Mitch Daniels: Words & Deeds

It is a common complaint that politicians say one thing during the campaign but do something entirely different when governing.

Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana is the Benjamin Button of potential Presidential candidates, he turns the whole thing on its head by not talking the talk but walking the walk.

I have been extremely critical of Governor Daniels these past months as he has openly advocated for what has been termed "a truce" on the divisive social issues so we can focus on the pressing problem of debt. He put it this way on the....

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  1. I don't think that you need to make life issues the MAIN FOCUS of your campaign and devote the MOST time to that issue, in order to BE pro-life.

    This is (one of) Rick Santorum's issue. We KNOW he is pro-life. Everybody knows this, but there are other critically important issues as well.

    I sort of see this this way: A person can be a Catholic, say that they are Catholic, do Catholic things, answer questions about their faith in a Catholic way, and still have a job that has nothing whatsoever to do with Catholicism. That job may include trying to get promoted.

    Isn't this the same thing? Can not a candidate "render unto Cesar" by discussing other important issues that a President would need to address (many of which - economic and national security - can have life and death consequences as well) and still be considered a strong pro-lifer?

    Put it another way: MUST a candidate spend MOST of his time talking about life issues to be pro-life? MUST a candidate make that the center-piece of his campaign?

    Is it enough to walk like a duck and talk like a duck? Do you need to go around quacking ALL the time - to BE a duck? As him to quack and he quacks. Ask him, "Are you a duck?" And he says yes, and quacks. Isn't that enough to give him the JOB?

    After all this is about getting a job that entails more than just life issues, no?

    To me, the bottom line is: Will he end federal funding for abortions, and so on? If he says yes, and he does yes, then that is pretty much all I would want from a pro-life president anyway.

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  2. Flatliner,

    I realize your point was a bit removed from this detail, but you wrote:

    MUST a candidate spend MOST of his time talking about life issues to be pro-life? MUST a candidate make that the center-piece of his campaign?

    The complaint against Daniels was not simply a "lack of talking about abortion from sunup to sundown" (which is, as you mention, not a requirement); it was against Daniels' pro-active comment advocating a "truce" about (i.e. sidelining) life-issues, and subordinating those issues beneath more "politially pragmatic" (i.e. financial) issues. Daniels went on the record as saying that the fight against abortion needs to be placed below the raw political exigencies of the moment (i.e. shut up about it, in order to win the votes of people who don't agree). That's a bad thing for him to have said.

    I sort of see this this way: A person can be a Catholic, say that they are Catholic, do Catholic things, answer questions about their faith in a Catholic way, and still have a job that has nothing whatsoever to do with Catholicism. That job may include trying to get promoted.

    It can. But one's job cannot be antithetical to the Faith (e.g. owning a strip clup, directing an abortuary, etc.) One also can't use one's "job podium" to undercut the Faith (e.g. telling people to minimize a non-negotiable issue, in order to try to be politically "expedient").

    I'm quite happy that Gov. Daniels' actions belied his words (though I'm not sure why--whether he had a change of heart, or was advised that he was alienating his political base otherwise, or what). I hope he continues. I merely say that his "truce" comments were, to put it politely, ill-advised and wrong.

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  3. @Paladin

    I don't see it that way. I just think that when he said "truce" he did not mean "cessation of hostilities", I think he just meant guerrilla warfare. Maybe a better way to put it is this:

    By truce I think he meant to say that open, hot, constant warfare on this issue is LESS-EFFECTIVE than simply stating his position then focusing on the host of other issues that must be discussed. After all a president (governor, etc) has a moral DUTY to tackle a whole range of things.

    Minimizing an issue would be wrong if and only if he equivocated when asked about it, "Well it's sometimes wrong, etc." or if he planned not to implement necessary changes.

    If the guy is going to de-fund abortion, for instance, then how is running for office and talking about the economy somehow antithetical to what you would want from a pro-life president? It's not at all.

    I do agree that the word "truce" is just crazy talk. If he really meant that we should not fight, or should not defend life, then, yes, that would be completely wrong. But I just happen to believe that the guy is trying to say, "Here I am, yes, a pro-lifer. But right now I ALSO have a "civilian job" and that (may) involve getting elected President where, among other things, I get to act on my pro-life position. If he were to DENY his position, that would be wrong.

    Maybe he would be better off with different terminology. the fact is, no one would be elected if the only thing they talked about was pro-life issues. If a candidate came around and said, "The ONLY thing that is important to me is life issues." I would not vote for him, I would vote for the well-rounded candidate who is ALSO pro-life and would DO the same things as the other guy.

