Dave Kitchell: Daniels' response heavy on foresight, blind to hindsight
Wednesday, January 25, 2012 3:24 AM
LOGANSPORT - Perhaps it was his finest hour – or half hour -- as either an elected or appointed official.
Those few minutes late Tuesday night when Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels gave the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union address acknowledged shortcomings the GOP has in its agenda, and it played to his strength as the closest thing to a CPA fiscal persona his party has.
Daniels had to have grabbed the attention of some party faithful when he said Republicans have to stop giving tax incentives to the rich that they don’t need and that don’t serve any purpose that creates jobs. That wasn’t the politically correct thing to say if you’re a Republican, but it showed the budgetary candor Daniels is known for having. Had Daniels continued that theme throughout his response, he might have taken the national Republican Party in an entirely new direction that it may eventually go.
Daniels began his response by crediting the president and his wife for serving as strong role models for the country. He also made it clear, unlike Republican presidential candidates and party leaders, that the president isn’t to blame for problems created when the national economy tanked in the fall of 2008. Yet he said Obama could not acknowledge that the economy is worse today than it was three years ago when he took office.
There was no mention of General Motors regaining its position last week as the world’s No. 1 automaker or of Chrysler getting off the mat and emerging stronger than it has been in years – both stories that have helped his own state rebound from recession. There was no mention of a world without Osama bin Laden and Moammar Qadhaffi. There was no mention of a health care reform package that will cover more Americans, nor his own acknowledgment than an attempt to reform Medicaid in his own state was an embarrassing failure not only for his administration, but IBM. So much for a private sector solution to running government like a business.
Daniels may have struck a chord with many Americans when he warned that if the United States fails to repair its safety net of Medicare and Social Security, it could find itself in the same position several of Europe’s nations have – bankrupt.
But if Daniels was successful in conveying his foresight and passion for the nation’s domestic picture, he completely avoided any mention of accountability – the kind that made Bernie Madoff the poster boy for a national collapse that included a mortgage crisis. He pointed to a high unemployment rate for Americans under 30, but he made no mention of the skyrocketing unemployment rate that escalated in the final months of his former employer, President George W. Bush.
Daniels criticized Obama for “castigating” Americans, without directly saying Obama was inciting class warfare, as in the “99 percent” and “Occupy Wall Street” crowds. But his own castigation of the Senate majority and Obama for entitlement spending is a speech that could have been given in 1952, 1962, 1972, 1982, 1992 and 2002 – and in all likelihood will be given again by someone in 2022. The national debt, much like the Bible says in reference to the poor, will always be with us.
Perhaps the great irony of his response is that in complimenting Obama as a role model, he couldn’t point to a state or a presidential candidate with a clear model, policy or philosophy that challenges the president , reduces the national debt and raises employment. “Passionate pro-growth” policies sounded much like what Americans have heard before, but what are they?
Through it all, Daniels sounded like a Dutch uncle giving advice to Republican presidential candidates and recommending what they should be talking about on the campaign trail. To that extent, his response was closer to what they should be saying than what they will be as they head to the Florida primary and journey west.
He spoke of a nation that potentially could be carried over a “Niagara” of debt because of its spending, but on the points that mattered, Obama was more convincing that the nation is doing anything but climbing inside a barrel and doing the shuffalo to the falls in Buffalo, N.Y.
Kitchell is an award-winning columnist from Logansport.