A Reminder About Mitch Daniels

There was a lot of hype online following Mitch Daniels speech at CPAC Friday. The part of the speech highlighted and praised was when he said:

We face an enemy, lethal to liberty, and even more implacable than those America has defeated before. We cannot deter it; there is no countervailing danger we can pose. We cannot negotiate with it, any more than with an iceberg or a Great White.

I refer, of course, to the debts our nation has amassed for itself over decades of indulgence. It is the new Red Menace, this time consisting of ink.

While I agree with his sentiment, it is curious that he cites the nation’s debt as “an enemy” and the “new Red Menace.” Considering his role in creating a substantial portion of said enemy, that is “lethal to liberty.”

Mitch Daniels served as director of the Office of Management and Budget from January 2001 through June 2003 under George W. Bush. During that time, the federal budget surplus was at $236 billion when he started, then declined to a $400 billion deficit by the end of his tenure.

Way back in 2003, Time Magazine published an insightful article about the Bush administration’s handling of the federal budget, the subsequent national debt, and the politics that accompany such an environment. The Time writer also garnered a statement from then budget director Daniels. He wrote: (emphasis mine):

With the Bush White House projecting a $304 billion federal deficit this year, plus annual flows of red ink as far as the eye can see, it’s fair to say that Ross Perot’s crazy aunt is back. In the 1992 campaign, the folksy, jug-eared Texas zillionaire rode public anxiety over the stagnant economy — specifically the burgeoning national debt he compared to a crazy aunt in the basement no one wanted to mention — to the best third-party showing in a presidential election in 80 years.

Budget deficits became such a potent political issue that Bill Clinton was forced to abandon much of his economic agenda so he could push through a deficit-reduction plan in 1993. A year later, a pledge to cut spending and eliminate the deficit helped sweep Newt Gingrich’s House Republicans into power for the first time in 50 years. The lesson: politicians who didn’t pay homage to balanced budgets paid later, at the polls.

Or so it seemed. After a few golden years of surpluses, deficits are back with a vengeance. Though he ran for office promising to keep the government treasury in the black, Bush’s budget proposal predicts deficits of more than $300 billion through 2004 — and doesn’t envision a new surplus in any year before a second Bush term would end. Bush claims he made it clear in the 2000 campaign that he would accept deficits in times of war, recession or national emergency, though White House staffers have failed to find an instance when he actually said that. In any case, says Mitch Daniels, Bush’s budget director, “a balanced budget is a high priority for this administration; it is not the top or the only priority.”

One would think that an impending “new Red Menace” would rank near the top of the priority list, but it didn’t. Americans eventually grew tired with the fiscal irresponsibility of that administration. So they shunned it’s party and bought a different bill of goods from a charismatic senator who promised “change.” The rest is history…

The bottom-line is that the left exploits hypocrisy like a squirrel exploits nuts. In a hypothetical Daniels campaign, any mention of the debt will bring a litany of fingers pointing back at Daniels for his own part in setting the current spending trend and financial catastrophe we find ourselves in today. And believe me, the Obama people most certainly have Mitch Daniels number. After all, the person who wrote that Time Magazine article I noted above, was James Carney. The same James Carney (aka “Jay” Carney) who replaced Robert Gibbs as Obama’s Press Secretary.

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