    Last point: Let's say there there are a lot of important things that I may do in a given day. And maybe of the most important things is changing my kid's dirty diaper. If I trying to get a job at a day care does this mean that I need to talk about his poop? Do I need to answer every interview question with, "Let't talk more about poop."? Why can't I just say that I love my son, I do a good job caring for him and talk about other things I do? I admit to taking care of his needs and even say, "Absolutely I change his diaper" then leave it there and talk about the trip the park we are going to take. Do I really need to end walk around saying, "Look at me, the King of Poop!" and expect to get a job that way? They will cart me away like I am crazy.

    Now then, who is going to take care of my kid's poop?

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  4. He's done some things that are nice on social issues and have a financial justification; that said, the fact that he was WILLING to unilaterally surrender-- oh, sorry, call a "truce" with those who never hold to truces-- is a really bad sign.

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  5. @Foxfier: Again - his use of the word truce is the problem here. His actions certainly NEVER demonstrated ANY kind of surrender.

    Just because he works on economic issues does NOT mean that he ISN'T pro-life.

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  6. Just because he works on economic issues does NOT mean that he ISN'T pro-life.

    No, really? Good thing you're clearing up something that WASN'T SAID OR SUGGESTED.

    As I said, the guy has thus far managed not to be hostile to pro-life options, when there's financial justification for it.

    That does NOT change the entire point of the original post, which is that his opening move was to say "let's ignore this angle."

    You keep trying to change the topic and attack things that weren't said, but you can't even respond to that simple fact.

    He. Abandoned. Social. Issues. As an opening move. That he didn't do what most do and become actively hostile isn't that great of an endorsement-- they really don't have the money to spend.

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  7. @Foxfier: You said, "the fact that he was WILLING to unilaterally surrender..."

    That is not a fact.

    As an "opening move" he did not "Abandon. Social. Issues." either. He. Just. Dealt. With. Them. Quietly. And. Later.

    The Reconquista of Spain from the Moors took, what? 700-800 years? So flippin' what if it took him - how long? before Daniels has DE-FUNDED Planned Parenthood?! Really? SO WHAT?!

    Please don't tell me that I am changing the topic. The question was do you believe your ears or your eyes about the guy. I've make it crystal clear that is what I am responding to.

    The proof is in the pudding. The guy has gotten the pro-life job done.

    When you say he surrendered, what you are suggesting it is that was surrendered? An airline ticket or the pro-life fight? If someone is not fighting FOR life, then is he PRO life? There is a VERY fine line between accusing someone of being a surrender monkey and accusing them of not supporting the fight. (Which, by the way, doesn't make you pro-death, just not a pro-life fighter, or pro-life ENOUGH)

    The implication about Mitch Daniels has been that MAYBE, because he used this word truce, and wasn't out blowing the pro-life horn at every opportunity, just maybe he is NOT pro-life. That has been and continues to be the question about him all along. Is he pro-life or isn't he pro-life? That IS the topic here. (And I fair question, that has now been answered by his actions).

    Then you actually suggest that he didn't become hostile to social issues as if to say that he might have, or that he PRACTICALLY or ALMOST did. What a bunch of bunk that is. Not fair to him at all.

    What if you saw a bunch of idiot anti-war protesters causing a ruckus down the street from you at some government building to protest a just war that you believed very deeply in? What if you DIDN'T go and counter protest? Would that mean that you ALMOST supported them? Because you saw another way or another time to fight?

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  8. ...Your defense is that he was lying when he called a truce.

    Brilliant.

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  9. Wrong. This is not about Sun Tsu here. He stated his position was pro-life. I am saying that he chose a stupid word when suggesting this should become the ONLY (or main) issue.

    I understood that he was saying that it is counter-productive to go around banging the drum about it. The truce was about the loud discussion of the topic. he never suggested that we stop BEING pro-life.

    He still said that HE was pro-life and would support life issues. That was true. And that's what he did. So that is not a lie.

    This "truce" applied to making this the main, or even the sole issue. He DID cease firing in that regard. So THAT was not a lie either.

    I think calling it a truce was stupid and confusing. But he was right to not go around talking about it every day.

    There seems to be a lot of pro-life folks who believe that one running for office should make it their centerpiece or they are "wrong". I disagree. I think someone running for office can plainly state their position on life issues, then also talk about other things that are important to the electorate. A person should be able to run and, when asked, state, "I am a practicing Catholic and I believe in every single thing that the Church teaches" then, refer all other questions to the Magesterium, and move on to the next topic.

