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Ron Radosh

Any viewer who stayed tuned after our campaigner-in-chief’s SOTU speech last night had the opportunity to watch the GOP response by Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana. The feeling of many Republicans and conservatives, including myself, is an instant one: why isn’t this man a candidate for the presidency? Evidently, judging from this new website, many people feel the same way.

Republican responses to a presidential SOTU speech can be career killers for politicians who hope at some time to run for the executive office. Remember the disastrous appearance by Bobby Jindal of Louisiana a few years back? But those who saw President Obama’s lengthy, boring, and uninspiring faux populist presentation could see a strong contrast from the Indiana governor. As the full text of his speech shows, Daniels touched upon the important themes that our president completely ignored. Daniels said:

In three short years, an unprecedented explosion of spending, with borrowed money, has added trillions to an already unaffordable national debt.  And yet, the President has put us on a course to make it radically worse in the years ahead.  The federal government now spends one of every four dollars in the entire economy; it borrows one of every three dollars it spends.  No nation, no entity, large or small, public or private, can thrive, or survive intact, with debts as huge as ours.

The President’s grand experiment in trickle-down government has held back rather than sped economic recovery.  He seems to sincerely believe we can build a middle class out of government jobs paid for with borrowed dollars.  In fact, it works the other way: a government as big and bossy as this one is maintained on the backs of the middle class, and those who hope to join it.

Mitch Daniels excels in making conservative principles and ideas coherent and understandable to everyday Americans. He does not come off as condescending or hectoring, but rather, as a man who wants a good and strong America, and who realizes that the decades of crony capitalism and stale reactionary liberalism have had their day.

Rather than seeking to pit have-nots against haves, or the so-called 99 percent against the greedy evil 1 percent, Daniels makes this cogent argument:

As Republicans our first concern is for those waiting tonight to begin or resume the climb up life’s ladder.  We do not accept that ours will ever be a nation of haves and have nots; we must always be a nation of haves and soon to haves.

He holds out a political and economic future in which all have the ability and access to climb the ladder to success; rather than to demand a redistribution of wealth from the elite to the many that would drag down the economy and make our country another Greece in the near future.

Democrats want to depict Republicans as a party and conservatives as a group of people who want to push Grandma off a cliff. As a grandfather a few times over myself, I know that the prescriptions of liberalism would bankrupt our whole country, and push us collectively off to a dark future. I too want a better future for my grandchildren, and that means addressing our debt and instituting policies that would save the fabric of our social order, while at the same time providing a real and manageable safety net for those who really need it. As Daniels points out,

we must unite to save the safety net. Medicare and Social Security have served us well, and that must continue. But after half and three quarters of a century respectively, it’s not surprising that they need some repairs. We can preserve them unchanged and untouched for those now in or near retirement, but we must fashion a new, affordable safety net so future Americans are protected, too.

With that explanation, he cuts through in one fell swoop the false charge that conservatives are enemies of the poor and the needy, and want to abandon them entirely to the vicissitudes of the free market. His answer is to stop giving the wealthy social benefits they do not need, reserving the programs for those who actually do. It is not to take their wealth from them and supposedly give it out en masse, a step which in reality would do little to address our nation’s problems.

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