Mitch Daniels: Words & Deeds

It is a common complaint that politicians say one thing during the campaign but do something entirely different when governing.

Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana is the Benjamin Button of potential Presidential candidates, he turns the whole thing on its head by not talking the talk but walking the walk.

I have been extremely critical of Governor Daniels these past months as he has openly advocated for what has been termed “a truce” on the divisive social issues so we can focus on the pressing problem of debt. He put it this way on the Laura Ingraham radio show.

“If you don’t accept that we face a republic-threatening issue in terms of the debt—and again I would love to conclude one day that I was overreacting—but that threatens every one of us whatever our views on these other questions. I would like to think that fixing it and saving our kids future could be a unifying moment for our country and we wouldn’t stop our disagreements or our passionate belief in these other questions, we just sort of mute them for a little while, while we try to come together on the thing that menaces us all.” (Laura Ingraham show 01/31/11)

Now while I acknowledge the pressing issue of debt and our kids future. But our children need to actually be alive to inherit the debt. I must admit that I was outraged by Mitch Daniels’ remarks and viewed them as disqualifying for my support as a pro-life Catholic.

At the time, Richard W. Garnett, a professor of law and associate dean at the Notre Dame Law School sent us a mail pointing us to his piece on Daniels saying that pro-lifers should maybe hold their ammo. Saying in part:

Many of those who criticize Governor Daniels’s use of “truce” seem to think — incorrectly, in my view — that it reflects a lack of pro-life commitment on his part or a dangerous naïveté about the real-world political and other battles that elected officials — including the president — have to fight, in order to help us become the political community that we should be, that is, a political community in which unborn children are welcomed in life and protected in law ...

It seems to me, though, that if we look at Governor Daniels’ record — in particular, his record on judicial appointments — we don’t find any reason to think that “truce” means for him “caving on the merits” or “downgrading the seriousness of the issue.” He does not strike me as one of those — and, of course, there are those — who thinks that our politics would be better if only the irritating pro-lifers would get out of politics, or who imagines that there is a future for a Republican party that wavers or backtracks, in order to seem “moderate,” on such a basic, fundamental human-rights question.

And now, seemingly backing up Professor Garnett’s contention, we see that Governor Daniels has done something remarkable in the annals of pro-life governance. Gov. Daniels signed into law defunding the abortion giant Planned Parenthood.

All pro-lifers must rejoice at this victory in Indiana, but it leaves me in a bit of a pickle. Governor Daniels talks like a PLINO (Pro-Life in name only), but governs like a true believer.

So can we just ignore his call for a truce, which I still view as a strategic and rhetorically moral error? People always say that deeds matter more than words, and I suppose that is true. But don’t words matter too? I give kudos to Governor Daniels for signing this bill into law, but this was driven by the Indiana legislature and one thing I know is that the US Congress is not the Indiana legislature. A truly pro-life president needs to lead on this issue and Governor Daniels words make me question whether he is willing to provide that pro-life leadership.

All that said, governors with pro-life records like Mitch Daniels are few and far between.

Deeds matter. Words matter. We are used to politicians who promise everything and deliver nothing. Governor Daniels seems to want to promise nothing but perhaps he might be the guy to deliver.

Like I said, I am in a pickle.