27 April 2011

Mitch Daniels' opportunity

We've written about the Indiana governor in this space before. Mitch Daniels is arguably the best governor in the country, boasting a record replete with cutting taxes, streamlining government, putting the screws to wasteful spending and paying off all of Indiana's outstanding debts. When Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announced that his state would be forced to raise income taxes across the board, Daniels called a press conference the next morning and taunted his neighbor to the west, pointing out that under his leadership, Indiana has transformed itself into one of the most business-friendly states in the Union.

Daniels is a fundamentally serious man. Short, balding and bland, he nonetheless possesses what George Will has called "the charisma of competence." Unlike the rest of the Republican field, Daniels has never sought out presidential speculation, and in fact has often shied away from the spotlight; instead, it's been leading conservatives like Will and David Brooks who have highlighted his masterful record and sterling resume as evidence of presidential material. In other words, the spotlight has found him.

Although serious conservatives make the least noise, there are millions who would love Daniels if they knew more about him. He has the intellectual gravitas that is lacking in Palin, Trump and Santorum and would make the likes of Gingrich, Romney and Pawlenty look like demagogues in any debate.

He demonstrates a masterful grasp of both the nuances of public policy making and the fundamental underpinnings of the conservative cause as espoused by Burke, Buckley, Goldwater and Reagan.

If Daniels chooses to run, the division of the Republican primary vote will be truly bizarre: Daniels' record indicates that he is arguably the most conservative candidate in the prospective field, but because of his intellectual gravitas and serious manner, he could take the lion's share of the moderate vote that went for John McCain and Rudy Guiliani in 2008.

We've written here before that we believe there is a massive gap in the center of the Republican Party. Romney, Pawlenty, Gingrich and Santorum have repeatedly attempted to one-up each other and demagogue each and every national issue. Donald Trump is either engaged in a massive publicity stunt or truly is a clown. John Thune, the unremarkable but serious senator from South Dakota, announced in February that he would not run. Despite his massive fundraising network, Jeb Bush appears unwilling to jump in. And just yesterday, Daniels' close friend Haley Barbour announced that he won't seek the nomination, either. In a prepared statement, Daniels said he would have gladly supported Barbour's candidacy if he ran.

Instead, with Thune, Bush and Barbour on the sidelines, the spring and summer of 2011 could be Daniels' moment to finally step into the spotlight and brandish his formidable record. Barbour will likely endorse him; Bush has been very complementary of Daniels in recent weeks in light of Daniels' sweeping education reforms. Daniels has even received kind words from tea party types like Dick Armey. Columnists like Will, Brooks and Ross Douthat have been pushing him to run for months. With Indiana's legislative session nearing a close, is it finally time?

We're pulling for the governor to throw his hat in the ring. He would be an outstanding president.

25 April 2011

A rejection of Bushism

Ron and Rand Paul represent a rejection of the destructive ideals of George W. Bush.

Over the past decade, the GOP, led by liberal wolves in sheep's clothing, has badly lost its way. In the Bush Era, conservatism came to represent interventionism abroad, statism at home, an executive abusive of civil liberties, and a disdain for fiscal prudence.

All the while, Ron Paul -- a lonely opponent of the Iraq misadventure in 2003 and a devout fiscal hawk -- banged his drum on the fringe of the party. His views on Iraq particularly were so unpopular that he was once banned from speaking at CPAC.

But since Bush left the scene and the Obama administration entered, Ron and his son, Rand, became heroes of the tea party movement and grassroots conservatives nationwide.

The Pauls' message is one of individual liberty and governmental restraint, both truly conservative ideals. During his short time as Kentucky's junior senator, Rand has called for cuts to both the Pentagon budget and the tens of billions shelled out to rich allies abroad. The Pauls demonstrate a fundamental grasp of the economic calamity that America faces at home and the folly of needless intervention overseas.

George W. Bush was a conservative in name only, a liberal statist masquerading as a crusader for family values. His administration spit on the legacy of Ronald Reagan, destroyed the Republican Party and gifted the White House to the most unqualified president in American history. His inherently destructive policies threw us deep into debt, destroyed America's credibility abroad and made America less free.

It's refreshing that as Republicans attempt to escape Bush's long shadow, Ron and Rand Paul remain stalwart, unapologetic defenders of liberty.

20 April 2011

Donald Trump, presidential candidate?

What is Donald Trump's endgame?

On the one hand, Trump is a notorious self-promoter, and perhaps creating the scuttlebutt that surrounds a possible presidential run is all that piques his interest.

On the other, Trump is certainly doing what presidential candidates typically do -- criticizing the incumbent president, opining on public policy and consulting with potential advisers. He appeared at CPAC a few months ago and will speak at the Iowa Republican Party's annual Lincoln Day dinner in June.

I actually think he's going to run.

However, Trump's idiotic foray into the birther controversy demonstrates both a lack of seriousness about what a presidential campaign requires and a stunning ignorance of a topic that is litigated only by the most extreme of wingnuts. Charles Krauthammer recently compared Trump to Al Sharpton, describing him as a "sideshow" and "clown." Krauthammer isn't far off. Instead of focusing on his own well-documented business achievements, Trump's first real foray into national politics was to question Obama's birth certificate. The national press has rightfully focused on this enormous bit of idiocy, because, again, if someone attempts to litigate this in the court of public opinion, he doesn't deserve to be considered as a serious candidate in the first place.

Unfortunately, given his astronomical name recognition and bombastic personality, Trump will probably make considerable noise in the first few primaries. Much like that of Mitt Romney, Trump's personal fortune will allow him to weather early defeats and remain a candidate as long as his ego allows.

I seriously doubt that Republican primarygoers will nominate Donald Trump, but this is the same group of people that blindly followed George W. Bush for eight years.

14 April 2011

Obama vs. Ryan

By courageously making the first move, Paul Ryan ensured that any discussion of deficit reduction would begin on Republican turf.

It's nice that, for the first time since 2008, President Obama appears concerned about the deficit. Unfortunately, after endorsing a budget with a shortfall of nearly $1.5 trillion, it would take a yeoman's effort to simply get us back to Bush-era deficit levels.

While Obama was right to take partial aim at Medicare and Medicaid and put a bullseye on the Pentagon, he mentioned Social Security only in passing, which suggests to me that he doesn't have the political stomach to discuss cutting the third rail at all. Any discussion of long-term budgetary coherence must begin with Social Security, because while Obama is correct in saying that Social Security hasn't added a dime to the national debt, the long-term projections beginning in about 2040 are awful. This program, as currently constructed, will bankrupt us. Period.

Ryan, conversely, will probably have to give on some of his proposed cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. While the programs need to be restructured, some in the center appear to be shocked by how deep some of his proposals are willing to go. Additionally, as we've written here before, Republicans will need to give up the dogmatic belief that our fiscal woes can be cured without raising taxes -- especially the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest 2% that will expire on January 1, 2013. While Ryan deserves credit for putting his money where his mouth has been, the fact that he proposed literally no new revenue increases is sort of laughable.

I'd expect that there is enough common ground here that a bipartisan consensus can be reached. Both parties want to radically streamline the tax code; both parties believe Medicare and Medicaid should be revamped; and I'm guessing both parties can probably agree that the Pentagon's budget can at least be reigned in a little bit.

The standard liberal line is that the deficit can be cured by soaking the rich. The standard conservative line is that it can be cured by defunding Planned Parenthood, NPR and the Department of Education.

If the Obama/Ryan debate is America's first step toward moving past those petty limitations, then good on them.