NY Times Flips its Whig Over Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-Ind.)


From a flattering profile of GOP Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who once upon a time ran the Hudson Institute and was in the Bush admin of all places:

Mr. Daniels, who took office in 2005, has reduced the number of state workers by 18 percent and held spending growth below inflation. He has raised the sales tax to help make up for a property tax cut. Largely as a result, Indiana finds itself in better fiscal shape than many other states….

He says he avoids using the phrase "waste, fraud and abuse" because "it's too glib — there's no wand you can wave." He says military spending should be cut. He called the Republicans' recent attacks on Democratic efforts to slow Medicare's cost growth "not a proud moment for our party." He had kind words for the Tea Party but pointed out that it did not have a solution….

To deal with the huge projected deficits, he favors major changes to Medicare and Social Security, rather than any increase in taxes.

Benefits should be cut for high-income and healthy people. The gradual increase in Social Security benefits over time should be cut, so that tomorrow's retirees get the same benefits (after adjusting for inflation) as today's. And the eligibility age of both programs should increase.

Today's children "will live to be more than 100," he told me. "They'll be replacing body parts like we do tires."

Daniels is a smart and effective leader who is a serious thinker about history, politics, and policy. There's something wrong with a political press that can never stop talking about his height (or relative lack of) and his comb-over. Despite the recent bunch of White House occupants, the presidency has never been a beauty contest (though if truth be told, that might explain Franklin Pierce's victory). Billy Barty could get elected president if he had a good vision of government.

Daniels likes to quote former Reason editor in chief Virginia Postrel's great late '90s book, The Future and Its Enemies, which looks at the world through the eyes of "stasists" and "dynamists." Daniels is definitely a dynamist, which is not the same as a libertarian per se (though there's a lot of overlap).

Mr. Daniels likes to describe himself as a Whig, after the 19th-century political party whose modernizing agenda attracted Abraham Lincoln and Henry Clay.

Mr. Daniels says the government must be aggressive at doing things the private sector cannot, like improving schools and building roads. "The nation really needs to rebuild," he said. As a good Whig would, he has pushed all of Indiana onto daylight saving time — so that the time no longer maddeningly changes as you drive around the state — and he's consolidated some unwieldy local governments.

Whole Times piece here.

One of the knocks on Republicans in general is that they're not interested in governing. Rather, like Newt Gingrich, they want to bitch and moan all the time and get the first-class ticket on Air Force One but basically screw off once they reach power. Daniels, like former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, is a Republican who knows how to govern and can do it well. Unlike characters such as Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney and Rudy G., these guys show serious follow-through and provide a starting point for the right-hand side of the 2012 election that won't make libertarians put a shotgun in their mouths.

Check out more praise of Daniels as the right man for the current moment. Even more about Daniels here.