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Tilting at Windmills

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April 25, 2011

WHY MITCH DANIELS' STRENGTH IS ACTUALLY HIS WEAKNESS.... The Washington Post had a fairly long item yesterday, highlighting Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) for his focus on fiscal issues, and pondering whether he's likely to run for president in 2012. To hear the Post's Dan Balz put it, Daniels is uniquely qualified to make his party's fiscal agenda his own national platform.

No prospective Republican presidential candidate has done more to highlight the issue of debt and deficits than Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. He calls it the "new red menace," an ocean of red ink that he says is every bit as dangerous as the Soviet nuclear threat during the Cold War.

His call to arms gives him a provocative though politically risky platform for a potential 2012 presidential candidacy. Daniels thinks dealing with the debt problem will require a potentially dramatic restructuring of Medicare for future recipients, revamping Medicaid to slow its spending, and altering Social Security for today's younger workers by raising the retirement age and recalculating the cost-of-living formula.

What Daniels has long been advocating dovetails with the budget blueprint recently unveiled by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). His entry into the race could ensure that a debate between President Obama and Ryan becomes a central issue of the 2012 campaign. More than any other potential candidate, Daniels would test whether voters are ready for the kind of stiff medicine he prescribes.

This sort of analysis is extremely common, and every time I read it, I shake my head a little more.

As Paul Krugman noted recently, Daniels is "held up as an icon of fiscal responsibility" without having earned it: "[W]hat I can't forget is his key role in the squandering of the fiscal surplus Bush inherited. It wasn't just that he supported the Bush tax cuts; the excuses he made for that irresponsibility were stunningly fraudulent."

It's just bizarre for a guy who led the Bush/Cheney budget office to pick fiscal responsibility, of all things, as a signature issue.

It was, after all, 10 years ago when George W. Bush signed his first massive tax-cut bill. At the time, he thanked three people for helping make it happen -- Dick Cheney, then-Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, and his director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mitch Daniels.

It was that tax-cut package that helped eliminate the massive surplus Bush and Daniels had inherited from the Clinton administration, and began a sea of red ink that, ironically, Daniels is now concerned about.

When asked about this, Daniels tends to blame the end of the dot-com bubble for eliminating Clinton-era surpluses. The argument is utter nonsense, and has been thoroughly debunked.

What's more, Jamelle Bouie notes that Daniels "badly underestimated the cost of the Iraq War, offering an estimate of $50 to $60 billion for the initial assault, and a forecast of $17 to $45 billion per year of occupation. At best -- if we extend those costs to the present -- Daniels was off by 2 and a half trillion dollars."

In theory, this seems like a deal-breaker for Daniels' presidential ambitions. The base already doesn't trust him after his proposed "truce" on social issues, and his credibility on deficit reduction and fiscal responsibility is severely undermined by his Bush administration failures.

If only someone would explain this to the media establishment.

Steve Benen 3:10 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (18)

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Comments

Access to a keyboard connected to a national newspaper does NOT make a reporter, however gifted and esteemed, an ECONOMIST!

Posted by: DAY on April 25, 2011 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

To be blunt: Mitch Daniels could never be elected president.

And the reason why not has nothing to do with politics. He's just too short to get elected. And Haley Barber has too many jowls to get elected. These are facts and, even if I didn't dislike both of them, I'd still say they're unfair reasons. But that's the way it is. You don't [yet] have to be extremely good looking to get elected, but you have to be of about average (or slightly taller) stature and build. No short people, no fat people, no ugly people. (Stupidity, alas, is not automatically disqualifying.)

Posted by: K in VA on April 25, 2011 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

Just more corporate media propaganda ....

Posted by: stormskies on April 25, 2011 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

"It's just bizarre for a guy who led the Bush/Cheney budget office to pick fiscal responsibility, of all things, as a signature issue."

Only if "bizarre" now means "normal, standard, typical, routine, SOP, perfectly-in-character, highly predictable, ineluctable, and inevitable."
This is just another picture-perfect instance of one of the quintessential aspects of current Publican politics, one so well-known, it's spawned its own adjective:
This is classic Rovian behavior.

Posted by: smartalek on April 25, 2011 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

Please cut Governor Mitch some slack! He did his best to assure balanced budgets when he was Bush's head of OMB. Everyone knows that tax cuts and wars pay for themselves and they would have except for the sabotague of the democrat party!

