Sunday, February 7, 2010

Getting Serious About Choosing a President

Barack Obama is governing so poorly after only his first year--on the economy (what he hasn't yet destroyed or nationalized), getting beyond partisan politics (he threw that ball to Nancy Pelosi and company), fighting the War on Terror (Holder's got that covered), appeasing international monsters (hyper-active, with predictably poor results), and health-care reform (a domestic monster of his own making that voters had to slay)--that Republican talent is already viewing 2012 with hope.

Of course, the names Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin continue to echo out of 2008, but I cannot imagine a Fox News-Entertainment personality making a serious Presidential bid. Once you sign a deal for a show or a regular comment spot, you've made your choice.

So in a nation of 300 million people, in a party largely respectful of and inspired by our glorious founding principles, there must be someone under present conditions who is qualified and ready to step forward and lead.

I have never been a close observer of Indiana politics (I usually fall asleep when driving through Indiana, even when I'm doing the driving), but others have been paying attention to their two term Governor, Mitch Daniels.

George Will sees him as the 2012 nominee, with Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his running-mate ("Charting Our Way to Solvency"). This strikes me as a team of merely economic conservatives, though I'm interested in hearing more. Governor Daniels worked thirteen years as an executive for the Eli Lilly pharmaceutical company and for 27 months as George W. Bush's director of the Office of Management and Budget (that's a long time in White House years). As Governor, he managed Indiana into a AAA credit rating, unprecedented for the state. He's also a lawyer (Georgetown).

On the understanding that you can't have everything, these may be just the qualifications we need at this time. The premise behind Will's prediction is that the nationally crippling Obama deficit, the shriveled and humiliated U.S. dollar, and, on top of these catastrophes, the bankrupting burden of the looming explosion of baby-boomer retirees drawing mercilessly on an already penniless Social Security and Medicare entitlement system, present a greater threat to our national security than al Qaeda terrorism and all the rogue states combined. When a geopolitical rival like China holds a lethal portion of our national debt, the connection between national solvency and national security needs no further argument.

But Will is not alone in this judgment. Back in December 2008, a month after Barack Obama was elected President and Daniels himself was re-elected Governor, Michael Barone noticed that Daniels won his state 58-40% in a year when Republicans did very poorly and Obamamania was in the air, and in a state that Obama carried. Barone goes into detail as to how Daniels pulled this off, and how also he is a strong candidate for the White House in 2012.

Then last spring, William Kristol took notice of Daniels' commencement address at Butler University in which Daniels spoke bluntly and unflatteringly about his own baby-boomer generation. Kristol quoted from it at length ("A Hoosier in the White House?"). Here's a sample:

All our lives, it's been all about us. We were the "Me Generation." We wore t-shirts that said "If it feels good, do it." The year of my high school commencement, a hit song featured the immortal lyric "Na, na, nananana live for today." As a group, we have been self-centered, self-absorbed, self-indulgent, and all too often just plain selfish. Our current Baby Boomer President has written two eloquent, erudite books, both about himself.

As a generation, we did tend to live for today. We have spent more and saved less than any previous Americans. Year after year, regardless which party we picked to lead the country, we ran up deficits that have multiplied the debt you and your children will be paying off your entire working lives. Far more burdensome to you mathematically, we voted ourselves increasing levels of Social Security pensions and Medicare health care benefits, but never summoned the political maturity to put those programs on anything resembling a sound actuarial footing.

In sum, our parents scrimped and saved to provide us a better living standard than theirs; we borrowed and splurged and will leave you a staggering pile of bills to pay. It's been a blast; good luck cleaning up after us....

Great. My vote is his to lose. Kristol concludes: "After what will be, in 2012, two decades of Clinton, Bush and Obama, maybe the nation will be ready to elect a Boomer president who disdains his own generation, and urges younger Americans to reject Boomer vanities and self-indulgence in the name of freedom and greatness?"

After the Obama debacle, the country may be looking once again for a grown up with real life and executive experience in the White House. Imagine that?

Here is Daniels himself writing in the Wall Street Journal--"The Coming Reset in State Government: My fellow governors and I are likely facing a permanent reduction in tax revenues" (September 9, 2009).

Here is Kimberley Strassel's WSJ interview with the Governor.

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