Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels (R) said at AEI today that “we’re facing a survival-level threat to the America we’ve known” from spiraling debt, diminished optimism, and a turning away from self-sufficiency.
Daniels was promoting his new book, Keeping the Republic: Saving America by Trusting Americans, which he said is not autobiographical, or a “candidate’s book” (“This one’s written specifically because I don’t [want to run],” he said), or a manifesto that just preaches without offering solutions.
Instead, he characterized it as “a few reflections on the most important national conversation that we’ve had in a long time.”
And while not thinking “the world needed another tome on the debt,” the governor cautioned that the deficit being amassed threatens “something even larger than our standard of living.”
“Even in bad times, tomorrow will be better,” Daniels said of characteristic American optimism. “If that’s fraying at the edges, that’s something to really worry about.”
He also warned that the “whole principle of self-governance as we know it in this country is on trial” as government doesn’t give Americans due credit for choosing life necessities from healthcare to schooling to light bulbs.
“I would gamble on the capacity of the American people,” Daniels said.
The governor referenced the founders’ early concerns about keeping the new republic intact in noting that slips could still lead to failure. “This is not a philosophical judgment; this is not an ideological point,” he said. “Let’s have the ideological debate some other time.”
He said the country is on track to “permanently stunt the economy … we are not distinguishable from Greece, Italy, Portugal, except by degree.” This hurts America’s international standing in that “nobody follows a pauper,” he added.
Daniels took a shot at President Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan, “Change you can believe in,” by noting that government needs to promote “Change that believes in you.”
“You want to see pain? Just keep going where we’re going,” he said. “The only operating philosophy that makes any sense in this life is optimism.”
The governor isn’t, however, optimistic about Obama’s chances in 2012.
“The president’s got trouble getting re-elected,” Daniels said. “I have never seen good news coming in this economy, not in a year and a half. Now I think it’s pretty clear that there’s a good chance he’ll be running under really adverse economic conditions.”
This doesn’t mean that the GOP nominee can simply run as the “default option” and play it safe in going after Obama, he stressed.
“Let’s lay it out there,” Daniels said.
When asked about Governor Chris Christie’s (R-New Jersey) style of laying it all out there, Daniels quipped, “Gotta have a special style if you live in Tony Soprano’s state.”