    That is politically smart as well, because if someone gets in your face in a debate with the "EVEN in the case of rape or incest?!" question, all you need to reply with is? "So is this a debate about theology? Do you really want to discuss theology in this forum or is that just an Anti-Catholic question? Will you be asking about Mohammad next or can we talk about the economy now?

    Daniels was right in his emphasis, also said and acted in defense of life, but was ham-fisted and confusing in his discussing the issue. All he should have said, is, "Yes. I am firmly pro-life and will govern that way. And I ALSO believe in XYZ...Next question.

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  10. truce/tro͞os/
    Noun: An agreement between enemies or opponents to stop fighting or arguing for a certain time: "the guerrillas called a three-day truce".


    You keep trying to wiggle around to where he didn't REALLY mean "let's stop fighting on this issue and deal with that one, over there, first."

    There seems to be a lot of pro-life folks who believe that one running for office should make it their centerpiece or they are "wrong".

    Stop with the strawman homicide already.

    We get it. You like the guy, and you think he didn't REALLY mean what he said, and you're going to attack anyone who points out what he said. Truth, reason and even basic manners like responding to offered points don't matter. We GET it.

    Guess what? You're still wrong, no matter how much you try to change the subject, respond to claims that weren't made, or tell us that you always understood that he didn't mean what he said.

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  11. @Foxfire: At this point I have to believe that you simply choose not to understand. Maybe you are too angry - I dunno.

    I also don't know enough about Mitch Daniels to "like the guy" or not. So - wrong again.

    I just don't like to see anyone being smeared with accusations of unilateral surrender when that is not what they said, not what they meant, and not what they did. But you accuse me of lacking manners? Maybe you didn't really mean it.

    I have made my points, my points were in response to the issue of whether or not to believe one's eyes or ears on the issue of being pro-life. My points were not off topic nor did I change the subject. This is and was all about how politicians handle the topic of running for office and discussing social issues. (Not a straw man, an important and directly related part of this whole topic) What did you think it was about?

    Thanks for the definition. Now: What was he referring to?

    Did he EVER say, "We need to stop working on pro-life issues" or did he say that we need to stop fighting about pro-life issues?

    Yeah, my argument is that I "get" what he meant about a truce on making this the main topic. Yeah I think he was talking about the FIGHTING over social issues, not about WORKING on social issues. So, yeah, I got what he meant, and you did not get what he meant. He MEANT what he said, but YOU and others did not understand what he was talking about. (And I UNDERSTAND why - because he was confusing.) I agree with what he was saying and I attempted to explain why. ALL in answer to the question at hand: Do you believe his words or his actions. I am simply saying, you take the totality, you AT LEAST TRY to understand what he was saying about a truce and then add it to all his other words and actions.

    So what is this about? Is this a question of "How do we judge this guy's position?" or isn't it? If it is, then shouldn't we take everything in totality, (ALL words, and actions too) or should we look at ONE thing he said, interpret it in the most negative light possible while ignoring the possibility that he may have had a good point, and then use that to form the basis of our opinion?

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  12. At this point I have to believe that you simply choose not to understand.

    Say that to a mirror, and you may be correct.

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  13. Flatliner wrote:

    I don't see it that way. I just think that when he said "truce" he did not mean "cessation of hostilities", I think he just meant guerrilla warfare.

    Well... I'd have to point out that such a theory is guess-work... unless Gov. Daniels says that this is, indeed, what he meant. If it is, then I'd have some issues with his authenticity (i.e. saying what he means, vs. obfuscation) and his judgment (what did he think would happen to the people "wooed" by his mild talk, when he signed the law barring Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funds in the state?). His ostensible goal of "tending to all irons in the fire" could as easily (and more authentically and wisely) been served by--forgive the bluntness--keeping his mouth shut on the topic, altogether! If one wants to show multi-tasking skills, why would it be necessary to go out of one's way to sideline/minimize task #1?

    Beyond this, I'd argue that "the life issue" is, indeed, of highest priority... even in the purely logical sense. No amount of financial acrobatics will do the least bit of good to a baby who's been ripped to shreds (and would therefore find it difficult to receive medical care, the benefits of a good job, health insurance, etc.)... and anyone who doesn't have that fact firmly in mind has some serious issues to resolve, IMHO.

    Minimizing an issue would be wrong if and only if he equivocated when asked about it, "Well it's sometimes wrong, etc." or if he planned not to implement necessary changes.

    I don't follow you, here. In the field of politics, persuasion and rhetorical influence are key components; if an ostensibly pro-life leader convinces the "I'm personally opposed to abortion, but..." crowd that they have political and moral cover ("hey, even the conservative governor of IN said so!"), wouldn't you consider that BAD?

