At first, the banquet audience at the 38th annual Conservative Political Action Conference paid Mitch Daniels, Indiana’s Republican governor, the conventional compliment of frequently, almost reflexively, interrupting his address with applause. But as they realized they were hearing something unconventional – that they were being paid the rare compliment of being addressed as reflective adults – they reciprocated his respect with quiet attention to his elegant presentation of conservatism for grown-ups.
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Author of the most succinct characterization of the Obama agenda (“shock-and-awe statism“), Daniels has practiced the lean government he preaches. Under him, Indiana has its fewest state employees since 1978, the nation’s lowest state-government employment per capita, the lowest effective property taxes and the third-lowest per capita spending. So he has the credentials to counsel conservatives about the need to compromise in the interest of broadening the constituency for difficult reforms.
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Do not, Jefferson warned, undertake great departures on “slender majorities.” Conservatives criticized Democrats for doing just that regarding health care. Big changes, Daniels knows, will require a broad majority, perhaps one assembled after 2012 by someone with his blend of accomplishments, aversion to pandering and low-key charisma of competence.
Be sure to read the whole thing. When you are done, read this, which will remind readers that Daniels is willing and eager to take on difficult policy questions with the level of seriousness and thoughtfulness that we expect–and too often, do not get–from public servants.
Still more on Daniels can be found in my podcast. I have written it before, and I’ll write it again; we could do a whole lot worse than to have someone of his intellect, seriousness, and maturity as President of the United States.