More on Daniels's folly
Some readers and Republican insiders contend I have been too tough on Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. One writes, "Didn't Daniels restrict collective bargaining, shrink [the number of] government workers, privatize large swaths of Indiana's public sector, and make tough decisions on limiting government and growing economy?" Yes, but let's examine precisely why Daniels came off so poorly last night.
First, a correction: I stated previously, "Last night both Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) had their opportunity in the national limelight to advance their position in their fights against public-employee unions and to advance their own careers." Both were opportunities to advance their careers and both concerned fights with unions, but only Walker is fighting with public sector unions. I should have made clear Daniels's fight was with private-sector unions.
However, Daniels still erred in a manner, I would suggest, that diminishes his strength as governor and virtually dooms his presidential candidacy.
Most important, he gave up something (the right-to-work legislation) without getting anything in return. That's bad bargaining, and rightly or wrongly will be taken as a sign of weakness by the Democrats. Another smart, very aggressive governor told me a short time ago, "All of life is a negotiation. You have to convince the other guy you are more serious than he is." Daniels, I would argue, did just the opposite.
Second, his tangled himself up badly in praising the Democrats. He's now trying to walk back his inadvisable language:
Gov. Mitch Daniels now concedes his supportive remarks of House Democrats' decision this week to walk out on their jobs and flee to the Land of Lincoln in an effort to kill right to work legislation were premature after seeing the full list of demands House Democratic Leader Pat Bauer (D-South Bend) that must be met before his caucus returns to the State House. He now says his words of praise for the move by House Democrats were "careless."
Again, not very smart and quite unhelpful in asserting himself as a tough, firm leader.
And finally, the tone and atmospherics were simply bad. The immediate contrast was made between Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who isn't making concessions, and Daniels, who is. Walker's sharp words of criticism for state legislators stood in sharp contrast to Daniels's now-recanted praise. It was precisely the wrong time to appear irresolute.
The dig on Daniels is that he is so maniacal on entitlement reform and spending restraint that he is willing to give up on most everything else (e.g. social issues). Last night made the problem worse.
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