    If the guy is going to de-fund abortion, for instance, then how is running for office and talking about the economy somehow antithetical to what you would want from a pro-life president? It's not at all.

    It isn't. That's why he should never have commented on it at all. I'm reminded of Mark Twain's comment: "Better to keep silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt." There was absolutely no reason for Gov. Daniels to address the issue verbally at all--much less so publicly.

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  14. Flatliner,
    From a purely tactical point of view, Daniels' call for a truce was either really ignorant, or profoundly misguided. As Sen McCain found out too late, a politician doesn't want to be still fighting for his politcal base's vote during the general election. Daniels is making the same error McCain made in not taking the base seriously. In light of the Teaparty movement, Daniels' strategy appears even more foolish. If Daniels thinks he can capture the "moderates" first and then offer the Right a fair accompli ("I'm all you got; its either me or Obama) he is mistaken.Again, McCain attempted that in 2008. He found himself going into the convention with very poor polling numbers. His nomination of Sarah Palin changed all of that. Some would argue that he wouldn't have had to make such a radical nomination if he had captured and wooed the grassroots conservatives in the first place.

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  15. @ Paladin: All excellent points. You are right that it IS guesswork, but this guess is informed by his other words and his actions. If we were having this discussion months ago I would be saying, "I really don't know what he means." His actions offer additional clarity.

    I agree with you about keeping his mouth shut. It is too bad, though, that one can not make an argument about not fighting about something without having it misunderstood. One should be able to do that.

    You are CORRECT that life IS the most important issue. I see it as being a PART of nearly every other issue though. "Life" is about life itself and also about human dignity. This relates to nationality security and economic issues too - they are about life as well. But, yes, the ABOMINATION of abortion, in particular, carries a weight to it that other issues don't. So it must be a center-point of governing action. (If you are pro-life you better be doing everything you can to change the culture of death that you can.)

    HOWEVER, making it the sole or main focus of discussion is not necessary. What is necessary is to do whatever moral thing it takes to get a change affected. If I can not get my candidates elected, then how are they going to vote or execute directives to change?

    I would argue that NOT talking about an evil thing (and I obviously do not mean "at all") doesn't mean that you can't ALSO focus on it and defeat it. Maybe I am wrong, but I can think of many examples of this.

    You wrote (sorry don't know how to do italics).

    "I don't follow you, here. In the field of politics, persuasion and rhetorical influence are key components; if an ostensibly pro-life leader convinces the "I'm personally opposed to abortion, but..." crowd that they have political and moral cover ("hey, even the conservative governor of IN said so!"), wouldn't you consider that BAD?"

    Yes. I wholeheartedly agree here. If, in fact, that was his goal, then, yes, I think that would be very bad indeed. And I know why you are saying that. But that's not what I heard he said. Maybe he did and I didn't catch it. But I never heard, "I am personally opposed, but" won't govern this way, etc. I thought he was saying, let's just quit arguing about it-it's counter productive. I see an important difference there.

    I agree with your last point, with but one small difference: I believe that people in the pro-life movement do need to focus on what wins elections. THAT'S their job! If I am a pro-life garbage collector I still need to collect the garbage don't I? (okay bad example, but I think you know what I am trying to say) As I made clear above, if you are a pro-life candidate, you shouldn't hide it, you should say so, and BE so, but this does not necessarily mean that you also need to make it the issue you speak about the most or the loudest. In other words: Be up front, open, honest about ALL your positions, but then win the darn election as well! So I think Daniels was trying to make that point.

    But I agree, that it's a nuanced point to make - maybe better not made out loud if not clearly.

    Last point.
    Situation: I am a Catholic, but my neighbor isn't. My relationship with Christ is the most important issue to me. Converting my neighbor is also important to me. But he isn't interested. I've tried and he won't budge and gets annoyed when I bring it up. So I am loosing my audience.

    Questions: Do I NEED to talk to him about Catholicism every day, quote him scripture and continually tell him how important it is to me? Or... can I (ok here I go...) call a TRUCE on the topic and SHOW him what it means to be a Catholic and spend the next several years converting him in another way? (These are not perfect examples but it's all I got.)

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  16. @Jerome:

    I agree with you. It was a tactical disaster. That is why I said his using that word was stupid. It did nothing but lead to lots of confusion.

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  17. @Foxfier:

    I don't know if I am JUST a jerk or if maybe I am also a poor communicator, but either way, I just want to apologize if I can across as rude to you. I was not doing so purposely, but just trying to make my point. Anyway, sorry.

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