Posted by: RepublicanPointOfView on April 25, 2011 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

Mitch Daniels could never be elected president... He's just too short to get elected.

He's part Syrian, too. Does he really think that Republican primary voters will select an Arab-American to be their candidate? If so, he's living in a fool's paradise.

Posted by: Christopher Roberson on April 25, 2011 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

Daniels has calculated that a presidential campaign will run him $250,000 tops, and that donations, growing at the current rate, will be bringing in roughly $1 million dollars a day by the end of the year. Should he win, he will end the race with over $50 million in the bank. This will demonstrate his astute fiscal management.

Posted by: jonas on April 25, 2011 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK
Steve: "If only someone would explain this to the media establishment."

You do it. I've found that it tends to make them angry when you interrupt them in mid-circle jerk.

Posted by: Out & About in The Castro on April 25, 2011 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

The Post is offensive. The NYT is getting there. They lionize Republicans like they were going out of style. Let's hope they are. Their utterly self-contradictory rhetoric and its ludicrous comparison with their actual actions is finally, I think, getting through to Americans, such as those who yelled at Sean Duffy yesterday at his town hall when he was bashing 'illegal immigrants for not paying taxes' (actually they DO pay) when a constituent yelled at him, "Like GE?"

So while the big national news media are keeping a lid on the public's growing disdain for Republican ideas (which are so incoherent because they are just covers for their true agenda) there seems to be some seepage of reality coming through to the people.

Let us hope. I am so sick of the stale, stale, stale rhetoric of the Republicans and the strange boosterism that the media offers for a corporate style of economic thinking that seems to have reduced all discourse in every realm to a question of how they, the corporations and the already rich, can keep getting everyone else's money flowing into their hands.

Posted by: jjm on April 25, 2011 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

Overheard in the hacks' graveyard: "Shhhh Dan, you'll wake David up!"

Posted by: Squeaky McCrinkle on April 25, 2011 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

Balz has emerged as the newest offshoot of Broderism. He lacks the Dean's obvious small town Midwestern Republicanism masquerading as bipartisanism. Instead, he is the master of horse race nonsense. that he is incapable of parsing the simplest poll data never gets in the way. It becomes a way to avoid dealing with history, issues, or anything that requires research, even at the level of a few Google searches. Like Broder, he's simply lazy, just in another way.

Posted by: Rich on April 25, 2011 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

I HOPE this is true. But it didn't seem to affect votes for other Republicans in the last election, many of whom were lobbyists, etc. Let's hope voters are smarter and the good guys are more motivated in 2012.

Posted by: Molly Weasley on April 25, 2011 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

Make sure to remind everyone you can, of Dick Cheney saying "Reagan taught us deficits don't matter." Yes, Reagan, the conservapublican saint. Mitch was part of that racket.

Posted by: neil b on April 25, 2011 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

Except for the 'iquely' bit in 'uniquely qualified', I couldn't agree more with the Post. :)

Posted by: N.Wells on April 25, 2011 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

My biggest issue with Daniels' policies: He is a full believer in privatization and likes to tout it as a way to balance a budget. Never mind it will cost the person that requires the service four times as much when they have to pay the price gouging of the company that got the contract.

He is continuously a short-sighted, "make everything look good now and no worries about tomorrow" kind of politician and I'm hearing more and more from people I know still in Indiana that citizens are not that happy as things get worse.

Posted by: c.red on April 25, 2011 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

Deep down, isn't Mitch Daniels a dick?

Posted by: bigtuna on April 25, 2011 at 7:05 PM | PERMALINK

They are incapable of understanding that debt reduction requires revenue income to match necessary spending.

Mitch Daniels demonstrated his incompetence on 'Revenue' and 'Spending'. Tax cuts for those who did not need them while spending massive amounts and putting it all on the US credit card. With his record, Daniels should be painted red.

You can't explain this to a media establishment whose income depends on their not knowing this.

We all know republicans are never challenged by the "librul" media and if they ever are it's just a sign of the media's "librul" bias for republican's are never to be called out on anything or those doing the calling will be replaced.

Posted by: bjobotts on April 25, 2011 at 7:10 PM | PERMALINK

"If only someone would explain this to the media establishment"

Why? WTF good would it do? Our "media establishment" has too much at stake to ever seriously question anything any Republican has to say about money/financial/budgetary matters. And a hint: it isn't their "credibility"...

Posted by: Jay C on April 25, 2011 at 10:57 PM | PERMALINK
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