Mitch Daniels calls out conservatives

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By Rick Howell

    For a party that thinks it’s going to win the White House next year, Republicans are off to a slow start with a weak potential field of candidates.

    Those who would walk to the strains of “Hail to the Chief” are certainly taking their time announcing their campaigns. In fact, not a single candidate has made an announcement, not even the imagined front-runner, Mitt Romney.
    Could it be that GOP presidential wannabes have noticed that the economy is actually getting better? And that they realize how much this favors the re-election of the incumbent?
    The answer to both questions is “yes.” Nevertheless, prospective candidates lined up recently to address zealous activists at C-PAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference.
    The people there again revealed how completely clueless they are by voting in the majority for Ron Paul as their 2012 straw poll winner.
    Ron Paul? That’s not going to happen, and even Donald “The Donald” Trump told them so. Paul is right that we should renounce empire, end the wars, and dramatically reduce military spending. But he’s wrong about everything else.
    But it’s his position on defense and foreign policy that most Republicans can’t stomach. They want to see an American flag every few miles across the globe, if for no other reason just to get more “markets” for the banks and the oil companies. Their idea of conquest is all about profits.
    Trump - who is also thinking of running, believe it or not - reminded C-PAC that you have to win an election first, and Paul can’t do that. Neither, of course, can Trump, nor can many others who are supposedly “in the field.”
    Want a short list of who’ll never be president? Here it is: Sarah Palin (thank Almighty God for that), Mike Huckabee, Tim Pawlenty, Haley Barbour, John Bolton, Rick Santorum, and, or course, Trump and Paul.
    But there was one speech at the conference that turned some heads, because it departed in many ways from conservative orthodoxy. That was the one delivered by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels.
    If he runs, Daniels apparently intends to make “the Red Menace” the focus of his campaign. He does not mean communism. Rather, he refers to the massive debt our nation currently holds.
    Daniels, in the past, has drawn the ire of many conservatives by saying that there should be “a truce” on the so-called social issues. In other words, why carry on so much about abortion and gay rights when we have debts, deficits and unemployment to solve? At C-PAC, he said, “Purity in martyrdom is for suicide bombers.”
    He also urged conservatives to stop acting as though they hate government: saying, “We should distinguish carefully skepticism about big government from contempt for all government.” There’s something you don’t hear from the average right-winger.
    And to support this cause, and apparently support his campaign if he runs, he thinks Republicans need to reach beyond talk radio: “We would need people who never tune in to Rush or Glenn or Laura or Sean, who surf past C-Span to get to SportsCenter.”
    Daniels believes, too, that entitlement programs have to be addressed if we’re to solve the debt, but not in a way that destroys or privatizes them. Unfortunately, he has yet to talk much about cutting military spending, but he certainly seems serious enough to realize that must be done, too.
    Republicans won’t win in 2012 with another tired, old doctrinaire right-winger who just hates government and bashes Obama. They need a fresh face, anyway, and might do well to listen more to Mitch Daniels.