels avoided national security issues and "seemed indifferent to the flap about his support for and then retreat from a ‘truce' on social issues."

But Daniels' faced the social issue flap, like all his weaknesses, by enlarging his strength. It was textbook political jujitsu.
Daniels' offense also provides political advantage. He can authentically claim to have done what few primary candidates dare: he has substantively challenged his base. Neither Obama nor John McCain delivered so bold a speech in 2007. Of course, there's a reason for that. Political bases expect to be wooed, not insulted. Yet, as Land said of his breed of Republicans, conservatives generally "believe in redemption."

And this is possible partly because of that larger desire, on the right, for fiscal conservative redemption.

[I would add that the desire for "fiscal conservative redemption" is just as strong with the center, those of us who want to stop the red ink before America drowns in it, or the vampires of the bond market take over. NOTHING else will matter once interest on the debt consumes the Federal revenue stream. Is it impossible for lawyers like Ms. Rubin to understand the gravity of this moment? That there is no more time this time?

Ok, back to volume 2 of Harry S. Truman's memoirs, where he is railing about the absence of budget discipline because not enough members of Congress understand simple math.]

Posted by: K2K2 | February 19, 2011 8:32 PM | Report abuse

There's a world of world of difference between raising gay marriage and abortion to the top of the agenda and premeptively calling a "Truce" and essentially doing the same thing in a much more harmful way.

Raising such issues would help Obama not because of the focus on the issues per se but because it would let him of the hook for his complete devastation of the countrie's finances. Ostentatiously calling a truce does something very similar. To the extent this is a sincere effort on the part of Daniel to get to the fiscal issues it displays poor political judgement which will make it difficult for him to win the presidency and if even if he does to manage the monumentally difficult task of entitlement reform.

Huntsman is absurd. Think Duke of Savoy for HRE in 1619.

We don't need Jack Ryan but a Paul Ryan with John Bolton as and uber-pwerfrull SecState/National Security Advisor, general foreign policy Deus Ex Machina would probably work.

Posted by: cavalier4 | February 20, 2011 5:53 AM | Report abuse

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